Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So What If URL Shorteners Are Slow?

From TechCrunch:

Turns out most really don’t perform all that well, and that URL shorteners actually increase the load time of pages significantly. As you can tell from the graph embedded above, a lot of URL shortening services add half to nearly a full second to page load times.

To measure this, WatchMouse checked each URL shortener every five minutes from one of its monitoring stations, which are located across the globe. For each short URL, only the redirection was measured, not the actual loading of the target page.

Pingdom did similar research on the speed and reliability of URL shortening services in August 2009, although they only looked at independent URL shorteners and not the ones from Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

Google does a pretty good job in terms of performance with and, but it still takes those about 1/3 of a second to resolve pages, which makes a world of difference if you think about how many website addresses get shortened on a daily basis.
I don't see how such delays make "a world of difference." Economists sometimes do zany things like multiplying each 1-second delay by the billions of times short URLs are clicked a day and then by the average wage rate to calculate some omnious figure representing the loss to society caused by slow URL shortening services.

On an individual level, a short delay isn't much of a hassle. If you click a short URL, you aren't that much better off if it loads 1 second faster. To argue that I'm doing something like 7 seconds less of work a day and calling this a real impact in the aggregate is foolish. Even if you open dozens of short URLs in separate tabs, you can't read all of them at once anyway; the rest will load while you're reading the first few. Perhaps this delay will impact your local servers, but only marginally so. We certainly wouldn't be millions of dollars better off if such delays didn't exist.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by your stance. Don't you trumpet saving time whenever possible?

All that time lost from shortened urls will add up.

Greg said...

I'm just saying in a world of finite resources, this is probably an area where we can skimp.

People don't seem to choose URL shorteners based on rendering time. They probably don't care that much about a few microseconds. So I think it's misleading for an analysis to conclude that these delays are costing us millions of dollars a year in productivity losses (as economists often argue).

Wigi said...

... not to mention that much of what we do at work (at least, for those of us that sit on our butts in front of a computer) is idle time, punctuated by bursts of effort... even if that idle time is measured in seconds. Most of that page-loading is in the idle time.

On the other hand, I wrote a piece about the loss of productivity from obsolete computers... the problem there is exactly the opposite - the delay comes at times when the employee is actually being productive... when the computer is idle, so is the employee... but when the employee is productive, the computer becomes the limiting factor.

I don't like the URL shorteners, anyway... but I am happy to click on them as links.

Greg said...

Wigi, thanks for your comments here and elsewhere. If you have a link to your obsolete computer piece, feel free to send it along.