I Made a Map of the Internet - And What It Can Teach Us About Speeding Up Websites

Web Performance Ballroom AB
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Presentation: external link
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(3.54, 63 ratings)

How do we choose which part of our system to optimize? Stanford algorithms legend Donald Knuth is famously quoted as saying
“Premature Optimization is the root of all evil”. And yet where is the research showing where we should optimize our sites? Steve Souders made a groundbreaking discovery at Yahoo! when he realized that the most critical, and under-examined, part of web site optimization was the front-end. However while there is lots of great performance research, we still make plenty of assumption about what to optimize.

I have made a map of everything involved in getting from your computer, via your ISP, to a web site and back to your eye balls. It’s exhaustive, but that’s the point. Where the heck should we optimize?

This talk will take the audience on a journey through the guts of the internet. They will learn:

  • Hidden dangers in wifi
  • How they really connect to their ISP
  • The mysteries of DNS
  • The hop-skip-and-jump of navigating the Internet to request a web page
  • Exactly how CDNs speed up getting images and other files
  • Some basics about page rendering and display

After we’ve taken a good hard look how the internet really works we’ll try to figure out what we can about where we should be focusing our attempts to improve performance. This will look at how we can test things like:

  • Remote Caches (ISP, etc)
  • DNS response times for users
  • Wifi reliability
  • Does latency matter?
  • Which parts of the browser do we really test?
  • Do different rendering engines matter?

Finally we are going to examine some of the existing research, both practical and experimental, that targets specific areas of the map we’ve been exploring. This may include tools technologies that the participants can apply to their sites to improve performance from old favorites like YSlow and Page Speed to new techniques like:

  • MHTML and iframes
  • HTTP pipelining
  • JavaScript Loading patterns
  • DNS prefetching
  • The SPDY protocol
  • Multi-flushing
  • Optimizing CSS
  • Google Speed Tracer

This is a technical session for intermediate → advanced developers. The talk should be somewhat accessible to more novice developers but they may have to spend more time catching up on the material afterwards.

Photo of Tom Croucher

Tom Croucher


Tom Hughes-Croucher is an Evangelist and Senior Developer in Yahoo’s Open Strategy Group, focusing on Yahoo’s Web Services and Cloud Platform. Tom has contributed to a number of Web standards for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the British Standards Institute (BSI). Previously he helped build the online music stores for some of the UK’s largest brands including Tesco, Three Telecom and Channel 4.

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Picture of Suzanne Axtell
Suzanne Axtell
08/03/2010 1:54am PDT

WRT the recording: The fire alarm and strobe light that went off during this presentation has make editing the footage challenging to say the least. If the presentation can be salvaged, it will be available for sale here: oreilly.com/videos

Thanks for your interest Andre and apologies for the delay, Tom!

Picture of Tom Croucher
Tom Croucher
08/02/2010 4:30am PDT

Hi Andre,

O’Reilly filmed this talk as a master class, I don’t know when/how they are planning to release it though.

Andre Patterson
07/28/2010 3:29am PDT

Hi Tom,

I’m digging the presentation slides. Did you all happen to record the audio to this?


Rajesh D'costa
06/23/2010 2:01am PDT

Complex topic, explained simply..

Awesome job Tom.

Thank You !

Picture of Tom Croucher
Tom Croucher
06/22/2010 9:02am PDT

Hi Kevin,

slides are here: prezi.com/gks10schfggg/i-ma...

Kevin Rasmussen
06/22/2010 8:36am PDT

Where can we access your preso?

Picture of Steve Souders
Steve Souders
05/16/2010 3:30pm PDT

The key word for this talk is “holistic”. It’s easy to write some CSS and JS and wave your hands when people start talking DNS lookups and TCP packets. Did you ever wish you understood how all the moving parts of the Web actually fit together? I saw Tom give an early version of this talk. It was great. I learned several things. The only thing wrong was he only had 45 minutes. I’m glad he has 90 minutes here to fill in more details about how the Internet works, and where we can find improvements to make it work faster.

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