Sergey Chernyshev: “Every year the Web only gets slower”

    Introducing the third issue of the podcast on technology, processes, infrastructure, and people in IT companies. Today CTOcast is visited by Sergey Chernyshev, one of the leaders of the Web Performance Optimization community (New York).

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    1st part of the text version of the podcast

    Text version of the podcast (Part 2)

    About the challenges of modern web performance optimization

    Alexander Astapenko: Now 2014 is already ending, that is, 7-8 years have passed since when we first started talking about optimizing web performance, when best practices for this area were systematized. What do you think of web performance optimization today? How relevant is this and what challenges do web developers face? Browsers have changed, technologies have changed.

    Sergey Chernyshev:Web stack transparency is still a serious problem, and not only from a technical point of view. Now this is more of an educational problem, that is, people just don’t know that they need to deal with web performance optimization, although the tools are already well developed. In my opinion, this is a significant barrier to changing the trend. And the trend is very simple: every year the Web only gets slower. It would seem that technology is moving forward, but it is not. You can change the situation only if people pay attention to the problem of speed. That is, non-technical issues are the most important.

    Now there are new tools, for example, since I developed Show Slow for synthetic testing of websites, a new direction has developed - Real User Monitoring (RUM), which allows you to analyze the speed of real users in real time and see the real picture.

    Also, the problem is that for many this is a big leap between the concept of how to analyze the synthetic test, see how much your tool showed on the scoreboard (Three seconds? Or five seconds? How many queries are there?) And really see how real users see your site. There is no single number, there is a whole range of numbers: from very fast to very slow. The task is to move them all closer to zero.

    The next challenge is the mobile Web, which has become something relevant. The problems that we had before now become important again, they need to pay attention to: networks, completely different transmission speeds, network delays and other similar issues.

    There is another important task that is difficult to solve due to the already mentioned opacity of the web stack and the huge number of components that are included in it - visualization of data on how things are going with speed. And many people are now trying to solve this problem with both RUM and synthetic data.

    In fact, browsers have significantly advanced their technologies, many companies have appeared that can speed up websites. So from the point of view of technical optimization, the situation is quite good. Analysis and development strategies for speed are more problematic places.

    Pavel Pavlov: Do you continue to be involved in all these technological problems? Do you work with new tools? For example, you created Show Slow. Is this project relevant?

    Sergey Chernyshev:Show Slow is still used and is an important tool primarily to support the optimization process, where you can see what the trend is. However, Show Slow has become less relevant due to the advent of RUM. And the project, of course, is not as active as it was before. I made him integrate with the very popular Web Page Test project that Patrick Meenan created. The combination of these two tools allows using Web Page Test to look deeply at the analysis of the page, as well as to see the trends of all these metrics.

    That is, how the Show Slow tool is important. Perhaps it will become a Dashboard, or rather a tool that supports the process, rather than a purely technical and analytical solution. Just because other tools do the job better.

    I use Web Page Test constantly and actively participate in its development not as a developer, but as a person from the fields. And now I’m trying to understand the direction in which I personally should move: either it’s worth developing acceleration tools, or working with visualization. I recently spoke at a Velocity conference with designer Mark Zeman, who has an interesting approach to visualizing data speed. And, perhaps, we will go in this direction.

    About conferences and the web performance community

    Alexander Astapenko: Web Performance Optimization Foundation. I honestly admit that I know very little about this initiative. And I would like to hear a few words from you. What is the organization’s mission, what current projects are there?

    Sergey Chernyshev: The organization was created to promote Web Performance Optimization. Participants include Steve Souders, Stoyan Stefanov, Patrick Minen, and several other people who are active in web productivity. The main project at the moment is support for Web Page Test and its promotion to the masses. Our goal is also to create mitaps and various events dedicated to speed, for example, WebPerfDays Unconference. The organization’s task is very simple - speed. People need to know that speed can and must be improved.

    Alexander Astapenko: Since we have already touched on the topic of conferences. Tell a little about Velocity. It’s easy to find out who the speakers are, and who are the listeners of this conference? You said that the business does not understand the importance of investing in increasing speed. Does business come there? Or is this a developer-only conference?

    Sergey Chernyshev: First you need to say a big thank you to O'Reilly for creating this conference. Now it is taking place, in my opinion, four times a year in different places of the world. The conference began in Santa Clara, California. Velocity actually consists of two parts: Performance and Operations - two camps that slightly overlap, but not much.

    The conference is attended by system administrators, front-end developers and businesses. Especially the last couple of years - a huge number of businesses. The reality is that websites are growing and only getting slower, especially when the mobile web has become relevant.

    Velocity covers a wide range of issues. And business is actively coming there. Of course, these are mainly technical managers. The conference is technical and it will be difficult for a person with a business horseshoe. But on the other hand, I saw both representatives of the US government there and just businesses, mainly from e-commerce. They were the first, of course, to occupy this issue, because it is very easy for them to draw a parallel between speed and money. This is harder for other areas. So the Velocity conference is a great conference, in my opinion. If you can visit it either in Europe or in America, then I highly recommend doing it.

    Pavel Pavlov:Velocity takes place in the States, Europe, takes place even in China. In fact, developing around the world. But at the same time, there is a huge space in the Runet where the topic is not sufficiently heated. There are, of course, companies that are engaged in web performance, books have been published on this subject, there are blogs, speakers. But there is no community as such.

    Sergey Chernyshev: Yes, I agree. There is a HighLoad conference, which mainly looks at issues of scalability and availability. Just recently it was. Some speakers come there: Philip Tellis and Buddy Brewer spoke there.

    Pavel Pavlov: And Stoin Stefanov.

    Sergey Chernyshev:Yes exactly. I agree. So somehow it exists, but very few. In general, I am not very familiar with how conferences are organized in Russia. But Europe, thank God, is near. So listening there makes full sense.

    Pavel Pavlov: Maybe it makes sense to push Steve Soders and the company to hold at least a small conference in Moscow?

    Sergei Chernyshev: I think that the main thing is not who to invite, but who will be able to do this locally. That is, to find people who are interested in the issue locally. Naturally, you can invite speakers and it is not difficult. But, in my opinion, it is important that the organizers be able to gather a community, which will move speakers who are ready to speak in the right direction.

    It’s not necessary to wait for a big conference. And, in fact, O'Reilly carefully watched how local communities evolve before they organized a conference in New York and Europe. Just as in London there was a very popular mitap for Europe, so in New York was one of the most popular mitaps. And only after that they created a conference. A business like O'Reilly requires confirmation of local activity. Organize meetings in Minsk, Moscow, Kiev. And this is how the issue can be promoted.

    Alexander Astapenko: There are mitaps, Velocity, but there are also WebPerfDays. Can you talk about the essence and purpose of WebPerfDays?

    Sergey Chernyshev:WebPerfDays was originally created in San Francisco in the image of DevOpsDays. This is, roughly speaking, a one-day conference, which has a slightly different format. Of course, there are a couple of presentations in the traditional style, but the rest is a discussion, that is, everyone can bring their own question on the topic of web performance, after which everyone splits into groups and discuss this issue for some time.

    In terms of format, it is a very simple but important addition to the traditional style of conferences. Often after the official Velocity Conference, the WebPerfDays Unconference takes place the next day, because it is very easy to attract those who have already attended the main conference, as well as create a local one-day event.

    WebPerfDays for those who know what they are talking about - those who are engaged in web performance or somehow related to this. This is a good chance to talk with speakers in a less formal setting, to discuss issues in more detail, because many of those who speak at Velocity also participate in WebPerfDays.

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