The year was ’93. DOOM was the hot game to be playing. We didn’t have a computer, I had to walk over to the water treatment plant my dad worked at then and play it on their computer. I played it for hours on end. It was incredibly transformative for video games–it blew my mind, as well as a lot of others, and it was HUGE. It took up about 2.4MB of space, and before then, a typical video game was discussed in terms of megabits, not megabytes.
But you’ve probably noticed the times have changed – What I considered massive for a video game in 1993 is now about the same size as a very average website today-in 2016.
Doom & the web, then & now
Web pages aren’t the only thing that’s gotten bigger. Games have done the same – popular games today, Fallout 4, GTA 5, etc all easily top out past 50GB. That’s TWENTY THOUSAND times larger than Doom was.
But we’re talking about websites today, not games.
There weren’t exactly a lot of web pages in ’93. Stats put the number around 130 – ballooning to a relatively massive 2,700 in ’94. Compare thatto a peak of just about a billion in 2014. It’s no surprise the internet has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 20 year but why does your average webpage that for the most part just ‘is’ take up the same space as a game that I spent HOURS trying to complete?
If you wanted an answer in a single word it would be ‘images.’
Doom used a whole 256 glorious colors to bring it’s world to life. Images today use millions – and those images are a lot larger than Doom ever was – Doom ran at 320×200 pixels – the average computer today tends to be around 1920×1080 full-screen. Even a modest smartphone like the iPhone 5 runs at 1136×640 pixels – that’s more than 12x more pixels than Doom full-screen.
Images aren’t the entire story but they sure account for a large portion. The other big piece is the usage of frameworks or engines to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Gone are the days where you wrote HTML yourself – you use something to generate most of your layout & styling for you. They are huge time savers, from WordPress to jquery, bootstrap, and all sorts of other similar items. They can save a lot of time but they add additional overhead to webpages.
So, is it a bad or a good thing to have such huge websites?
Not necessarily either.
One of the main reasons websites are so large is that internet is so fast now, in comparison to 15 years ago. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone still using dial-up internet. So as developers, we’re allowed to be less efficient with our website creations. It’s not really an excuse, but it is a reality. Instead of finding ways to make websites more efficient, and smaller, we add more– After all, everyone wants the prettiest, clearest images.
What’s at stake though? Well, not everyone has incredibly fast internet, and so when a page takes too long to load, a lot of visitors might just say “No Thanks…” and move on to another website. I’d have been patient enough 16 years ago to wait for my email to load and wait for a text-only website to slowly unfold. Now, if my email lags for a moment, I automatically think there’s something wrong. WHY IS IT LOADING SO SLOW?! Our perceptions of what is acceptable has changed–and lagging websites? It’s not good for business.
What are we doing about it?
Working with a computer or a smartphone the time you spend waiting isn’t something you think about, but those seconds can add up over the day or week. (Remember my post about time saving payoff?) If you sit waiting for a web page to load for an additional 1 second 15 times a day that’s more than an hour of waiting a year. We want to be known for giving you time back, not taking longer.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to ‘does it load fast enough?’ It’s something we’re always trying to improve. The desktop version C3 isn’t too bad, all-in we’re just a bit over 1MB fully loaded (way under average!) We use a lot of big images to improve our layouts and that doesn’t help us on the file size issue.
Our largest opportunity is our smartphone display – we’re about the same size there as we are for our desktop version. On mobile connections that are almost always substantially slower, that means longer load times for our users. We don’t like that! We’re constantly working on cutting that time down.
We’re also working on improving the use of screen real estate on smaller screens to let our users do more on their phones – since that’s where the majority of our customers spend their time in C3.
We want to make you more efficient every day – we’re always looking for that extra time – even if it’s only an extra half second of page load speed.