Categories Industry Insights

Internet Slowdown Day: Too Painful to be Real?

Yesterday was Go Slow Day on the Internet. As lawmakers consider the latest arguments on how much control ISPs should be allowed to exert over the networks that support the wider internet, websites like Reddit, Etsy, and Vimeo are staging a protest. Yesterday, they committed to slowing down their main sites, giving users a glimpse into what the internet would look like if different sites were allocated different priorities by network providers like Comcast and Verizon. In an effort to reach as many people as possible, even adult sites PornHub and RedTube agreed to participate.

But what did they actually do? Deliberately making their sites slower is a painful proposition. Ecommerce sites like Etsy lose up to 1% of their revenue as they add milliseconds to their pages. Sites like reddit increased bounce rates for each second, with many users simply giving up after 3 seconds. (Maybe that kitten wasn’t so important after all.) Worst of all, their users never consciously think “that was slow, I’m never coming back.” They simply become frustrated, associating slow sites less than stellar experiences … and that feeling doesn’t go away after these sites turn off their protests.

What Etsy did

Here’s Etsy’s page load time over the last 3 days, broken down by who’s making it slow:

Can you see where Etsy decided to Go Slow? Neither can we.

Instead of actually slowing down their site, Etsy added a banner to the top of their site. A banner in the same place that common online ads would celebrate getting 2 out of 1000 users to click on. A banner that most of the internet-using public developed a collective blind spot for 7 years ago.

The rest of them

Reddit, Vimeo, FourSquare, and the rest faired no better. Here’s Reddit, from a couple different locations:

A couple of blips, but nothing systematic. Why wasn’t there a real slowdown? Here’s the official line on how to participate.

To fight back, let’s cover the web with symbolic “loading” icons, to remind everyone what an Internet without net neutrality would look like, and drive record numbers of emails and calls to lawmakers.

The internet is too valuable to slow down

Even as part of a protest, nobody could bring themselves to slow down their sites. AppNeta certainly didn’t. Every single one of these sites cares about their users, and even in joining this protest, they know that performance can make or break their customer experience, their revenue stream, and even their entire brand. Risking that for a protest simply isn’t worth it.

Of course, that may be the point of the whole exercise. If it’s too painful to slow down your site for a day, what happens when it’s slow every day?

TR Jordan: A veteran of MIT’s Lincoln Labs, TR is a reformed physicist and full-stack hacker – for some limited definition of full stack. TR still harbors a not-so-secret love for Matlab-esque graphs and half-baked statistics, as well as elegant and highly-performant code.