Mulling over a Web Trend

I am run­ning more and more into peo­ple that per­ceive that many web sites are so heavy with Javascript that the site bogs down and bombs their web brows­er. It is my per­son­al belief that this is slight­ly skewed but it points out that many wish for sim­ple, fast sites. There are times when I wish we could go back to web 1.0 since the sites com­bined with broad­band speeds are wicked fast, a la, Craig’s List. They may be ugly, but they are fast!

Many of the sites that are com­plained about do have a lot of Javascript but Javascript is not nec­es­sar­i­ly caus­ing the slow speeds. Sites with well writ­ten Javascript may be a touch slow­er to ini­tial­ly load but using well estab­lished frame­works such as Dojo, jQuery or Mootools a web design­er can devel­op a very pow­er­ful and rel­a­tive­ly fast inter­ac­tive web site, gMail being one of the orig­i­nal exam­ples. The ini­tial slow­er load speeds are well off­set by usabil­i­ty and inter­ac­tiv­i­ty.

What I notice is the amount of data com­ing from third par­ty sites being dis­played on the site. Even this blog has data com­ing from three or four exter­nal sites. It is third par­ty data streams (TPDS) that can cause all the prob­lems and exces­sive slow­ness. In some case, the web­site own­er puts Javascript on their site which then pulls the TPDS. In oth­er cas­es, the web site own­er puts a link to the Javascript resid­ing on a third par­ty web site which then pro­ceeds to do its thing.

Why use TPDS? First, many are rev­enue streams. For exam­ple, I have a cou­ple Amazon wid­gets on this site which helps me finan­cial­ly when you pur­chase some­thing through them. GoogleAds are anoth­er com­mon exam­ple. Other com­mon TPDS are video streams like YouTube, RSS feeds, oth­er types of news and weath­er feeds, and of course track­ing and ana­lyt­ics data streams.

TPDS all con­tribute to the time it may take a web site to load. Theoretically, it could make the site faster since you can pull from mul­ti­ple sources at the same time and they may have a lot more band­width avail­able than the orig­i­nal web­site. But in many cas­es, they are pulling large amounts of data that take for­ev­er to down­load. Worse, if that TPDS is down or real­ly slow for some strange rea­son, it can make ones site unbear­able or even unus­able. Furthermore, the web site own­er loos­es con­trol over what data is being dis­played or its func­tion­al­i­ty. The third par­ty could change the code to do some­thing or dis­play some­thing com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed by the web site own­er.

Sites that are over­whelmed with TPDS are just ask­ing for trou­ble. As I already said, I use them but I am not per se hap­py about it. I won­der about using ser­vices such as Trumba, Disqus (which we tried for a while), and many oth­er ser­vices that are being devel­oped which allow you to embed data into your site from their site. I won­der if they will even­tu­al­ly just go away because their cus­tomers, the web site own­ers, give up on using them because of speed and con­trol issues. Or are web site own­ers going to become so lazy that their site is noth­ing but TPDS and no orig­i­nal con­tent on their part. Well, it is some­thing to mull over as I devel­op web sites but for now, the trend isn’t going away.

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