Many Web developers have gotten the message: a faster site means people buy more, read more, interact more, and return more.

But it sounds as if the message hasn’t sunk in a long way enough, because the top 2,000 retail web sites nonetheless take 10 seconds to load on moderate, in step with a examine by Strangeloop Networks released yesterday. The list of the top retail web sites comes from Amazon’s Alexa record of most sensible websites.

Strangeloop is in the business of helping customers speed up their Web sites, so it has an agenda to push, but that shouldn’t deter developers from taking a look at the study’s findings.

One massive factor in particular jumped out at me after a talk with Strangeloop President Joshua Bixby means of: web builders will have to test their pages the way in which their readers see it, not the way in which they see it on their very own machines.

Strangeloop’s take a look at uses a pace-trying out tool known as webpagetake a look at evolved through Patrick Meenan, who began it at AOL however who now works for Google. That take a look at adds delays referred to as latency to round-go back and forth communications to higher simulate how abnormal folks several steps got rid of from a web website online see it, Bixthrough said.

Most tests are run out of a huge data center with absolutely no latency and with bandwidth that is outrageous, Bixby said. These test machines in data centers are next to the content delivery machines. They’re just sending bits across a cage. That typically hides problems that real-world users have.

Latency matters a lot, in particular because it’s a problem that compounds as a Web browser has to make multiple network connections to Web servers to request new elements. There are lot of tricks to reduce the number of requests a browser must make, but the Strangeloop study shows the complexity of Web pages is increasing at the same time as economization measures and browser speed are improving.

Pages continue to get bigger and continue to have more requests, Bixby said. In some ways we’re losing the battle–or maybe it’s a stalemate. We’re not getting much better.

Well, maybe not losing that badly. Overall, the study found the top 2,000 retail Web sites load about 10 percent faster than a year earlier. And though the top 100 of those are slower on average–10.36 seconds compared to 10.00 for the overall group–they’re benefiting from some optimization, Strangeloop said. That’s because the top 100 sites on average make 98 requests for resources such as images or JavaScript libraries, compared to 77 for the overall group.

Another step backward came in how long a repeat view of a Web page took. Returning to a Web site should go faster, since browsers cache resources on computers for faster retrieval later, but repeat views actually slowed. In last year’s study, a repeat view took on average 5.10 seconds, but this year, it was 6.20 seconds.

One more finding concerned browsers. Here, Microsoft’s IE9 edged out Google’s Chrome, Firefox’s Mozilla, and IE7 to win the speed crown. On average, IE9 took 7.12 seconds to load the pages compared to 7.15 seconds for Firefox 7, 7.5 seconds for Chrome, and 10 seconds for IE7.
“Microsoft has started to catch up,” Bixby said. “More than catch up–IE9 is equal and in some tests surpass some of these other browsers.”