Web Performance Trends: Speeding up the Web
The web is growing at a rapid pace, and this year we have seen some drastic changes to web performance, such as the release of HTTP/2 and on-page assets continuing to grow in size. Below we will discuss web performance trends and where things appear to be headed in the future as it pertains to speeding up the web.
Increasing Internet traffic and speeds
According to a trends and analysis case study by Cisco, global Internet traffic in 2019 will be equivalent to 66 times the volume of the entire global Internet in 2005. Globally, Internet traffic will reach 37 gigabytes (GB) per capita by 2019, up from 15.5 GB per capita in 2014
Total Internet traffic has experienced dramatic growth in the past two decades. More than 20 years ago, in 1992, global Internet networks carried approximately 100 GB of traffic per day. Ten years later, in 2002, global Internet traffic amounted to 100 gigabytes per second (GBps). In 2014, global Internet traffic reached 16,144 GBps.
Total Internet traffic benchmarks
|Year||Global Internet traffic|
|1992||100 GB per day|
|1997||100 GB per hour|
Broadband speeds will more than double by 2019. By 2019, global fixed broadband speeds will reach 42.5 Mbps, up from 20.3 Mbps in 2014. You can see below the YoY change from 2014 to Q2 of 2015.
Global average Internet speeds
Highlight: Norway received an incredible 38% increase in average speeds.
United States average Internet speeds
Highlight: Maryland received 24% increase in average speeds.
While internet traffic continues to grow at a booming rate and broadband speeds try to keep up, there are actually many countries that still lack access to internet in 2015. For example, in Indonesia, only 1 in 3 people have access to the internet. That is why Google is about to expand its Loon Project, launching internet balloons over Indonesia which will travel approximately 12 miles above the Earth's surface, providing wireless internet up to 3G like speeds. This will be their most ambitious launch yet providing internet across 17,000 islands.
New protocols and connections
HTTP/2 is the second major version update to the HTTP protocol since HTTP/1.1 which was released more than 15 years ago. The HTTP/2 protocol was developed due to the ever-evolving digital world and the need to load more resource intensive web pages. Due to browser support it does mean you have to be running on HTTPS to take advantage of it. Also things to keep in mind with HTTP/2 is that concatenation and domain sharding are no longer necessary.
The team at HttpWatch saw speed increases of 20% when comparing HTTPS vs SPDY/3.1 vs HTTP/2. Google is also pushing for HTTPS everywhere, not just from a performance perspective but also for security reasons. And because of that they give you a slight SEO ranking boost for running on HTTPS.
KeyCDN was one of the first CDN providers to launch HTTP/2. The chart below reveals the distribution of the HTTP/2 traffic in percentage to the total HTTPS traffic currently delivered by KeyCDN. As you can see it has already passed the 50% mark.
As time goes on we will see more and more sites will be migrating to HTTPS.
After HTTP/2 we can expect to see QUIC coming next, which is a transportation protocol developed by Google based on UDP. The name "QUIC" stands for Quick UDP Internet Connection. HTTP/2 still runs over TCP which means it still has some of the latency cost, unlike QUIC.
Google plans to propose QUIC as an IETF standard, and has found that three-quarters of all requests are served faster over QUIC and that TCP-based websites as well as streaming media will benefit from it.
Read more about QUIC.
Preconnect allows the browser to set up early connections before an HTTP request is actually sent to the server. Connections such as DNS Lookup, TCP Handshake, and TLS negotiation can be initiated beforehand, eliminating roundtrip latency for those connections and saving time for users.
With the use of the new preconnect hint, we are able to give modern browsers a better idea of what connections should be initiated before actual requests for information are requested. This method is favorable over the previous method where browsers try to predict which websites they should use preconnect with on their own.
Read our in-depth article on preconnect.
Faster and newer browsers
Browsers are getting faster every year and in 2015 there is a new player in the game, Microsoft Edge. See a comparison Mashable did of Chrome vs Microsoft Edge. As you can see though Opera and Chrome still are the winners when it comes to total page load times. But what this means is that developers will eventually need to start testing Microsoft Edge for compatibility as it gains market share.
Benchmark tests compared
Microsoft Edge has been making some good improvements and it is already suprassing Microsoft Firefox.
According to W3Counter as far as browser market share goes, Chrome has definitely been increasing the fastest at 44.8% as of October 2015, up from 40.8% in October 2014.
2014 browser market share
2015 browser market share
Page weight continues to increase which means web developers should always be focusing on optimization and ways to speed up the delivery of their content. Here is a comparison below from HTTP Archive of the increase in average bytes per page by content type.
|October 2014||October 2015||Increase|
|images||1207 KB||1399 KB||15.91%|
|JS||16 KB||16 KB||0%|
|HTML||6 KB||6 KB||0%|
|CSS||9 KB||10 KB||11.11%|
|font||70 KB||113 KB||61.43%|
|other||164 KB||4 KB||-97.56%|
HTTP Archive didn't start archiving video stats until recently, so most likely some of "other" category was video in 2014. After looking at the stats above, time should definitely be spent on optimizing images and fonts, as well as video. If you are using WordPress you can use our Optimus plugin for smart image compression.
Speaking of optimizing images, Google's WebP format is 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs. Several big names are already using and experimenting with WebP, such as Facebook, Google, eBay, and Netflix. Smashing Magazine also just recently decided to implement WebP on their website.
In our case study on WebP, we saw a 77% decrease in page size when comparing JPG to WebP and a 27% decrease when comparing PNG to WebP.
Brotli is an open sourced compression algorithm also developed by Google. In a recent compression algorithm study done at Google, Brotli came out significantly faster with a 20-26% increase in compression ratio compared to Zopli.
We hope that this format will be supported by major browsers in the near future, as the smaller compressed size would give additional benefits to mobile users, such as lower data transfer fees and reduced battery use.
Read our in-depth post on brotli compression.
Web performance trends - User experience
Having a fast website and everything optimized might be more important than you think. Here are some quick stats on how this can affect your sales and conversions.
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- If an ecommerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1-second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year. (Source)
- Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon the task if the site isn't optimized or mobile. (Source)
- A 2-second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87%. This is significantly higher than the average abandonment rate of 70%. (Source)
- 46% of online shoppers cite checkout speed as the number one factor that determines whether or not they will return to a site. (Source)
So as you can see, speed is everything!
According to comScore mobile adoption surpassed that of desktop devices. Why is this important? Because mobile devices require things to be optimized even more than desktop. Thankfully LTE has become more widely available in the past few years, but if you have a CDN you can take advantage of the following three additional features:
- Use of Gzip compression to control mobile data traffic
- Use of video pacing to control excessive progressive downloading of media content
- Use of TCP acceleration to adjust with the network environment of the mobile user
And if we take a look at the amount of data being used by mobile devices it has skyrocketed in the past few years, and isn't slowing down anytime soon. According to a New York Times case study, more than half of the data used on mobile devices over news sites came from ads!
According to Cisco traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2016. By 2016, wired devices will account for 47 percent of IP traffic, and Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for 53 percent of IP traffic. In 2014, wired devices accounted for the majority of IP traffic, at 54 percent.
Content delivery networks
Content delivery networks have been proven time and time again to decrease page load times and performance. According to Market Reports Hub, the content delivery network market is growing at 26% CAGR to 2020.
And according to Cisco, Content delivery networks (CDNs) will carry nearly two-thirds of Internet traffic by 2019. Sixty-two percent of all Internet traffic will cross CDNs by 2019 globally, up from 39 percent in 2014.
If you are using WordPress, KeyCDN now has a free plugin, CDN Enabler, in which you can deploy our CDN within minutes!
With web performance trends continuing to change and evolve, and the internet delivering more traffic than ever before, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind moving forward:
- If you haven't moved your site to HTTPS, now might be the time to think about taking advantage of the new HTTP/2 protocol. Also QUIC is coming.
- Use new browser hints such as preconnect to eliminate roundtrip latency.
- Developers should start testing sites in new browsers such as Microsoft Edge to confirm compatibility.
- Images, fonts, and videos are the three primary assets you should focus on optimizing.
- Take advantage of alternative compression methods such as WebP and Brotli.
- Make sure your site is optimized for mobile, both speed and UX.
- Implement a content delivery network to increase the speed of your website.
Are there other web performance trends you have been noticing over this past year? If so, we would love to hear about them below!