Latency: Why You Should Worry and What You Can Do About It

Web Performance Ballroom AB
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When delivering web content to users, the two things that affect data transfer speed are bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth problems can easily be fixed by throwing money at the problem, but latency is a harder beast to fight. While the primary limitation is imposed by the speed of light, common household modems in use today also have a big role to play, and the numbers aren’t pretty.

Improvements in technology give us more bandwidth and lower latency, but the trend over the last 20 years has shown that improvements in bandwidth are about 30x more than improvements in latency.

Find out what typical latency numbers are, what the limits are, what that means for your web apps, and what you can do to reduce its effect.

Photo of Philip Tellis

Philip Tellis

SOASTA

geek

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Picture of Steve Souders
Steve Souders
05/25/2010 2:24am PDT

I worked with Philip at Yahoo!. He knows the full stack when it comes to web development – JavaScript guru through to networking. His points about latency were just validated in a blog post this week from Chrome’s Mike Belshe: More Bandwidth Doesn’t Matter . Understanding the distinction between bandwidth and latency, and the way they impact performance differently is critical.

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