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40oz

Sluggish Websites

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I don't think this is just my personal experience, because I've used other devices and computers in other locations, but what is it with the abundance of websites on the internet being so resource intensive? I don't really have a lot of websites I return to regularly, besides Doomworld (which runs perfectly fine by the way) but usually when I google something, such as a recipe for some type of meal to make, or maybe a news article about something, I have a hard time finding a website that doesn't chug on data when I open it up. This is especially frustrating when the main feature of the particular thing I'm looking up is simply just some basic text to read. For some reason so many websites have the copycat feature of dividing an article of roughly 100 words into two or three pages or some kind of hideously choppy slideshow type thing. This goes for phones, tablets and most home computers I've used.

This is something I always felt silly whining about because usually the response is to get a better processor or ISP. Most people I've talked to don't seem to be bothered by it or perhaps misremember that websites weren't always so convoluted. But then I click on websites such as the hosted pages of Doomworld such as The Page of Doom, Hellstorm or Crucified Dreams, the sites load in a flash, "features" and all. My browsers feel fully optimized for what these sites do, but newer websites just seem so choppy and annoying to navigate.

I don't wanna seem like an old geyser but I can't seem to figure out why these newer style websites that run like shit are taking priority of fast loading basic html of the past.

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Probably a lot of Javascript? As a user of a 10+ year old computer I feel this too. You can disable JS but then a lot of sites break. It's really frustrating that loading a webpage is more resource-intensive than playing a game.

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40oz said:

Doomworld (which runs perfectly fine by the way)

Hmm, you're not gonna like it when I add the 4 terabytes of mandatory javascript when I do the redesign.

Anyways, website bloat is a well known problem. One higher-profile incident was last year when The Verge wrote an article called "The Mobile Web Sucks" and someone brutally owned them showing that The Verge itself loaded over 12 MB of data for one page, including 7 MB of javascript, and well over 20 separate trackers and advertisers.

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I find it hilarious and sad at the same time when I block Javascript and Flash and I come upon a page that is completely blank with tiny words asking me to turn it back on. Those sites are literally 100% Java and Flash abuse. They're more preoccupied with making the site as flashy and tacky as possible instead of making it the least bit efficient.

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plums said:

Probably a lot of Javascript? As a user of a 10+ year old computer I feel this too. You can disable JS but then a lot of sites break. It's really frustrating that loading a webpage is more resource-intensive than playing a game.

Probably. For me, visiting an unfamiliar website often means temporarily enabling some third-party scripts in order to restore basic functionality. Sometimes I just glare at NoScript's rogues gallery of off-site links and say "Fuck it!" then close the tab.

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40oz said:

For some reason so many websites have the copycat feature of dividing an article of roughly 100 words into two or three pages

I think it's so that you visit more pages and therefore view more ads. When I see divided articles like that, I usually close the page out of disrespect. Too whorish for my taste.

Anyway, I can relate to everything you've said here. In my mind, text with a bunch of pictures should never lag. And if it does, I feel like there's something wrong with the website. Even if I have a quite old computer and still use Windows XP, I don't see a good reason for this kind of stuff to be so resource-intensive.

There are some sites I really like but almost never visit because loading every page is a struggle.

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I've been using a system cobbled together from ten year old bits since my main PC died last September. It's Sempron 64 based.

Half the internet barely works, or very slowly. I'm getting the same problem with my original Nexus 7 tablet from 2012 now too.

Ironically some of the worst sites are all the tech ones I need to access in order to help me build and configure my new system...

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HavoX said:

The bane of website design.

Not really; nobody uses Java for client-side stuff nowadays. Flash and Javascript, sure, but not Java.

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kuchitsu said:

In my mind, text with a bunch of pictures should never lag.

I feel the same way but too many websites are interested in using modern technology and being flashy, even when older methods would work pretty much the same. Even imgur is pretty slow for me if I'm doing anything other than using the internet, when I go to an image page instead of a direct link, because they've got their dumb viral image gallery in the sidebar that is full of javascript instead of just using frames and targets or something.

And while I'm ranting, I also hate when sites hijack mouse button functions. Middle-clicking usually works for new links but if I'm on my laptop, ctrl-clicking often gets taken over as just a normal click. Blargh.

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Piper Maru said:

I find browsing YouTube using Mozilla Firefox can be rather sluggish.

So am I, but probably for a different reason. My ISP's traffic normally crosses Bass Strait via the Basslink Telecoms optical fibre cable, which is currently being dredged from the seabed in order to locate a break in the power cable it runs alongside. Until that's repaired it looks like traffic's being re-routed through cables operated by Telstra (the robber baron of Australian telecommunications) and it's damn slow. On my nominally 100Mb connection even MP3s are failing to stream without interruption.

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As someone who codes web applications for a living, I get a bit frustrated when people blame "Javascript" for the performance problems that plague many websites. It may be technically true, but it ignores exactly *what* Javascript is causing the trouble. It's like blaming the slow performance of a game engine on "C++" rather than the engine code itself. It turns out that 99% of the performance problems you see on poorly-performing websites is due to an overload of advertising, tracking and analytics code.

Someone mentioned The Verge. Here is a comparison of the locations that theverge.com loads scripts from. On the left is without any ad-blocking, and on the right is with uBlock Origin enabled:



Note that, even with uBlock enabled, the site is still loading whitelisted scripts from Google, Twitter and Facebook. It's likely that these could be excluded as well without affecting the ability of the site to actually render content. Every single one of these additional entries represents another DNS lookup, and one or more chunks of Javascript being downloaded, parsed and executed.

Modern web browsers are incredibly well optimised and feature-rich. If you follow best practices, it's entirely possible to make sites that look incredible, and use all sorts of fancy CSS features and Javascript enhancement, while remaining fast to load and browse.

In fact, modern websites can and should be even faster than those from the 90s. Things that used to take a huge amount of HTML and bloated table-based layouts can now be done in a few lines of CSS. Similarly, graphical effects that required serving lot of pre-created images can also be done using CSS. And enhancements to HTTP and JS can vastly improve the ability of sites to cache their content and quickly render it.

Sadly, advertisers, trackers and affiliation networks do not follow best practices. They serve mammoth amounts of unoptimised Javascript code and other resources. And programmers for sites like The Verge often make similar mistakes with their own content.

Google's answer to this is Accelerated Mobile Pages. Basically a limited subset of web features designed to avoid the kind of anti-patterns that news and magazine sites like The Verge frequently display. It's a bit of a nuclear option, as it disables things like Javascript execution entirely, but it may be the only way to solve the problem. Hopefully, in combination with the proliferation of ad-blocking, it will force popular websites to confront the problems they have made for themselves, and start being more sensible.

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Jonathan said:

Google's answer to this is Accelerated Mobile Pages. Basically a limited subset of web features designed to avoid the kind of anti-patterns that news and magazine sites like The Verge frequently display. It's a bit of a nuclear option, as it disables things like Javascript execution entirely, but it may be the only way to solve the problem. Hopefully, in combination with the proliferation of ad-blocking, it will force popular websites to confront the problems they have made for themselves, and start being more sensible.

AMP is primarily a rearguard effort by Google to try and fight back against Facebook's Instant Articles, and to control a bigger share of mobile web browsing. Google is going to goose page rankings of AMP-enabled pages so publishers feel essentially forced to provide an AMP-specific version, and then Google will preferably link (and serve a Google-cached version of) that page, and oh by the way, did you know Google has a comprehensive mobile advertising suite? Why not put AMP-compatible ads on the page being served by a Google server and found in Google search results, doesn't that make life easier?

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The other component of the JS ads problem is so many of the other servers hosting those scripts are slow as hell. Multi-megabyte JS is bad, but lots of times it loads much more slowly than a similar-sized download normally would. It's infuriating. Even Google's ad servers are subject to this nonsense.

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Jonathan said:

It's like blaming the slow performance of a game engine on "C++" rather than the engine code itself.

That's funny because I was just reading the thread where Quasar and Graf are complaining about all the problems with the C and C++ standards ;)

Anyhow I concede that Javascript is a tool that can be used well or poorly like anything else. However even with ads and trackers blocked, I find any time a page made in the last 5 years is slow to load it's always Javascript that is the culprit, and this occurs quite frequently. And with the exception of extremely terrible websites, this just wasn't the case before the proliferation of JS.

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Little rant incoming. A few years back I noticed that essentially every big-name website runs like absolute horse shit, and I had this image of a bunch of fatcats sitting at the board meeting and being like "alright men, these days the internet is faster than ever and web browsers are becoming more optimized by the minute. What can we do to make it totally slow again??"

"How about 999999 active Java widget things at one time on any given site?"

"GENIUS! Give this man a raise!"

Seriously the little YouTube notification thing where you respond to comments is soooooo slow and glitches off to the side where you can no longer use it, and it even gets a bit haywire and tries to load pages within itself, kinda like old HTML frames except even slower somehow. Every site where the owners/admins have too much money features some ol bullshit like this.

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Doomkid said:

Every site where the owners/admins have too much money features some ol bullshit like this.

It's usually the exact opposite, really - it's site owners adding every tracker and third party ad network they can find in the hopes of actually squeezing out some money.

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Linguica said:

AMP is primarily a rearguard effort by Google to try and fight back against Facebook's Instant Articles, and to control a bigger share of mobile web browsing. Google is going to goose page rankings of AMP-enabled pages so publishers feel essentially forced to provide an AMP-specific version, and then Google will preferably link (and serve a Google-cached version of) that page, and oh by the way, did you know Google has a comprehensive mobile advertising suite? Why not put AMP-compatible ads on the page being served by a Google server and found in Google search results, doesn't that make life easier?



Dear God, trying to stop a competitor from swallowing up web content into a proprietary, walled-garden? Favouring faster pages over shitty, bloated ones in their own search engine results? Caching content for faster access? Is there no depths of evil they won't plumb? And they even support twelve different ad-networks out of the box, just to make publishers think it's not a nefarious conspiracy to foist Google's own advertising onto them.

Yes, Google stand to gain if AMP succeeds, but the project is at least being run with some semblance of openness, and actually tries to solve what are legitimate problems with the mobile web, problems that were around long before Instant Articles appeared, while doing so in a way that builds on foundational web principles, instead of throwing them away entirely. The fact that they've designed AMP in a way that also aligns with their business interests doesn't make it some terrible thing, it just means they're not idiots.

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For what it's worth, the claim that Google will favor an AMP page over HTML in search results was retracted (see the footer). Apparently they will more broadly favor faster sites over slower ones (I guess that means Vox Media/SBNation sites will be buried on page 43 lolololol).

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IMO internet advertising should never be anything more than a still image wrapped in an href in case *I* decide I want to open a new page about your product. What modern internet advertising actually is should be outlawed. I don't blame JavaScript for that, though.

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Can't say I disagree. There's an old old SomethingAwful article that seems ominously prescient about the direction internet advertising has taken.

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