In the 90s we started surfing the internet, but both the speeds and the WWW itself were a bit of a laugh. The funny thing is that we are in 2020 and although the connection speeds are much faster and the content much richer, browsing the World Wide Web is not at all as fast as you might expect.
In fact the problem is getting worse, and not the other way around. In many developed countries 300 or 600 MBps broadband connections are the norm, but desperately heavy web pages keep taking longer to load than necessary.
Much has rained, but here it seems to do it in the wet
In 1997, the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) made an analysis of internet connections. There weren’t too many Internet users at that time and modem connections were the only option for most users, and the conclusion was clear: users they wanted much lower web page load times to those who experimented.
Even then, these experts recommended that the size of web pages be reduced by making limited use of images and multimedia content. More than two decades have passed and we continue in the same– We want faster loading times and ask for web pages to be lighter.
The reality is that web pages have not stopped growing in size, and according to the updated study the average size of a page in its desktop version (for PCs) is 2 MBwhile the mobile version is only slightly less heavy at 1.8MB.
The Internet is certainly much richer and more complete than ever, but that wealth does not come cheap: we do not skimp when it comes to introducing all kinds of content that try to complete the experience of both users and content providers.
It is a fish that bites its tail, and in the study they mention, for example, data from Httparchive, a division of the Internet Archive that is precisely responsible for analyzing the evolution of the internet and its contents and that shows again how we go from bad to worse.
In the United States, as the image shows, it is like this: it does not matter that connection speeds have multiplied almost by 10 in the last decade, because the average load time is more or less what it was ten years ago … if it is not worse.
The thing, they highlighted in that study, is especially alarming in mobiles, where we have also gained an astonishing speed in connection, but where the average load time has grown equally and sadly astonishing.
The NNG study is not an isolated case, and for years we have seen other analyzes reach the same conclusions. In Backlinko they showed a few months ago how A web page takes almost twice as long (87.84%) to load on a mobile phone than on a desktop or laptop PC, but in both cases the times are not exactly remarkable: on the desktop the average loading time is 4.8 seconds. On mobiles? 11.5 endless seconds.
Web browsing is the exception to a glorious internet
All this makes it clear that it does not matter that the internet is faster than ever: when it comes to web browsing, it is clear that we are getting worse. It doesn’t help that video content has taken over the web. Things like autoplay widely used to show advertising despite the best efforts of browsers, which try to block things but can’t block everything.
Obviously that speed in our connection to the internet has allowed unthinkable things in the 1990s. Netflix, which was founded in 1997, began by renting DVD movies by mail (that’s nothing) and it is clear that its creator, Reed Hastings, did not dream of the transition to streaming video that would facilitate these connection speeds.
The same can be said of music or video games, which we now enjoy more and better than ever (well, maybe not all) thanks to multiplayer gaming and of course the unique future of video game streaming. We do less and less things locally and more in the cloud because the experience of saving everything there is quite similar to that of doing it on our hard drive and the advantages for many are obvious.
We have won in many areas, sure, but not when surfing the internet. It doesn’t matter whether ideas like CDNs or technologies like Google AMP have tried to alleviate the problem: they have barely succeeded, and I am very much afraid that the thing does not seem to change any time soon.
There will be arm yourself with patience. Curse.