Here’s why web pages still load so slowly even though our connections are getting faster

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Ever wondered why sometimes it feels like the web is stuck in 1998? Even though we have super-fast fibre optic broadband, pages still don’t load instantly and we still have to watch stuff gradually appear… so why? It turns out that websites are getting bloated.

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According to some fascinating research by The Whir, in only the last year the average download size of a webpage has bulked up 15% to almost 2mb per page – with the biggest culprit being Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which whilst making the web look prettier have also increased 24%. Images are getting bigger too – up 21% on this time last year.

So essentially the reason it sometimes still feels like we’re trapped in the stone age isn’t because pages aren’t getting faster… they are, but we’re demanding more stuff from them. All of the swishy graphics that we’ve come to expect add extra layers of complexity to websites, which require more code in order to render. Presumably web developers have realised that we’re used to waiting for a few seconds for a page to use – so feel happy to use more resources if the delay is about what we’re used to.

It’s a bit like battery technology in phones. Though it is getting better all of the time, our phones are becoming more and more power hungry, meaning that even though 2015’s batteries will be many times better and more efficient than, say, 2009’s, we’ll still only get about a day of usage from them, because phone companies know that we basically accept we have to charge our phones every night now.

So as January arrives and the world collectively goes on a diet, perhaps the web does too.

James O’Malley

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