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Are Ad Servers Bogging Down the Web? 387

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 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> 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.
    • Weird. Don't you get the "Disable Ads" checkbox on the side of your page? It showed up on mine sometime this year, and it's made slashdot much faster and more enjoyable.

      • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
        I also have the "Disable Ads" checkbox. But I like Slashdot so I'm willing to be tempted by ads. I need a "Disable Disable Ads" checkbox.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dintlu ( 1171159 )

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 )

        I got it earlier this year too, I'm under the impression it's some sort of high karma perk though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      AdBlock + NoScript. You won't be inconvenienced that way again. And after the first few weeks of approving / adding sites to your blocklist you'll speed right through your web time.
  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:31PM (#30271610)

    Having worked for an ad-serving company, I'm pretty confident that the reason they don't care is that they're not measured on the speed at which they serve up ads.

    If high-value websites started rejecting ad networks that served ads in less then x milliseconds after the rest of the page was downloaded, you'd see ad servers speed up, quick.

    • by Killall -9 Bash ( 622952 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:39PM (#30271714)
      Since when do ads get loaded after the content? I can't count how many times I've stared for 10+ seconds at a white screen with "connecting to foo.ads.doubleclick.com" is in the status bar at the bottom. I really don't know if its the browser(s), or if the pages in question are designed to load ads first.... either way, its goddamn annoying.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        Yup. Second biggest offender is usually Google Analytics. Hell, I've often had Firefox hang while trying to pull up something from GA.

        • by thesnide ( 640733 ) <steve.schnepp@gmail.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:13PM (#30272196) Homepage

          Second biggest offender is usually Google Analytics.

          That's why it's usually interesting to host the JavaScript file, that seldom changes on your webserver, and only have the img that conveys the data retrieved from the foreign host.

          JavaScript loading is usually blocking the rendering whereas img loading usually not.

          • by colfer ( 619105 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:37PM (#30272516)

            JavaScript loading is usually blocking the rendering whereas img loading usually not.

            NYT loads an astounding amount of JS. At home I use an especially slow dial-up and turn off image loading, so I was surprised to spend so much time waiting for "graphics8.nytimes.com". Then I looked in Firebug's Net panel. NYT home page launches 41 requests for 141K of data:

            HTML: 5 requests, 31KB
            CSS: 4 requests, 13KB
            Flash: 2 requests, 37KB
            JS: all the rest, 30 requests, 60KB

            (Flashblock is allowing those 2 requests for some reason. I don't use AdBlockPlus.)

            So next for me is to find or write an extension to block JS per-site.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, this isn't usually Google Analytics. Firefox shows the "Waiting for..." thing for the last resource it requests, which is usually GA because GA is the last thing in the page. This is a good thing: your page can render while the google analytics stuff is being loaded (which is very very fast, like you'd expect from google), but if some ad image elsewhere in your page doesn't load, firefox will continue to show "Waiting for Google Analytics...".

      • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:02PM (#30272048) Homepage

        The solution is simple:
        vi /etc/hosts
        add: ad.doubleclick.net twx.doubleclick.net ad.uk.doubleclick.net www.google-analytics.com googleads.g.doubleclick.net pagead2.googlesyndication.com partner.googleadservices.com analytics.live.com ads1.msn.com

        • by RJFerret ( 1279530 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:17PM (#30272262) Homepage

          The solution is simple:
          vi /etc/hosts

          Even easier, as I thankfully learned from Slashdot a long time ago, this downloadable MVPS hosts file [mvps.org] instantly prevents connecting to ads, spyware as well as other "parasites" and is constantly updated.

          Since adopting it, I no longer wait for ad servers and a side benefit is not even being exposed to the ads!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          'vi' is not recognized as an internal or external command,
          operable program or batch file.

        • by RLiegh ( 247921 )

          unless there's a way to use wildcards with /etc/hosts, then the solution is adblock.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by natehoy ( 1608657 )

          Or, even simpler, use NoScript and AdBlock (with the auto-update list) in Firefox. Editing hosts is simple, I'm not arguing that. It's also free and relatively effective. With one change, your tip even works in Windows.

          But NoScript and AdBlock are far more effective and even simpler to use and maintain.

          hosts doesn't let you know when a new site wants to "get through", you have to see the ad and block it. It also allows everything you don't explicitly block. And it requires a complete match on the URL.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Luyseyal ( 3154 )

          I used to do this, but got irritated with it blocking things that I wanted to do, e.g., filling out a survey about how dissatisfied I am with AT&T. They would redirect it through doubleclick and voila I'd get my 404. I'd have to fix the hosts file and then go back and refresh the browser. Very annoying.

          I much prefer the flashblock approach, though I do allow ads to run in order to support the sites I visit (no AdBlock, etc.). There is no question that these ad servers need to be faster than the sites th

      • by imunfair ( 877689 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:18PM (#30272278) Homepage

        I believe (from a little experience dabbling in web design) that browsers generally run inline javascript as they encounter it - so since the ads are usually inline JS at/near the top of the page it prevents further loading while it's being handled.

        Theoretically if you put the ads in the footer this wouldn't be such an issue since most of the page would load first - most places won't do that though since they want the ads prominently on the top/side of the site so you're more likely to click them (but seriously - who are these people that click ads??)

      • It doesn't seem like Firefox's status bar message is very accurate. My guess is that it shows the last thing loaded (e.g. Google Analytics) but not necessarily the item which is holding up the page.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 )

        I can't count them either, because I can't count things I don't see. Call it what you want, but AdBlock works, and I think it upholds a tenet of free speech: Your right to say something doesn't burden me with an obligation to listen. I block the online ads, which in my view is no different from fast forwarding through them on a recording, or not paying attention to them during a live broadcast. As an added bonus, the ad servers save on bandwidth, making ads faster for those who wish to view them.

        The only

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

        That happens when ad/analytics Javascript makes use of document.write to get its job done. What the industry needs is a move towards dynamically loading that content using XMLHttpRequest, so that the normal page content loads first and only when it's finished do the ads/analytics tags do their thing.

        The only place this might be troublesome is if you're using the ad server to do geo-location. But even that isn't a big deal if it happens a split second after page load.

  • Slow ads... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,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 Zardus ( 464755 )

      It sucks when you have to install Adblock just to have web pages load in without lagging at those "making connection to ads" screens, even when I otherwise wouldn't mind the ads. Advertisers suffer directly as a result of that even more than they do from people blocking ads cause they hate them, IMO. In the latter case, the person wouldn't click on ads anyways, but in the former case, they might have.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

        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 no

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TheKidWho ( 705796 )

          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?

        • I disagree. If a site offers its content in exchange for your watching the ads. You are taking technical measures to circumvent this, and if those measures don't work correctly then it is your responsibility, not theirs. If you don't think the terms that they have offered are acceptable then you are free to go elsewhere. If I find myself on a site with irritating ads, I add a line to my user CSS file that puts a warning next to links to them, and then avoid visiting the site again. I sometimes email th

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ajlisows ( 768780 )

            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

      • Advertisers suffer directly as a result of that even more than they do from people blocking ads cause they hate them, IMO

        You would think this would lead to a Darwinian feedback loop in which crappy, intrusive, annoying ads lead to poorer results than more tasteful ones, and ergo are dropped from the next ad campaign by the advertiser. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case, judging by the continual fountain of annoying, over-animated crapvertisements littering the internet.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case...

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

          • I don't think the problem is the free market itself, rather it is either a) marketing drones who are more interested in whiz-bang strobing flash animations than with creating a positive brand awareness, and/or b) somewhere, somehow, for some reason, millions of stupid schmoes actually click on these obnoxious things.
          • 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 th

        • A big problem is once someone decides that adverts are a problem and have to be blocked they are most likely to just download something like "adblock plus" and configure it with one of the default filter sets, these are setup to block all adverts not just the especially bad ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        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.

  • AdBlock Plus (Score:3, Informative)

    by anglico ( 1232406 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:31PM (#30271614)
    This is the main reason I use Adblock Plus. If the advertisements weren't so annoying then I wouldn't mind them, there are a few text ads I don't block because they aren't intrusive at all. But when I see flash based ads that yes could have been done with HTML or JavaScript then I block those immediately.
  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:32PM (#30271618) Journal

    Technology: Are Ad Servers Bogging Down the Web?

    Yes. Period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yes. Period.

      Can you send that to me in a Flash file?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )

        No, but I took a screenshot of his response, and pasted it in a word file. Can I email that to you?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          No, but I took a screenshot of his response, and pasted it in a word file. Can I email that to you?

          Actually, you need to email it to me and the next ten people in your email list. Break the chain and somewhere a puppy will die!

      • Yes. Period.

        Can you send that to me in a Flash file?

        No, sorry, my email client doesn't handle files that large.

    • by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:41PM (#30271730)
      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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        Even more embarassing for Google - As I mentioned in another post, Google Analytics is one of the biggest offenders in the "makes page load stop and browser freeze for a few seconds" category.

      • The problem is that it doesn't take much to run an Ad Server. I could hack one together with things that are just sitting around in my Parent's Garage, then just upgrade my Internet service to a business line and I'll be good to go.

        Now, most web admins simply look at the price. If I can offer a penny more for my slow-you-down-ads, I think more people will choose my service.

        When it comes to the ad business, there is no "Quality" gague for rating ads, since everyone who uses the net actually hates Ads.

  • I realize that most websites run some version or another of "adverts", but generally speaking, most of those sites are marginal value to start. The sites I frequent usually use text ads, and not the flash (pun intended) graphical ads on some of the more questionable sites.

    In fact, I dare say, that if I see lots of flashy or ads that are obtrusive in nature, I discount the nature of the site and tend to leave quicker.

    One of the things that pisses me off to no end, are third party ads that are spewing crap/ma

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mjschultz ( 819188 )

      I realize that most websites run some version or another of "adverts", but generally speaking, most of those sites are marginal value to start. The sites I frequent usually use text ads, and not the flash (pun intended) graphical ads on some of the more questionable sites.

      That actually reminded me of a short study I did in my English class a number of years ago. I wanted to know if you could get a quick feeling for the quality of a magazine based only on the number of advertisements/glossiness of the publication. Given the limited time and amount of money I was willing to spend I chose "Popular Science" and "Scientific American." PopSci had many more adverts than SciAm and, IMO, this means that SciAm is the better magazine. Yeah, it was a little subjective, but it was on

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I realize that most websites run some version or another of "adverts", but generally speaking, most of those sites are marginal value to start. The sites I frequent usually use text ads, and not the flash (pun intended) graphical ads on some of the more questionable sites.

      Do you even realize that the hosting/bandwidth for your marginal and questionable comment was paid for by adverts?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oldspewey ( 1303305 )
      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.
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sam0737 ( 648914 )

      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

  • 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 [boingboing.net].

    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 ....

    • Dilbert.com

      The entire site screams PHB. It takes five minutes to load a single gif comic with all the extra crap and flash and popups that go along with it.

      Seriously - it's like an act of self parody. I just picture Scott Adams sitting in a cube somewhere trying to draw comics while tearing his hair out and a PHB over his shoulder saying "We'll call it Dilbert.com BETA! And we'll have MASHUPS! OooooOOOooo!!"

      • At least Dilbert has a fast URL [dilbert.com]. It's the only one I way I read Dilbert any more, at least partially because Scott Adams is a flaming moron in his blog and I have no desire to read it. The comic still manages to be funny periodically, I think mostly because of ideas sent to him.
    • Re:Flash Ads (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:16PM (#30272236) Journal
      I don't mind flash. I use a click-to-flash plugin so I never actually see flash objects unless I click on them. If you use flash for ads, then you're paying to show me a grey rectangle. If you use it for content, then you need something around the edges to convince me to click on it. The problem with JavaScript is that it lacks modularity, so I can't distinguish the bit of JS that's needed for the site and the bit that's needed to irritate me. Any site that uses those awful ads that underline random words and pop up some crap when you mouseover them get blacklisted and never visited again.
  • by hey ( 83763 )

    But ads are useful.

    There are lots of possible solutions. One that comes it mine is to let the site with the ads server the ads along with the regular content.

    Also its an unfair race. You enter http://example.com/ [example.com] in the browser and example.com starts loading then it asks for its ads. So, of course, the ads arrive after the example.com content.

    • I have yet to find a use for a website's ads. You are correct that it is an unfair race but wrong about why. It is unfair because example.com content won't appear until the ads have loaded or timed out an will often be rendered before the example.com content.

  • 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.
  • 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 adserver3.adcompany.com". 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      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.

      That's why I use a targetted DNS black hole instead. I don't block ads until they cause a noticeable disruption in my browsing behavior. As soon as they add more than a second or so to a page load time, that particular ad server gets blocked permanently, and my cachi

  • Slows things down for me most of the time. I'll be loading a page and see that at the bottom of the browser.


  • The issue is that the browser is only allowed to use a handful of requests at a time, and with a 3rd-party server some fraction of those requests are going to someone else's server. Therefore the goal should be to make sure that your content gets loaded first. This can be done in the browser--and may already be done; I'm not in the mood to parse FireFox's sourececode--using a simple prioritization algorithm:

    1. Content from the page host gets first priority (tech.slashdot.org)
    2. Content from the same domain gets
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @01:47PM (#30271838) Homepage

    I've mentioned the ad bottleneck before. Slashdot is an especially bad offender. Pages use several ad servers, and they use "document.write" to stall the page load until the ad comes up. Even if you have the ad images blocked, some of the junk JavaScript still needs to run.

    Some sites are just slow at serving pages. Behind my SiteTruth [sitetruth.com] system there is a specialized web crawler which looks for a business name and address on each web site. It never looks at more than 20 pages, and it's looking for pages like "About", "Contact", and about 40 other words which might plausibly lead to contact info. This process runs about 5-15 seconds for a well-implemented site. I log sites where it takes more than 45 seconds. About 5-10% of sites run overtime. In the last hour, the slowest site is "www.airsmaxkey.com", at 159 seconds to read 10 pages. (Yes, they're a bottom-feeder. Not only is there no business address on the site (a criminal offense in the European Union), they have logos from Verisign, PayPay, Verified by Visa, and MasterCard SecureCode, none of which are actually clickable to do the claimed verification. Nor does their shopping cart checkout use SSL. The whole site may be a scam. SiteTruth gives them a "Do Not Enter" rating.)

    Some of the social networking sites have so much Javascript that Firefox will time out. (Facebook had that problem for a while. They fixed it.)

  • 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...

  • I personally use adblock in addition to the hosts file from http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts2.htm [mvps.org] It just redirects known bad/ad domains to loopback. Some affiliate sites (like bing cashback) are affected, but its easy to find them and comment out those entries. Quite often Ill find an ad that adblock misses and it just loads up a blank window because it was blocked by the host file.
  • I don't understand how an ad server can make a site slow, even if the ad server is slow in serving up an ad. So you have one externally loaded element (the ad) that is an image or a flash element. The browser allocates the space for the image or flash element in the location where it'll be rendered. When it finishes loading your browser draws it in the appropriate place. So it takes a little longer for one or two images to appear in the already displayed page. I don't see what the problem is for the end-use

    • Often the entire page is delayed until it has been fully cached, meaning it COULD display that empty box and fill it in when it gets the info but insteads it decides to make you wait for it all at once.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BZ ( 40346 )

      The last time I profiled some topsites in Firefox, well north of 50% of the CPU time was spent dealing with the Flash ads (as in, 50% of the time the CPU was busy during the pageload the program counter was inside the Flash plugin). Given the typical latency of the ad networks, I'd estimate over 40% of total load time on those sites was taken up by the ads.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      I think most website waits for an acknoledgment from the ad service to display the content of the page.

  • I'm on a pretty pathetic DSL line, so I've tried to optimize things on my end. First, I've setup my "hosts" file to loopback on about 16,000 websites. And I also use a plugin that blocks Flash (unless you click on it). My browsing experience has never been smoother.
  • by gdshaw ( 1015745 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:23PM (#30272360) Homepage

    one of the biggest problems lies outside the control of web site administrators, ad servers.

    Nonsense! I for one have chosen to keep my websites ad-free, hence no ad servers and no slowdown. The same goes for untold thousands of other webmasters.

    If you've chosen differently then ... well, I suppose it's your website and your decision — but please don't come whining to us about the consequences.

  • by Badmovies ( 182275 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:28PM (#30272412) Homepage

    There are quite a few webmasters who run their ads inside of iframes, as that usually avoids a slow ad holding up the rest of the page loading. The bad thing about that is that expandable ads (even polite, user-initiated) do not work. There are also some other tricks webmasters use, such as creating division tags and then using a bit of javascript trickery to move the ad loading to a point after the content loads.

    Webmasters do hate slow ads (not to mention bad ads). I love direct sale campaigns on my site, because they almost always are run from my ad server. If that is slow, my whole site is slow anyway - and that happens very, very rarely (it has been months).

  • 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

  • Remember when there never was any question about what was bogging down the net?

    Unless you didn't know what /. was?

  • But then I have blacklisted every damn site that loads up a blinking, flashing, animated images. May that has something to do with it. And no script blocks flash on whitelisted sites too!
  • Old, old story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @02:52PM (#30272670) Homepage

    In 1995, columnist and Ethernet-inventor Bob Metcalfe was again going on about a topic that eventually had him literally eating his words (he had to chop up a column in a blender with water and chug it) - that the Internet was going to collapse from all the heavy bandwidth demands of its exponentially-expanding clientele.

    So I did a "View Source" on the Infoworld page with his column on it. I've lost the E-mail now, but the stats were something like his column being 2000 bytes and the sum of all the advertising around it, mostly GIF images at the time, was over 20,000 bytes. The Ad/Content ratio even then was over 10:1.

    Metcalfe, who'd been railing against irresponsible bandwidth consumption in the column, could only plead that he had no control over the magazine's decisions on what went around it.

    The web has always been the reverse of TV, where the ad/content bandwidth is about 1:4 or even 1:5. It's not far different from some magazines, though, where I swear there are 3 pages of ads for every page of content. And if you digitized the magazine, the ads would mostly be images, the content mostly text, and the ratio would be at least 10:1.

    This is all prologue to new web content where you are slowed down not so much by download times as the start-up times for various Flash and JavaScript programs that make the ads so much more intrusive, zipping back and forth over the text you're trying to read, or just dancing in the corner of the page.

    This is all necessary: they do what they MUST to get response from the ads. If the stats don't show a response, they stop buying them and the business model fails.

    Everybody says "Nobody will pay for content on the Internet". Yes, they will. The put up with all that crap rather than pull out a credit card. They just pay with their time and attention instead of actual cash.

    Rod Serling, one of the great TV writers of all time, once commented that it is hard to tell a story when you must work it around being interrupted every ten minutes by dancing rolls of toilet paper. I wonder what he'd think of writing for a medium where the toilet paper literally dances all over your words until you click on it to make it go back to the lower right frame.

  • So I'll ask again (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @03:02PM (#30272764) Journal
    I never get a satisfactory answer to this question.

    Why can't the serving of ads be done from the primary website's server? There has to be some lightweight API that would allow for the host server to select from ads that were downloaded the night before and are all set, cached and ready to go. Not only would this level out performance to the level of the primary server but it would also, in lots of cases, defeat adblock. If the ad is coming from the website I went to then they have a lot more options for getting around adblock (in fact text ads served from the primary server are rather difficult to filter).

    When I go to a site like cnet and I see that 5 websites want script access to my browser I have to shake my head. If any one of those sites is saturated then the whole website will load like a dog. I guess the only benefit I can see to this situation is that if an advertiser goes bad then that site, if it is separate, won't have script access to my browser. But if they'd all only accept text-only ads that would solve that.

    This idea strikes me as something that somebody is going to make a fortune off of. They will develop a nice embedded model that works on the server side to pre-load ads and then simply query the ad server for the # of the ad the main server should present to the user. Lightweight, targeted, fast...a lot like google.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun