This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY Magazine.
While facilities-based wireless network operators are busy optimizing their networks and services for the mobile data barrage, companies continue to optimize their websites so users on both mobile and fixed connections and endpoints have a better experience during their virtual visits. One company helping them with that is Strangeloop.
Strangeloop designs, builds, installs, and supports hardware and software solutions that accelerate the performance of websites and web-based applications.
After founding content management company Iron Point in 2002 and selling it four years later to Active Network, Joshua Bixby in 2006 joined forces with his identical twin, Jonathan, and two other business partners to establish Strangeloop. Joshua is president of Strangeloop; Jonathan is CEO. The private company had 125 customers as of late last year, has $11.5 million in financing, and expects to reach profitability by 2010.
During his time at Iron Point, Bixby says customers always wanted the sites the company built for them to be faster and more feature rich. So, he set out to “create a magic box that would make everything faster.”
Most people think about website optimization in terms of taking what the server gives you, and figuring out how to make it faster. Strangeloop, meanwhile, approaches the problem by working with the “parcel” – unpacking it, optimizing it, and sending it, says Bixby.
Specifically, Strangeloop’s solutions improve website performance byminimizing the number of round trips, decreasing payload by removing unneeded content, and optimizing how the browser and images are rendered. It also automatically rewrites to a CDM, flushes the buffer early and does preloading.
Today Strangeloop offers solution to customers both as a service and in the form of appliances that customers can installation and manage from their own data centers. Travelocity is among the customers that subscribe to Strangeloop’s service-based solution. Petco and VISA are among the roster of customers that have purchased and installed the Strangeloop appliance.
Although the costs of these solutions depend on a customer’s particular requirement, a mid-sized business using two appliances could expect to spend about $60,000, while a mid-tier cloud customer might pay between $3,500 and $5,000 a month for the Strangeloop service.
Whatever the model to which a customer subscribes, in the end, it’s all about making web pages render faster to result in better business for Strangeloop’s customers, says Bixby. Improving website performance, he adds, gets more people to a site, keeps them there longer, and results in a larger and more frequent number e-commerce transactions for the site.
So how fast is fast enough when it comes to website rendering? Well, that’s depends on who you talk to.Google (News - Alert) has the internal mandate to make every site 100 milliseconds, Bixby says, but right now the “Barbie standard” is two seconds.
Bixby calls it the “Barbie standard” because, like the iconic doll from toymaker Mattel, it creates a standard that’s impossible to reach. Companies like Akamai (News - Alert) define such standards to make everyone feel insecure, he says. Instead of shooting for unreasonable goals like this, Bixby suggests companies should look at their competitors’ websites to figure out where they need to be in terms of performance.
Trimming time off a website can result in a better SEO ranking. Bixby says that Strangeloop found that after it accelerated a website, Googlebot was able to crawl about twice as many pages as it was able to at the outset. Google allocates either a set amount of time, or a set amount of data, for crawling each site. The more pages that Google can crawl within these limitations, the better a site’s ranking will be.
Expediting a website’s rendering also can improve page views for and revenues from the site.
If every major online retailer in the U.S. were to implement this acceleration this year, Bixby said during an interview with INTERNET TELEPHONY in late 2010, it would generate an additional $25 billion in revenue.
AOL (News - Alert) found that visitors in the top ten percentile of site speed viewed 50 percent more pages than visitors in the bottom ten percentile. On average, visitors to optimized sites view 9 percent more pages than visitors to un-optimized sites.
Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Bing conducted a test wherein it slowed down its own site by two seconds. Users made almost 2 percent fewer queries, clicked 3.75 percent less often, and reported being significantly less satisfied with their overall experience. Conversely, speeding up the site by 2 seconds resulted in a 5 percent revenue increase. Bixby adds that Shopzilla, meanwhile, decreased its average page load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds and experienced a 12 percent increase in revenue and a 25 percent increase in page views.
The need to improve website performance is becoming even more important given customer expectations continue to rise and pages are getting more complex, says Bixby. In 2006, the average online shopper expected a web page to load in four seconds; today, that same shopper expects a page to load in two seconds or less.
As indicated above, if a website doesn’t load quickly enough, customers might jump ship. Bixby tells INTERNET TELEPHONY that up to 40 percent of shoppers will abandon a site after waiting three seconds for a page to load. What’s more, nine out of 10 people will not return to a site after a disappointing experience, and three of those individuals will go on to tell others about their experience.
Although mobile devices and networks are much more limited in the bandwidth they deliver today than wireline broadband networks, more than half of mobile subscribers expect websites to perform as well on their handhelds as they do on their home computers. About the same number (almost 60 percent), say they’d be unlikely to return to a site that provided a poor mobile web experience.
The Strangeloop Difference
An unaccelerated site has 63 objects making 63 roundtrips between server and browser. The total page load time is 9.5 seconds.
A delivery solution comprised of a content delivery network and an application delivery controller can shorten these roundtrips by bringing content closer to the user’s browser. There are still 63 roundtrips, but the total page load time is 5.7 seconds.
Strangeloop working in conjunction with the CDN and ADC (News - Alert) shortens the roundtrips and reduces the number of roundtrips required – from 63 to just 9. As a result, the same page loads in just 2.1 seconds.