back in the saddle: EFWS! Velocity!

July 20, 2009 11:32 am | Comments Off on back in the saddle: EFWS! Velocity!

The last few months are a blur for me. I get through stages of life like this and look back and wonder how I ever made it through alive (and why I ever set myself up for such stress). The big activities that dominated my time were Even Faster Web Sites and Velocity.

Even Faster Web Sites

Even Faster Web Sites is my second book of web performance best practices. This is a follow-on to my first book, High Performance Web Sites. EFWS isn’t a second edition, it’s more like “Volume 2”. Both books contain 14 chapters, each chapter devoted to a separate performance topic. The best practices described in EFWS are completely new:

  1. Understanding Ajax Performance
  2. Creating Responsive Web Applications
  3. Splitting the Initial Payload
  4. Loading Scripts Without Blocking
  5. Coupling Asynchronous Scripts
  6. Positioning Inline Scripts
  7. Writing Efficient JavaScript
  1. Scaling with Comet
  2. Going Beyond Gzipping
  3. Optimizing Images
  4. Sharding Dominant Domains
  5. Flushing the Document Early
  6. Using Iframes Sparingly
  7. Simplifying CSS Selectors

An exciting addition to EFWS is that six of the chapters were contributed by guest authors: Doug Crockford (Chap 1), Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer (Chap 2), Nicholas Zakas (Chap 7), Dylan Schiemann (Chap 8), Tony Gentilcore (Chap 9), and Stoyan Stefanov and Nicole Sullivan (Chap 10). Web developers working on today’s content rich, dynamic web sites will benefit from the advice contained in Even Faster Web Sites.


Velocity is the web performance and operations conference that I co-chair with Jesse Robbins. Jesse, former “Master of Disaster” at Amazon and current CEO of Opscode, runs the operations track. I ride herd on the performance side of the conference. This was the second year for Velocity. The first year was a home run, drawing 600 attendees (far more than expected – we only made 400 swag bags) and containing a ton of great talks. Velocity 2009 (held in San Jose June 22-24) was an even bigger success: more attendees (700), more sponsors, more talks, and an additional day for workshops.

The bright spot for me at Velocity was the fact that so many speakers offered up stats on how performance is critical to a company’s business. I wrote a blog post on O’Reilly Radar about this: Velocity and the Bottom Line. Here are some of the excerpted stats:

  • Bing found that a 2 second slowdown caused a 4.3% reduction in revenue/user
  • Google Search found that a 400 millisecond delay resulted in 0.59% fewer searches/user
  • AOL revealed that users that experience the fastest page load times view 50% more pages/visit than users experiencing the slowest page load times
  • Shopzilla undertook a massive performance redesign reducing page load times from ~7 seconds to ~2 seconds, with a corresponding 7-12% increase in revenue and 50% reduction in hardware costs

I love optimizing web performance because it raises the quality of engineering, reduces inefficiencies, and is better for the planet. But to get widespread adoption we need to motivate the non-engineering parts of the organization. That’s why these case studies on web performance improving the user experience as well as the company’s bottom line are important. I applaud these companies for not only tracking these results, but being willing to share them publicly. You can get more details from the Velocity videos and slides.

Back in the Saddle

Over the next six months, I’ll be focusing on open sourcing many of the tools I’ve soft launched, including UA Profiler, Cuzillion, Hammerhead, and Episodes. These are already “open source” per se, but they’re not active projects, with a code repository, bug database, roadmap, and active contributors. I plan on fixing that and will discuss this more during my presentation at OSCON this week. If you’re going to OSCON, I hope you’ll attend my session. If not, I’ll also be signing books at 1pm and providing performance consulting (for free!) at the Google booth at 3:30pm, both on Wednesday, July 22.

As you can see, even though Velocity and EFWS are behind me, there’s still a ton of work left to do. We’ll never be “done” fixing web performance. It’s like cleaning out your closets – they always fill up again. As we make our pages faster, some new challenge arises (mobile, rich media ads, emerging markets with poor connectivity) that requires more investigation and new solutions. Some people might find this depressing or daunting. Me? I’m psyched! ‘Scuse me while I roll up my sleeves.

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