I was recently asked to do a surface analysis of some popular mainstream websites to see what makes them tick. For this exercise I chose TIME as a target for analysis. My initial goal was to look at performance, inspect the platform, and capture facts about hosting providers and content delivery networks. Well, that was the plan.
Profiling a website is pretty simple. Open the browser developer tool, load a website, and you will see an almost endless parade of data. This is a critical task in building high performance web applications. You can see how long everything takes to load. And when I say “load”, I mean the time it takes before the user can actually see and interact with the page.
Way back in the day, a browser didn’t have to do that much. Load a page, display some images. It is now staggering how much a browser loads and processes just to show you that first page.
Taking TIME for example, it took about 6 seconds for the page to display and be functional. In those 6 seconds, the browser downloaded 3.2 megabytes of 410 items and compiled approximately 135 scripts. Nowadays this is not surprising. What may be surprising is that time.com itself contains only 2 of those items. So 99% of what you see (and don’t see) comes from somewhere else, but where?
The rest is coming from a potpourri of cloud providers with which TIME has partnered. Here is a rundown...
Analytics & Engagement
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud
- New Relic
It can be argued whether or not this is actually beneficial, so I went looking for a major website that didn’t have this amount of stuffing. It turns out that most major sites work this way to varying degrees. However, I did find one site that is as minimal as their brand. A glance apple.com only contains a few apple.com resources, with no other third parties involved.
What are your thoughts? Does the impact on performance outweigh the benefits? How much is too much stuffing?
About Lawrence Wolfe
Larry has over 20 years experience in interactive media, delivering innovative and functional solutions for heavy hitters like Mack Trucks and Air Products. As our CTO and Chief Architect, Larry crosses the divide between the left and right brain to produce experiences that are compelling, easy to use and scalable.