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I like the way Guy Pojdarny said it: "Mobile took the web by surprise". It can't be more true. Nowadays we face the burst of mobile devices accessing to our sites and applications. They are not a minority anymore. And we have to make sure we satisfy them all, as they are all potential buyers, customers, viewers, ad consumers or users of our sites and applications. In other words, addressing them properly means revenue.

The Performance Challenges of WAN Architecture

How many websites have you accessed today, and from how many devices? Were you satisfied with the speed of your service and the experience of connecting? Did it enable you to keep moving at the pace you need?

Preparing for the Holidays: What You Should Do

At this point in our Preparing for Holiday series, we've covered trends in mobile and security. And while knowledge is certainly important, what's more important is acting on that knowledge. Hopefully you've taken some time to examine how these trends apply to your eCommerce business and have put together an action plan as a result. If you're not entirely sure of the best approach to take, here are three tips that will ensure a secure and highly mobile holiday season in 2014 and beyond.

Headquarters in America. Branches in Europe. Offices in India. Suppliers in Taiwan. Employees at home, on the road, and everywhere in between: All of whom need to connect to business-critical applications and who expect to be able to do so from whatever device is at hand.
The correlation between the success of a company and its operational agility is no secret - the faster an enterprise is able to tackle new challenges and introduce new innovations, the more likely it is to be successful in those areas. The rapid pace of technological developments in the modern world has introduced wrinkles to this paradigm and left many businesses shackled to old methods of networking and legacy hardware even as new means of application delivery offer a path forward. The first step to understanding how businesses can take advantage of these new options is to consider where enterprise application delivery has come from and where it's going.

A Tale of Mobile Waiting

A few weeks back at the Velocity Conference, Akamai's own Guy Podjarny released a little book he wrote on the intersection of responsive web design and performance. Many of you have downloaded it, but if not, I urge you to do so here.

But if you weren't at Velocity, and in particular weren't around for Guy's keynote; then you missed a very special "Book Reading" (and a pretty special hat) by (on) the author himself.

Web Experience Overview with M.J. Johnson

Watch this overview of how Akamai helps our customers deliver reliable, fast and secure web experiences with Akamai Director of Web Experience Product Marketing, M.J. Johnson. M.J. also provides an overview of how websites have evolved into full-fledged dynamic applications and how the way users interact with these sites has changed with the proliferation of new devices and variable network conditions.

The busiest shopping days of the season did not disappoint this year. Peak traffic numbers over the Akamai network on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday were 9.2 million and 9.3 million page views per minute respectively.  Cyber Monday saw an astounding 11.2 million page views per minute at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Though overall traffic numbers were definitely impressive, the growth in mobile activity was particularly interesting. Over the five shopping days following the Thanksgiving holiday, mobile devices accounted for an average of 35% of the traffic. On Black Friday, we saw mobile use peak at 46% of the traffic at 6 a.m. ET, and mobile use continued to surge on Saturday.

This is the first year that we tracked smartphone and tablet usage throughout the holiday season.  Our mobile data was gathered by using an analysis of 30 of Akamai's top online retailers using the company's Real User Monitoring (RUM) functionality.

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iPads have been particularly popular this shopping season, as they led the mobile device category (14.5%) and rivaled Mac desktop (15.2%) activity from Nov. 22 through Cyber Monday. Traffic from iPhones and Android devices followed at 11.8% and 9.8%, respectively. iPad activity was especially high on Thanksgiving day, as a majority of "couch commerce" shoppers logged on with full bellies in the post-company rush at 9 p.m. ET, pushing iPad traffic to an incredible 737 percent over our baseline from early October.

In total, in the days following Thanksgiving, mobile use peaked at nearly 400% over our baseline from early October; desktop traffic peaked at nearly 200% over normal values during the same timeframe.

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Black Friday took the prize as the biggest traffic day this season. iPhone traffic surged early in the day and spiked again in the early afternoon, with averages of 400% to 625% above baseline from early October throughout most of the day on Black Friday. This data suggests that shoppers turned to their iPhones for the best and earliest deals, and likely later used their phones to compare prices and read reviews while they were in stores.

Here's a closer look at how and when consumers visited retailers' websites this past week:

Overall daily traffic peaks

  • Thanksgiving - 2013 peaked at 9.2 million at 10:00 p.m. ET
  • Black Friday - 2013 peaked at 9.3 million at 1:00 p.m. ET
  • Cyber Monday - 2013 peaked at 11.19 million at 9:00 p.m. ET
As more retail traffic and spending flowed online during this key holiday shopping period, attempted cybercrime also appeared to be on the rise.  According to data from the Akamai platform, the company was able to ascertain the following security trends for retail over the holiday: 

  • A 5x increase in Black Friday attack traffic compared to the beginning of November
  • Attack traffic climbed at twice the rate that retail traffic climbed on Black Friday
Be sure to subscribe to this blog feed to see how the rest of eCommerce unfolds, and follow #AkamaiHoliday and @Akamai on Twitter to learn about more the data and trends we're seeing.


Margaret Kuchler is Director Industry Marketing at Akamai

Images are probably the simplest component on a web page today. They don't block the parsing of the HTML and don't get in the way of rendering other components. Generally, they just sit there and look pretty.

However, for what they lack in complexity, they compensate in volume. According to the HTTP Archive, images make up 61% of the bytes on the average desktop homepage, and 65% of the bytes on mobile. And to make things worse, the number of image bytes has grown by over 30% on the average web page in the last year alone!\

 

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These stats demonstrate how important it is to minimize image bytes to the maximum extent. Various image compression techniques and smart image loading approaches like LQIP and responsive images can dramatically reduce the number of bytes required to communicate the same visual appearance.

Akamai's Aqua Ion has been applying the best Image optimizations possible for a long while now, and with the latest release our Image Optimizations got a significant new boost, by introducing support for WebP & JPEG XR.

WebP is a new image format, introduced by Google three years ago. Being 15 years or more newer than the common web image formats, WebP encompasses many technological advances developed during that time, along with some unique innovations. For instance, it uses a better mathematical encoding for compression; uses prediction logic adopted from the video encoding world; and uses a dynamic color palette to encode different parts of the image. As a result, WebP images tend to require 25-50% fewer bytes than the equivalent quality JPEG or PNG image.

JPEG XR is also a new image format, developed as an ISO Standard and backed by Microsoft. JPEG XR also builds on many technological advances, and - while very different than WebP - achieves significant file size reductions, often cutting image bytes by a third. In addition, JPEG XR supports progressive rendering, which WebP does not.

Both of these image formats are awesome, and are far better than their predecessors. However, deploying new image formats on the web isn't easy. Being new also means JPEG XR & WebP are not yet widely supported. WebP is only supported by Chrome, Opera and newer Android devices. JPEG XR is supported to a limited extent in IE 9, and only fully supported in IE 10+. This means that if you simply overhaul your images to any one of these formats, your site will be broken for a huge portion of your users.

Luckily, Aqua Ion is already setup to provide Situational Performance Optimization, and optimizes differently for different browsers, leveraging the relevant browser's capabilities. With our November launch, we've added support for WebP & JPEG XR, automatically converting images on your site to those formats and serving them only to the browsers that support them. Other browsers would still benefit from our existing Image Compression techniques, and we will start delivering the new formats to them as they build support for them.

In addition, if you want to roll your own version of Situational Performance and serve WebP or JPEG XR images only to supporting clients, you can use the flexible Property Manager UI to intelligently serve the right image to the right client (though in this case, you'll still be on the hook for creating the image versions themselves). This slide shows a simple example of how you can do deliver WebP using Accept Negotiation, which can be easily tuned to fit into your website's logic.

To summarize, WebP & JPEG XR are huge steps forward in the world of Image Compression. You can start reaping the benefits of them today by using Aqua Ion, or using Property Manager to intelligently deliver your homemade pictures, and get a substantial boost to your page load times.

Guy Podjarny is CTO for the Web Experience Business Unit at Akamai

The holiday season is upon us once again! Stores are filling with holiday gifts and gadgets and our emails will soon be inundated with holiday shopping deals and ads. With 96 of the top 100 online retailers (according to Internet Retailer) as customers, our Akamai Commerce team has been working around the clock, alongside our retail customers and partners, to deliver, optimize and secure consumers' online shopping experiences this season. Before the season is in full swing, however, we'd like to take a look back at some of last year's holiday shopping traffic trends to paint a picture of what the 2013 online holiday shopping season may look like.

Let's start at the beginning. In 2012, traffic to retailers' websites averaged between two to three million views per minute, give or take a few spikes here and there. As the Thanksgiving holiday nears, the traffic begins to climb to four or five million views per minute. You can see this movement for yourself if you visit our Net Usage Index and select the "Retail" industry. This publicly available index shows web traffic spikes by geography and industry in real-time, and going back about a year and a half.

On Thanksgiving last year we saw online shopping peak at around 9 p.m. ET with nearly 7.6 million page views per minute, suggesting many consumers didn't wait for Black Friday to begin their holiday shopping. As can be expected, Black Friday drove 25% more average traffic than Thanksgiving, with a similar peak of more than 7.5 million page views per minute at 11 a.m. ET. Black Friday tends to drive much higher peaks earlier in the day because of research activity for offline shopping in the morning hours.

As far as where consumers did their shopping, according to a survey from NRF, approximately 48% of respondents did their Black Friday holiday shopping online, and according to data from IBM, 24% of visits on Black Friday came from mobile devices. Additionally, IBM found that nearly 60% of consumers used smartphones and 41% used tablets to look for deals on Black Friday. In 2013, we expect to see more of this on Black Friday, as consumers use coupon and savings sites to do research and search for gifts from the comfort of their own home, as they recover from Thanksgiving dinner. Are your sites ready to deliver great experiences across screens and browsers?

We also saw in 2012 that consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best Black Friday deals. There will be more of this in 2013 as shoppers continue to use the resources they have at their disposal to become smarter and savvier shoppers. Mobile activity peaked between 9 and 10 p.m. ET on Black Friday, with many consumers likely checking for deals on their phones before bed.

 

Last year, the Black Friday momentum continued through the following Saturday, maintaining a peak of 7. 6 million views per minute at 2:05 a.m. ET, meaning that East Coast shoppers browsed well into the morning and West Coast folks stayed up late. They took a break on the Sunday before Cyber Monday, though, with peak views dropping to 6 million per minute at noon ET.


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Cyber Monday in 2012 was incredibly popular, with page views spiking at 8.5 million at 9 p.m. ET, further proving the night owls' approval of the convenience of "window" shopping and purchasing from the internet. We can expect similar behavior in 2013. Whereas other traditionally big holiday shopping days - like Free Shipping Day in mid-December and the December 28 post-holiday sale - will likely be slightly less popular. Last year the peak page views on these days were 4.1 million and 3.6 million, respectively.

 

Last year, online Thanksgiving Day sales increased by 17% over 2011, online Black Friday sales increased by 21% and online Cyber Monday sales increased by 30 percent, according to an annual holiday consumer retail spending report from Baynote. We'll likely see an increase in overall online holiday shopping sales in 2013, similar to what we saw in 2012.

 

We hope you'll find it insightful to compare your site's traffic to the aggregate of thousands of retail sites in the US and Europe. Here are the stats you can expect to find on our blog this season:

  • Overall, online traffic patterns, including peak traffic times and days, through our Retail Net Usage Index
  • The types of mobile devices and browsers consumers are using this year
  • Any other unique and interesting traffic patterns we find

Any other data you'd like us to cover? What are your predictions for the 2013 holiday shopping season? Let us know by commenting below.  

Share your own stories and data comparisons on this blog. Subscribe to this blog feed, or follow #AkamaiHoliday and @Akamai on Twitter to stay in touch and learn about interesting trends we see as the holiday season unfolds.


Margaret Kuchler is Director Industry Marketing at Akamai.

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