Report: Web Pages are Getting More Bloated, Average Size is Up 25% From Last Year


Our browsers are getting faster and so are our Internet connections, but in parallel to this, the web pages we access are actually getting bigger, too. According to uptime monitoring service Pingdom, the average website grew an astonishing 25% over the last year. The main culprits here are images and JavaScript. Images now weigh in at 451 kB on the average web page, an increase of 21% compared to the 372 kB Pingdom recorded 12 months ago. While they are smaller on average than images, the size of the average JavaScript files on a web page is now 149 kB, up 45% from last year.

The average web page now clocks in at 980 KB and it takes about 87 requests to load those pages.

the size of the average web page in 2010 and 2011

As developers now focus more on adding interactive elements to their sites with the help of HTML5 and JavaScript, the size of these files will likely continue to increase. For most broadband users, these increases won’t really make any practical difference. On slower 3G connections, though, and for those who still use dial-up connections, these increases are meaningful.

Pingdom notes that “size optimization seems to have gone out the window pretty much across the board.” Given how easy it is to at least compress images more effectively and maybe minify the JavaScript and CSS on a site, it’s a shame that so many developers and publishers don’t seem to do so (and yes, looking at our site here, we could definitely do some more of that as well).

5:49 pm

Amazon Launches HTML5-Based Kindle Cloud Reader to Sidestep Apple’s Rules


Amazon launched Cloud Reader today, a browser-based eReading application that allows it to work around Apple’s rules for in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Apple has set strict rules for how vendors can use its platform to enable in-app sales and subscriptions. To work around these rules, Amazon and many other e-book vendors recently removed links to their websites from their native iOS apps, allowing them to skirt some of Apple’s rules and avoid paying extra fees to Apple. This, however, also degrades the user experience significantly. Thanks to Apple’s rules, though, we are now also seeing even more development efforts around HTML5-based web apps for offline reading of books, newspapers and magazines. As these apps run in the browsers, they don’t have to follow Apple’s rules and don’t have to go through the App Store approval process.

The Financial Times, for example, decided not to give Apple 30% of the money it makes from in-app subscriptions and launched an HTML5 app instead. Today, Amazon joined the fray by launching Cloud Reader, a web-based e-book reader that can also be used offline thanks to HTML5’s built-in caching mechanism. Cloud Reader works in Safari and Chrome, but not in Firefox. It looks especially good on the iPad, but doesn’t work on the iPhone (yet).


HTML5 vs. Native Apps

Cloud Reader is, without doubt, one of the finest examples of how a well-designed HTML5 app can easily compete with a native app. The fact that the focus here is on text, of course, helps, as an e-reader doesn’t need fancy animations to work well. The app does, however, feature some nice animations here and there and, most importantly, offers deep integration with Amazon’s Kindle store, something that is still missing from the company’s native apps.

Among the few things that don’t work in the web app are swipe gestures (to skip pages, you can only click on the edge of the screen), but otherwise, every feature you would expect from a Kindle app is here. Once you add a bookmark to the app to your iPad homescreen, you wouldn’t even know that you’re not using a native app if it wasn’t for the slower response time when you skip pages.

Right Now, Mostly Developed for iPad – Coming to Other Devices Soon

In the long run, Amazon will likely bring Cloud Reader to other platforms as well. Right now, it seems specifically targeted at iPad users, but the beauty of a web app is that it could allow developers to bring the same service to virtually every web-capable device.

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3:28 pm

Twitter Launches Redesigned Mobile Site for Smartphones


While Twitter has been continually updating its desktop apps and desktop browser experience, its mobile site has been sorely lacking – both with regards to design and functionality. Today, however, Twitter announced that it is launching a new HTML5-based version of its mobile site for smartphones and tablets. This new design will roll out slowly. Today, only a select number of users on iPhones, iPod Touches and Android smartphones will see the new site, but Twitter plans to roll this new version out to all users over the next few weeks.

This new version will replicate some of the functionality of the new desktop version of Twitter. Tweets with images, for example, will display previews of these photos and you will be able to easily switch back and forth between @mentions, messages, your lists and trending topics with the help of a navigation bar at the top of the screen.

Given that Twitter already offers native apps for these platforms, upgrading its mobile site was likely not a priority for the company. At the same time, though, it’s good to see the company finally upgrade the mobile web experience.

2:40 pm

Despite Potential Legal Threats, YouTube Goes 'All In' With WebM


Google will now encode all new YouTube videos in the WebM format, but will still support H.264, too.

Google today announced that it will begin to transcode all new videos into the WebM format. According to the company, those videos that make up 99% of views on YouTube (or about 30% of all the videos on the site) have already been encoded in WebM. Google will continue to support H.264 for the foreseeable future.

Google introduced WebM in 2010 and has been improving it ever since. Today, a number of major browser vendors offer support for WebM out of the box, including Google’s own Chrome, Opera and Mozilla’s Firefox, while others, like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer support it through plugins. WebM is essentially Google’s answer to H.264 – a codec that is managed by the MPEG LA consortium and is neither free of patents nor cost.

To play WebM videos in your browser, join YouTube’s HTML5 Video Player beta here.

Legal Threats

WebM, however, is also not without problems and it’s interesting to see that Google has decided to go ahead with encoding all videos in this format now. MPEG LA, the licensing entity behind the H.264, doesn’t quite buy Google’s arguments that WebM and the VP8 video codec that is part of it is completely free of patent encumbrances.

In February, MPEG LA asked all of those who suspected that WebM/VP8 was infringing on their patents to submit information until March 18th. It’s likely not a coincidence that Google made this announcement exactly one month after the end of this deadline. Chances are, that Google now feels secure enough in its assertion that no other party can claim that it infringes on its patents. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the potential patent holders were under no obligation to send their information to MPEG LA and can always sue Google later.

For more details about the legal issues potentially surrounding WebM, have a look at this excellent post by Florian Mueller on the FOSS Patents blog.

11:09 am

Google Tries to Clarify Why It's Dropping Support for H.264


Very few developments in the tech world this week got as much attention as Google’s announcement that it would slowly drop support for the H.264 video codec from its Chrome browser. Given how ubiquitous H.264 is on the Web today – though it is also encumbered by patent and licensing issues – quite a few pundits shook their heads at this development. Today, Google published a more detailed explanation for this decision.

In this, Google product manager Mike Jazayeri explains that these changes will only affect the HTML tag, where the standards organizations involved have reached “an impasse.” Mozilla, for example, won’t support H.264 for the tag anytime soon, while the current versions of Apple’s and Microsoft’s browsers offer support for this codec. Given that different browser now support different codecs, Google argues that “core web technologies need to be open and community developed to enable the same great innovation that has brought the web to where it is today. These facts led us to join the efforts of the web community and invest in an open alternative, WebM.”

Google also notes that it has to pay royalties for using this codec and that there is no guarantee that licensing fees for H.264 won’t go up in the future.

We Don’t Want to Control WebM

When Google first made its announcement earlier this week, a lot of pundits speculated that Google wants to control web video by pushing its own codec to the front of the pack. In his post today, Jazayeri addresses this question quite diplomatically and argues that Google expects “majority of organizations and individuals contributing to WebM won’t be affiliated with Google or any single entity.” Be that as it may, I don’t think that this answer will satisfy a lot of the company’s critics.

“Few sites use it today.”

Another point of criticism we heard a lot this week was that publishers will not be forced to support multiple copies of their content and encode their video is multiple formats – something that can be difficult for small publishers to do.

2:36 pm

Google Gets Ready to Slam Tech Demos (or something like that)


demoslam_grassmowerAccording to a cryptic message on the even more cryptic, a site that looks to be a Google property, "technology is awesome. Learning about it isn’t. Until now." Starting on Wednesday, the text on this teaser site reads, you can come to the site to watch demos , "choose your favorites and most importantly, show the world what you can do."

MG Siegler over on TechCrunch thinks that this could be an HTML5 project to showcase great tech demos, but as he rightly notes, the site itself is in Flash, which would be rather odd for an HTML5 competition.

I did some basic sleuthing and the site was registered on Go Daddy in August and the whois entry was last updated on October 4. The site itself looks to be hosted by Tier 3. overweight_rabidsThe registration is private, though, so it’s rather hard to confirm that this is indeed a Google project (hence why I’m not writing about it on ReadWriteWeb for now).

Assuming this is indeed a Google project (maybe a 20% project), chances are that the company plans to hold some kind of competition where the best tech demos go head to head. Tech demos can indeed be pretty bad, so I’m all for any effort to make them better and to highlight the best so others can learn from those examples.

We will likely know more on Wednesday, but I also just reached out to Google to see if there is anything they would like to share about the site before that.

11:42 am