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Zoompf's Web Performance Blog

Note: Archived Content

This is the archived version of the Zoompf blog. Since our acquisition by Rigor, all our new research and posts on web performance are being published on The Rigor Blog

Taming the Third Party Web Performance Beast

 Mark Isham on February 24, 2014. Category: random

Hydra

Every day we talk to great web companies across the world and hear the same refrain over and over: “I can’t fix that problem because it’s caused by a third party content provider and (insert evil department here) won’t let us remove it”.

Third party content is loosely defined as any content included by your web page that is not directly under your administrative control. This can be Javascript, CSS, images, video, tracking beacons and more. Third Party Content (3PC) can provide your web page with advanced capabilities, data and even additional income, but it always comes at a cost.

When we talk to engineering teams, there’s an almost universal frustration over 3PC. They feel they get beaten up when the site loads slowly, yet they can’t do anything about the biggest offenders. Raise your hand if you’re in this camp.

Check out this waterfall chart snippet for the well known website weather.com. How many domains OTHER then weather.com do you see? (click the expand)

waterfall

(disclaimer: not picking on weather.com, this is actually better then many mainstream sites…)

Now despite my obvious emotional manipulation by starting this post off with the hydra, I’m not saying all 3PC is evil. You just need to be judicious in your choices. Make sure the benefits of that content justifies the cost to your user experience.

So what can you do about it?

First off, you can’t fix what you can’t measure. Two months ago we announced our new Free Report designed from the ground up to measure the impact of 3PC on your site. No longer do you need to manually filter out your content vs. 3PC. This report analyzes your site specifically for 3PC links and breaks out the worst offenders into their own rolled up section. You get a breakdown of how optimized each 3PC resource is, and how much improvement is possible.

For example (click to expand)

TPC_Example

While we realize by definition you can not fix these problems on the 3PC site, arming yourself with this knowledge can help you apply pressure on your worst performing 3PC providers to improve. And if the problem is extreme, this data gives you ammunition to fight the internal battle to change 3PC vendors. There are always choices!

Secondly, we realize its becoming increasingly difficult to identify 3PC. Best practices such as domain sharding and CDNs can often confuse the message of even the savviest waterfall chart reader.

Late least December our CTO Billy Hoffman was busily working over the holidays on ThirdPartyContent.org. The spirit of this effort is to band together the web developers of the world to build a comprehensive, updated and free open source repository of third party content to aid developers in building advanced tools for managing the 3PC beast. You can see his original post over on Performance Planet here. If you’re interested in learning more or helping on this effort, click over to ThirdPartyContent.org and join our movement.

Do you have your own 3PC war stories? We’d love to hear them!

And as a reminder, you can check out the TPC footprint on your own site at any time with out free and recently updated performance scanner. If you haven’t checked it out recently, give it a whirl!

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