Today, we're introducing fasterscripts.com, a site for web producers and developers to share information on poor performance by third party services that they have to embed in their web applications. We wanted to create a nice simple application that would allow people to band together to ask third party services (like ad serving networks, click counters, marketing trackers etc.) to optimize their performance. Fasterscripts.com allows you to report specific services that are performing slowly (with an uploaded screen shot of the slow load from firebug or pagespeed), and tag it for specific performance problems (like not gzipping content or having broken eTags.)
Why does it matter?
Fast sites matter a lot. Faster sites get more visits, more page-views per visit and generate more revenue. Above a certain threshold, slow sites pay more for Google Adwords, and there's a very good possibility that slow sites will soon be deranked in Google's Search Engine rankings. (Google, in particular, seems to be on a campaign to speed up web-site performance to native client levels.) So if you're someone who makes their living developing web applications, you should care very much about performance, and you should care about the speed of third party services.
Where did this come from?
When we were doing the performance research for our Rails Performance in the Cloud Roadshow, we took a sample of 100 Rails sites and ran them through firebug and the YSlow front-end performance analyzer. What we found about average response times was not that surprising: 3.2 seconds for cold-start home page loads.
What we found about the poor performers—the sites that were taking 10 or 20 seconds to load—was very interesting. In pretty much every case, these super-slow response times were caused by poorly responding third party services. And it wasn't just the small guys: in many cases it was big services like Facebook connect, Google Analytics and Doubleclick that were serving up content slowly, and sub-optimally.
Thankfully, at least Google Analytics shouldn't be a problem soon. Yesterday, it announced that it was adding an asynchronous option for Google Analytics. This will provide a way to avoid page load stutter caused by its previous synchronous-only "document.write" implementation. But there are still lots of third party services out there that cause performance problems for otherwise well-optimized sites. (Our own favorite sub-optimal bugbear here at Engine Yard is the trackalyzer script from LeadLander, which we use for tracking site visits.)
This sounds neat, how do I get involved?
Go to fasterscripts.com and report slow services. If a service has already been reported, you can "vote it up" in the rankings. Once we have a certain number of reports for a particular service, our plan is to email the company with a list of reporters, and ask them to optimize their service, with tips on how to do it. If this gets momentum, we'll probably be looking for volunteers to help manage the site, so let us know if you'd be interested in helping out. If you have suggestions on how to improve the site, let us know as well.