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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