Performance of social networking sites — Index from Keynote Systems for August 2013

By Robert Castley

The social media website homepages loaded faster in August than they did in July, shaving 0.3 seconds of the overall average load time. In terms of reliability – the likelihood of a site loading correctly when visited – however, only three of the eleven sites in August secured an average successful load rate of 99.9 percent or above. This is compared to seven out of eleven homepages which loaded correctly at least 99.9 percent of the time in July. When looking at the figures as a whole, it seems that the site homepages have sped up, at the expense of offering their customers a reliable service.

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To understand what the changes in load time and reliability mean, we need to take a further look into how the individual sites come to make up these overall statistics. Looking at the sites individually shows that there were two particular homepages that ‘rocked the boat’ in August. The biggest change came from Bebo; although the site has been gradually becoming quicker and more reliable over the past few months, it was consistently below the average and always struggled at the bottom of the chart.

In August, however, response time for the homepage was reduced from a slow 9.4 seconds to a comparatively impressive 4.8 seconds. Not only this, but its reliability also improved from 99.03 percent in July, to 99.53 percent in August. The improvements for the Bebo homepage are most likely due to the changes in the make-up of the site. The number of objects on the page was reduced from a hefty 229 in July, to 67 in August, and the corresponding page size reduced from 2.41 MB to far lighter 1.06.

Friends Reunited also saw significant changes to its performance as a result of its page construction in August. With the load time increasing from 2.85 seconds in July to 6.17 seconds in August, as well as the reliability falling from 99.91 percent to 99.67 percent, the contents on the site can shed some light on the performance. The number of objects on the Friends Reunited page increased from 52 in July to 179 in August and the page size from 0.85 MB to 2.03 MB. This is worrying for Friends Reunited, a site that was once comparable to the rest of the social media homepages, as it has now slipped into last place for response time.

Other fluctuations in performance in August included Hi5 and Wayn, both of which knocked around a second off their time to load and kept their successful load rate fairly consistent with the previous month. That said, Wayn still remains at the bottom of the table in terms of a reliable load rate, the only site to consistently be below the 99 percent mark, only loading correctly 96.77 percent of the time.

It was great to see the performance improvements from Bebo this month. After many months featuring at the bottom of the table, it is impressive to see the site finally taking control of the experience it is giving to visitors on its homepage. This is particularly true as we see how evident the correlation is between the performance of the site – in terms of speed and reliability – and the number of objects and corresponding page size of the page.

It is less promising to see Friends Reunited back-track in terms of performance, but hopefully this was a simple change in August that will be rectified by the time we see September’s results. On the whole, the sites are maintaining their ability to perform quickly as users visit homepages, what they need to remember, however, is that it doesn’t matter how quick the site is, if it crashes – due to poor reliability – the user will not benefit from the speedy delivery. Crucially, there has to be a balance on a site between features, reliability and speed to load.

About the author

Robert Castley has been a solutions consultant at internet testing and monitoring specialist Keynote, for over three years. Prior to working at Keynote, Robert worked as a Professional Services Consultant at a document management company, Macro 4, where he worked on developing custom web interfaces. He regularly engages with customers and has an in-depth technical knowledge in web development. One of his proudest achievements is developing one of the world’s most popular Open Source Content Management Systems to the masses – Mambo, which now lives on as Joomla!

Robert is an authoritative spokesperson on web performance and regularly participates in industry events on the topic. Robert is passionate about the need to provide the optimum experience for internet users, irrelevant of the device they are using. He advocates a ‘three screen approach’ that provides a consistent experience whether a website is being accessed via mobile, tablet or desktop computer.

About the company

Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experience in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.

http://www.keynote.com/

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