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Are Ad Servers Bogging Down the Web? 387

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the yes-of-course-they-are dept.
blackbearnh writes "The work of making high-volume web sites perform well is an ongoing challenge, and one that continues to evolve as the nature of web content changes. According to Google Performance Guru Steve Souders, fat JavaScript libraries and rich content are creating new problems for web site tuning, but one of the biggest problems lies outside the control of web site administrators — ad servers. In an interview previewing the upcoming Velocity Online conference run by O'Reilly, Souders talks at length about the real causes of poor web performance today, and in particular, the effect that poorly performing ad servers are creating. 'We adopted a framework of inserting ads, of creating ads, that's pretty simple. And because it's pretty simple, it's not highly tuned. That's one reason why we shouldn't be too surprised that we see performance issues in third party ads. The other reason is that ad services are not focused on technology. Certainly companies like Yahoo and Google and Microsoft, we're technology companies. We focus on technology. So it's not surprising that our web developers are on the leading edge of adopting these performance best practices. And it's also not surprising that ad services might lag two, three or four years behind where these web technology companies are.'"
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Are Ad Servers Bogging Down the Web?

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  • Kind of Fitting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:27PM (#30271582) Journal
    That I should read about this story with an AT&T advertisement next to it done up in Adobe Flash 10 when the exact same thing can be achieved in a few lines of HTML. Seriously, it's an all black background with four lines of white text at h2 and h3 ... then an AT&T logo in the bottom and maybe an icon for the button to "learn more." And the article is wondering if advertisers are slowing down the web?

    Give the UI back to the user and leave the flashing marquee tags in Las Vegas. The only reason you would use a swf is to achieve some display interaction/functionality not suitable for HTML+CSS+Javascript. This is common sense yet you willing host ads that urinate on common sense. If you want me to read an article on your site, you don't want moving flashing things annoying my eyes while I try to read text so why serve up only a technology (as all ads on Slashdot seem to be) that is designed just for that? Ah, of course, it's your biggest revenue stream. Well then, I guess I'll just dig in and prepare for the cycle to perpetuate ad infinitum. And these two guys can chat all they want about it but there's no solution; it's never going to end because it's Just the Way Things Are.
  • Slow ads... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:31PM (#30271612) Homepage

    Quite often you will be loading a website, and be staring at a blank screen with "making connection to ads.blablabla" at the bottom.... The page itself has loaded, but won't display until the browser has managed to retrieve the ads.

    Also you will see ad servers in completely different locations to the site you're viewing, and therefore much slower.

    Also, some ads are especially large, especially animated flash ones, and can add a noticeable delay to a page load even if the ad server isn't slow or lagged.

    My pet hate btw, are ads which have sound... I find that EXTREMELY annoying and quickly block access to any ad provider which serves such things.

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:32PM (#30271618) Journal

    Technology: Are Ad Servers Bogging Down the Web?

    Yes. Period.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:35PM (#30271668)

    one of the biggest problems lies outside the control of web site administrators

    So, who's choosing to put these slow third-party ads on their websites again?

  • no-script (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rgviza (1303161) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:36PM (#30271676)

    no-script for the win, yet again.

  • Security? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:37PM (#30271684) Journal
    Surely the ads are in iframes, and so load entirely asynchronously. If they're not, then you're giving third-party content access to your site's security zone, which is a terrible idea.
  • Flash Ads (Score:4, Insightful)

    by handy_vandal (606174) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:39PM (#30271708) Homepage Journal

    Nothing bogs down a site like Flash.

    Case in point: Boing Boing [].

    Several months ago, Boing Boing got a new layout. The old layout worked fine, was easy to read, easy to scroll. The new Boing Boing stutters when scrolled ... it's annoyingly easy to lose your place and scroll way down or way up by mistake. Grrr ....

  • Block 'em all... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rshol (746340) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:40PM (#30271726)
    ...let God sort 'em out. At least that's my policy.
  • by eln (21727) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:41PM (#30271730) Homepage
    Well, then you missed the part where a guy from Google is making the claim, and saying that it's primarily because ad companies don't have the expertise in-house to keep up with the latest web performance tricks. Of course, technology companies like Google do, so presumably their ad servers don't bog things down like those other companies' servers do. Oh, did we mention Google also just happens to have an ad serving platform that you could use instead of the ones run by these Luddite ad companies that can barely keep a web server running? Let me point you to our AdSense sales team for more information.

    The fact that ad servers tend to screw things up is nothing new. This guy's primary purpose is not so much to point that out, but rather to claim that Google's ad servers don't have that problem, so maybe web admins should use them instead.
  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:41PM (#30271734)
    The folks in the marketing and accounting cubes. I'm sure most web admins would be delighted to ditch all the ads and associated hassles.
  • This isn't new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr_da3m0n (887821) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:41PM (#30271744) Homepage

    Every single time I end up thinking "Geez, this website is taking forever to load", I glance down at the status bar and see "Waiting for". Then, I hit refresh and get another ad from another round robin'ed server, and the page loads sucessfully. It's very frustrating to know that the only reason the page is still blank or half-rendered is because of a third party ad.

    In this regard, AdBlock makes a significant difference if you tell it to not download ads at all, but I am not comfortable with denying revenue streams to the websites I visit, after all, they are providing me with a service I enjoy, for free.

    I just wish that all ads could be loaded last in a manner that doesn't affect the rendering of the website you're trying to view...

    On a related note, the same applies to external javascript. Two transactional websites I maintain are sometimes slowed down to a crawl because of the crappy external Javascript marketing made us insert in the page header to track stuff. It's always very frustrating when things end up being slow because of third parties. I wish there was a simple way to cache these things.

  • Re:Security? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sam0737 (648914) <sam @ c h o w c h i . com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:52PM (#30271900)

    When the ads were in iframe? Very seldom. Not 10 years ago, and not today. I am telling you as a web-admin who manage ad-supported free hosting 10 years ago.

    The advertiser wants the real estate. They wants floating icon and panels all over the web. For example, those turn page effect to reveal an Ad, or mouse over the flash to show a bigger floating DIV...these couldn't be done in iframe.

    Plus, I heard google does no evil right? So people are so comfortable in inserting the adsense javascript tag right into the page.

    Yes it's a very bad idea. Security-wise, performance-wise.

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:53PM (#30271916)

    Worse than even that though are "chained" ads.

    You see these primarily on video sites (Hulu, various news channel video sections, etc.) where you have some video content that you want to see, but FIRST they want to display an ad to you.

    If you have AdBlock Plus installed, you can NEVER see the video! It is specifically set up so that you cannot get to the video without first viewing the ad. Blocking the ad results in a blacked-out video player and no error message. (Although the observant will usually notice the "attempting to connect to [ad server]" message in the browser status area.)

    Worse still, many of the ads are from some of the same places that have had (or currently have) issues with drive-by infection ads. So in order to watch your video, you MUST put your machine at risk.

    It's a disgusting abuse of viewers and needs to stop.

  • Re:Uselful (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:53PM (#30271934)

    But ads are useful.

    What planet do you live on?

  • by knarf (34928) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:54PM (#30271946) Homepage

    I propose a change of term for this sort of stuff. Instead of "rich" content call it "obese" content or "overloaded" content or "bloated" content. That "rich" term sounds desirable while often the opposite is true. Call the real useful stuff "enhanced" content or something similar...

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:56PM (#30271972)

    Yes, users should all be easily capable of installing a firefox add on to disable advertisements prior to videos.

    In turn you will pay a monthly fee to access content due to the loss of advertising revenue.

    Oh wait, you actually thought these things were made and provided for free?

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <> on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:03PM (#30272070) Journal

    ... where you have some video content that you want to see, but FIRST they want to display an ad to you.

    If you have AdBlock Plus installed, you can NEVER see the video! It is specifically set up so that you cannot get to the video without first viewing the ad...

    It's a disgusting abuse of viewers and needs to stop.

    Are you really saying that it's abuse of viewers when your ad blocking software doesn't manage to block the ads correctly and breaks the video player?

    And if you're blocking their ads, they most likely don't care if you can see the video or not. Bandwidth isn't free, and it isn't cheap to run these kinds of sites either.

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RCGodward (1235102) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:06PM (#30272092)
    Why is this modded troll? Content costs money to produce and deliver.
  • Re:Kind of Fitting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:15PM (#30272218)

    Advertisers using flash because it's not as easily blockable, I would imagine flash also allows advertisers to track users in more sophisticated ways.

  • Re:Kind of Fitting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dintlu (1171159) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:31PM (#30272446)

    I was ignoring that checkbox until I realized that every time Slashdot hung while loading it was because I was waiting on a third-party ad server.

    It's surprising there don't seem to be any quality-of-service clauses in the contracts between content providers and third-party advertisers.

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:45PM (#30272598)

    Yes. Another example of the free market working its wonders.

    What the hell does this have to do with the free market? Have you ever visited websites in China? Chinese sites are even more cluttered with intrusive advertising.

    Whether you like it or not, hosting a site and providing content costs money. So there are two practical options. One, you charge for a subscription. Unfortunately, that almost never works because people seem to believe that access to content should be free. And if you're not providing unique content then you're going to have a hard time charging for what someone else is providing for free. So you're left with the second option, run advertising.

    Now, I hate advertising for many reasons, among them are poor design quality, invasiveness and the deceptive nature of so many. Browser performance is another important issue, especially on my Mac where there has always been a tendency for browsers to completely lock up until the page loads. That's why I run ad blockers.

    As usual, the power is in the hands of the people. If the vast majority of people cared enough to completely ignore ads, even if they don't outright block them we wouldn't be having this problem. All people would have to do is render advertising completely ineffective. But most people just don't care, even if the issue is raised with them. And who's to say that the alternative business models would be more appealing anyway.

    At least this way we have a way of blocking ads. I suspect if the government got involved it wouldn't be to make ads less invasive, but rather ensure that we would have no way to block them. The free market requires that the average person be involved not rely on someone else to fix their problems for them.

  • i believe the market needs to be highly regulated to prevent bubbles and pops and to prevent manipulation of smaller players by entrenched powers

    having said that, i also understand that the market is the engine that drives innovation. the market needs to be controlled... but there needs to be a market

    so when i see

    "Yes. Another example of the free market working its wonders."

    i see only an idiot who bites the hand that feeds it

    dear genius: what is your alternative to making your favorite website run?

    all of the slashdot smug in this thread proudly trumpeting their ad blocking methods need to shut up, frankly, because with more widespread use of ad blocking, more websites go under. and yes, dear elitist snob, this includes some sites you like, not just myspace

    so what's the solution? more seamless ad delivery, less intrusive ads, faster ads. yes, yes, and yes. but never, ever is a valid answer no ads or less ads

    oh, you don't like ads? wow, you're a unique snowflake aren't you? who the fuck does?

    the ads are too intrusive to your poor delicate sensibilities about proper screen real estate usage?

    ok, that's fine

    then pay for your content, moron. because that's the alternative. or is it that you don't understand the fucking obvious?

    please, dear slashdot effete: you go ahead and continue block ads, be my guest

    just show a little fucking DISCRETION and shut up about it, if you know what is fucking good for you


  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ajlisows (768780) on Monday November 30, 2009 @03:48PM (#30273376)

    Yeah, the problem with blocking ads is that if advertising revenue shrinks to the point where the web sites cannot support themselves, the sites will have to shift to something else.....perhaps back to the subscription model. We would be free to avoid those sites, but if too many quality sites went that way it would really suck. For that reason, I'll leave the Slashdot ads on instead of clicking the box saying I can turn them off. There was an ad for a free network monitoring software called "Splunk" the other week. I even clicked on it and downloaded the software. Uhm, admittedly I have not installed it yet as I already have network monitoring tools but I will eventually check it out.

    As long as the ads aren't flying across my screen and completely interfering with what I am trying to do (ESPN....I'm looking at you) I will tolerate them and occasionally even click them.

  • Re:Slow ads... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:07PM (#30273744) Homepage

    Evolution in action. If enough people only block ads that annoy somehow, they will have to clean it up.

    Personally, I don't block most ads, but if they flash or jump, take too long to load or attempt to do sound I will block the whole domain. Flash ads are gone by default since I run flashblocker and only enable the few that are actually necessary.

    Simple static ads from ad servers that avoid the other sort are the only ones that even have a hope of me seeing them.

  • Re:Kind of Fitting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by countertrolling (1585477) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:42PM (#30274352) Journal

    You got it backwards. The purpose of the article is to get you to see the ad. Nobody cares if the article gets read or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:00PM (#30274610)

    I can't count how many times I've stared for 10+ seconds at a white screen with "connecting to" is in the status bar at the bottom.

    I can count that for me... twice. After the second time, links were blocked. I guess I'm doing my part to speed up the internets :)

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson