Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

The web is getting slower

Late last week, Alex Russell tweeted:

Here’s a good way to think about the explosive growth of mid and low-end mobile, which will continue for the next ~4-5 years:

It is very likely, that over the course of your working career, computers and networks have, on average, gotten slower.

If it feels as though computing continues to get faster, it means that you are pulling away from the median. Your experience is no longer representative and you’ll need to do real work to stay in touch with your users.

And yes, if you’re frontend, that work is your job.

A website failing for someone might not feel like a bit deal, but what about when it’s a critical service? What about when it’s an emergency?

In Location, Privilege and Performant Websites, Stephanie Stimac wrote:

I was later proved wrong though, about not having to worry about data and cell coverage; the power went out and with it, internet connectivity. Wind storms and even a hard rain can knock the power out where I live and in the winter it’s a somewhat common occurrence. For the most part, power is restored within an hour or two, but there have been a few severe wind storms and one was so severe last February that the wind woke me up at 2:30 AM.

While I ran upstairs to try and assess what was happening outside with branches snapping and loud booms of trees falling in the distance, I attempted to reach the Puget Sound Energy website on my mobile browser to report the outage.

I refreshed the page multiple times while my phone said I had data coverage and was on the network (one, maybe two bars at times), but the PSE page came up as offline. I finally managed to get the page to load to report the outage after about 5 minutes.

In the morning, the power was still out and it was clear this has been a devastating wind storm. Electrical fires were being started by downed power lines, trees were blocking two out of three exits out of the neighborhood.

Since I didn’t have a generator for my home, I was without power and internet for nearly 24 hours. Many updates were being posted to Facebook and Twitter but those struggled to load just as the PSE Outage listing page did. I couldn’t access the information I needed about repairs or status of the repairs. It was frustrating and isolating.

You’re a web professional.

Building websites that work for as many people as possible is your job. Even when their connections are slow and spotty.

The web has always been a medium over which we have no control. Honestly, it’s what I find so damn exciting about the work we do. Acknowledging that, and planning for things we can’t control results in a better, more resilient web for everyone.