Why CIOs need to care about web speed
Maggie Rulli interviews Strangeloop president Joshua Bixby for the latest edition of CIO Insight. Topics include: is the internet getting faster or slower? What is the root cause of slow web pages? Why are internet users getting more and more impatient?
Maggie Rulli: Hi, and welcome back to the CIO Insight. I’m Maggie Rulli here for Ashley Daley this week on the Pulse Network. And up next it’s time for our business technology to watch and this week we’re watching Web Speed. This seems so simple. It’s Web Speed. People use it every day but if you’re anything like myself and have tried to get internet page to load and what takes 10 seconds seems like an eternity when you’re trying to check your email. Now, not just from a personal standpoint of me trying to check my email, but from a business stand point this is critical to how your business runs and operates and interacts with consumers. That’s why I’m so excited to bring on the president of Strangeloop Joshua Bixby here to help us understand why the web is going slower and what we can do about it. Joshua, how are you? It’s so good to have you on.
Joshua Bixby: I’m doing great hey Maggie, nice to see you.
Maggie Rulli: Well, it’s nice to see you too. You know, Joshua, as I was researching your company and the story it sort of struck me as odd that the internet is getting slower, you know, we see 4G smart phones coming out and everyone sort of advertising that they are faster than the next competitor. They can upload and download things in two seconds. Are these lies or what’s happening here, Joshua?
Joshua Bixby: No. So, you know some of these stories in terms of, you know, things getting faster, slower are very much based around, you know, the idea of what’s actually happening for users. So, the internet is indeed getting faster, the plumbing of the internet is getting faster. Now, you can’t get any faster than the speed of light which is essentially what fiber gets you. So, you know, some of these claims on the mobile phones are true. The fiber lines are pretty much the same. What’s really important here is the speed for consumers. So, you or I or our friends in our houses or on our phones is the internet feeling faster, is it getting faster. And the reality is that for many people, it’s not.
And what’s interesting about it is it’s not because we are demanding more and more features of our sites. They are getting heavier, they are getting bigger and we also, you know, are also getting more impatient. So, there is some very interesting studies which have co-related our patience levels. In 1999, we basically would wait for eight seconds for a page to load today we wait two or less. We also are seeing an extremely large increase in how big pages are, how functional they are, how many objects they have and it’s creating slower experiences for our end users.
Maggie Rulli: Well Joshua, obviously from a personal consumer standpoint, I can understand first hand why internet speed is so important. As you mentioned that two seconds even two seconds can seem like too long when you’re trying to open up a webpage and 2.6 seconds even seems like a little bit too long sometimes. But what does that mean for CIO’s? What is it mean for if you’re running the technology of a company?
Joshua Bixby: Got you. I think some of the most interesting research over the last three years has really started to put that into prospective for us and the prospective is that every second counts, every second is worth money. So, there are being some fascinating studies pioneered by the likes of Google and Microsoft who have slowed down their websites to see what impact it has on their bottom line. And it’s absolutely fascinating to see these studies. So, when Microsoft slowed down the Bing research results by two seconds they lost five percent of their revenue. When Amazon correlated a 100 milliseconds of speed, they correlated 100 milliseconds of speed to one percent revenue gain.
So, what’s so interesting about talking about speed is, you know, we all intuitively no speed is good. What we don’t know, and what CIO’s haven’t really internalized is that each of those 100 milliseconds segments is worth a lot of money to them. We have customers where we have sped up their sites or their sites, they have sped up their own sites and they’ve seen 20, 30, 50 thousand dollars more in revenue per day. So, I think the key for CIO is just to recognize that speed is a competitive advantage, number one, and that it is a key competitive advantage and every second or every 100 milliseconds is worth money to them. And once that perspective is gained what we really see is CIO’s understanding this and investing very heavily in speed as the dominant feature on a website.
Maggie Rulli: Well, Joshua that’s such an interesting point you make because I know for myself if I go to a webpage and it takes too long to load, you’ll just go somewhere else, I mean we are inundated by websites and new stories now a days, we don’t need to wait the 11 seconds, why wait 11 seconds when you can read about something in two. But I’m curious if you think it will ever be fast enough. Will people always want more? You know we’re so used to instant gratification – will we ever as consumers be satisfied by companies trying to make the web go faster?
Joshua Bixby: So, that’s a really good question. There are some very interesting studies that have been conducted, that try to answer that question. What they found is that 100 milliseconds is about the point which we as humans believe things are instantaneous or they seem instantaneous. And so what’s fascinating about for example Google, is Google has set as a mantra across the entire business and they have been very public about this. They want every page in the internet to load under 100 milliseconds, their own and everyone else’s. So yes, I think there is a floor, there is good enough and it’s very, very far away from, for example the average e-commerce site today which in a recent study showed that for most consumers are loading in about 12 seconds. So, 100 milliseconds to 12 is a pretty big gap.
Maggie Rulli: Well Joshua, what do you guys do over at Strangeloop to help with this, how does your company deal with that millisecond of importance?
Joshua Bixby: Got you. I mean there is a whole community of, of products and features in this market we’re one of them. Basically, we look at the problem. We just look at the physics of pages loading. So, a page that for example a typical web page if you’re going to go to amazon.com is going to have 100 trips from the server back and forth from the server to load the page. Well, a 100 trips when you can only make two or four at once is a lot of time. So there is a lot of effort put into making pages smaller because I can get things faster if they are smaller and having less trips. What’s also important to recognize is that every browser is different. So, you know, you might be using a Firefox browser, I might be using Chrome, my mother uses IE-7, all every browser also loads things differently. So, that’s also an important aspect in terms of the things that we can do.
So, we focus on making things smaller and tailoring them to the browser that’s using them in order to make them feel faster. And we do that by selling, you know, an appliance, a physical device that sits in the network. Somebody like Visa, Petco for example are some of the customers that use that approach and we also have a cloud service that customers can subscribe to and get the benefit of the - of the acceleration. So, we are really in the business of making things smaller, making them more efficient and tailoring them to what a browser actually is best at and avoiding the things that they are not very good at.
Maggie Rulli: Well Joshua, you mentioned a few of the companies that you have worked with in the past and I’m curious if you have any first-hand anecdotes or case studies where your product came and you saw first-hand the difference it made whether it was just one or two milliseconds or even up to a few seconds sort of the before and after the companies started paying attention to web speed.
Joshua Bixby: Yeah. So, we have a couple of examples, a good one is PETCO the large pet food and pet supply company. They came to us not because they felt their site was slow but because their CIO and the technology group really internalize this idea that every second matters. And we found that not only did we get, you know, a significant speed up on the site but more importantly we saw really strong gains in their revenue. So, one of the things that we do for some of our customers is we actually send half of the traffic through back to the server directly without us doing any acceleration and half of the server gets, half of the traffics gets accelerated.
And then what we do is we actually look in the business tracking tools that companies use, Google analytics or Omniture and actually ask ourselves questions. Did people see more pages? Did they buy more? Did the company make more revenue? PETCO is a good example. Another one is AutoAnything.com where they actually saw their revenue and their conversion rates go traumatically up. They made more money every day. Their site was faster and we see a lot of stories like this and here is a sort of PETCO before and after.
We see a lot of stories where that three, you know, 30 percent, 40 percent is making the difference on the bottom line. So, some stories which I think really hit at the heart of a CIO cares about which is, you know, the same thing the whole company cares about how can I make more money.
Maggie Rulli: Well, that was incredible, when you see it side by side like that and you can’t argue the difference that four versus eight seconds actually makes especially when you have to refresh pages or go to a new page to find out about that dog collar. I want to have the dog collar right now Joshua. I don’t want to wait four more seconds.
Joshua Bixby: No, it’s true – it’s true and, you know, what’s interesting is that I think our intuition around that, my intuition is the same as yours but I actually think that the reality of it, when we actually look at it from a scientific prospective, we are more ingrained than we’d like to think – I talk to CIO’s all the time who will tell me, ah, ours you know, what’s another second here or there? And what’s amazing to me is when we look at the science, when we look at the scientific studies. One second could be 20 or 30,000 thousand dollars of revenue a day for a customer. So, I think it’s even more pronounced when we look at the science than just our intuition might suggest.
Maggie Rulli: Joshua, thank you so much for joining us today with those insights into web speed. You know, if once again people are interested in learning out more. How can we reach you and contact you?
Joshua Bixby: So, I have – I’m of two minds. I have a blog, I spend a lot of time writing called Web Performance Today where I just muse about the things that I see. So, that’s one area where, you know, strip all the sales, strip all the marketing and I just try to give an honest story about what we see. Obviously, I also run a for profit business, so, strangeloopnetworks.com is another good place and actually on the website in the top right hand corner you’ll see a link to the web performance optimization hub or WPO Hub and that’s an area where we try to collect all of the stats, the back up all of the research that I was talking about. That’s an area where I would really recommend people go just to learn about the science of why every second matters and why companies can make more money. The sales and the marketing stuff can come after but I really recommend people get educated on this.
Maggie Rulli: Joshua, thank you so much for joining us here on CIO Insight. It was great to hear about your company.
Joshua Bixby: Thank you. Take care.
Maggie Rulli: Bye Joshua.
Joshua Bixby: Bye.
Maggie Rulli: When we get back, plenty more to talk about, we’re doing a headline deep dive, we’ve taken all about Osama Bin Laden. Yes, it’s the headline, everywhere but it’s also affecting the IT community. I’m Maggie Rulli filling in for Ashley Daley right here on CIO Insight.