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Liveblog: Google NYC Web Performance Conference

I’m attending a full-day conference put together by Google in their downtown New York office today, the topic being things that make web faster, which I hold near and dear to me. Speakers include Ilya Grigorik, Guy Podjarny and the great Mister Colt “Gzip Alternative” McAnlis.

I may be too busy drinking the Google kool-aid, trying to find someone to pay me to do stuff and not draining my phone’s battery, but I’ll make an effort to quasi-liveblog this thing over the course of the day with updates in this post. I’ve never live blogged before, or attended a conference for that matter, in the excitement I might forget about this post, I’m not even sure I’ve got my WordPress app configured right, so lower your expectations accordingly.

Update 8:46: I made it, but I’m sweating. Was about to take a selfie in front of the Google building but realized I don’t want to be that guy who takes selfies in front of the Google building, you know? Found a power outlet, wondering if it’s a really dumb idea to stash my phone by it for awhile or a really dumb idea. My biggest fear right now is my battery dying early.

9:49am: Ilya Grigorik explains how Chrome, upon starting, checks your local profile and history to preresolve DNS queries it anticipates you might make during your session, saving some milliseconds, stats you can pull up in chrome://histograms/DNS on top of its prerendering magic. DNS lookups on typical paveviews account for a significant chunk of the time and connections needed to view a page. More on prerendering later.

10:15: With the prerender html tag, website designers can instruct Chrome to fetch and fully render another page in the background that the designer thinks visitors are most likely to load next, like my most recent article, for instantaneous loads. Currently restricted to one prerender hint (so as not to waste visitors’ resources) in addition to Chrome’s on guesswork. You should use Chrome by the way, good stuff.

10:21: Guy Podjarny, Akamai’s CTO (a super huge content distribution network) is talking about issues of third party resources in websites, thorns in my side as they hurt performance, especially with SPDY, and you enable another site to inject whatever code they want, or their hackers want, right into your site, on top of additional DNS queries and giving outfits like Livefyre the ability to eyeball your traffic and track your visitors. They present single points of failure and may delay other resources on your page from being accessed until the transfer of the third party resources have finished. For HTTPS sites, as these things are often not served over SSL, that trips up your ability to smoothly serve a page over SSL due to “mixed content” warnings. Too bad they’re often inevitable. He is offering ways to mitigate these problems, inline scripting, resources asynchronousity for example (things mod_pagespeed does automatically I imagine), right now trying to outline some funky iframe trick – I’ll have to watch the YouTube of this and follow-up.

11:01 Colt McAnlis is on stage, introducing himself as part of the Google team that’s really frustrated with how slow the web is relative to what it could be. He is angry and bald, he said. Talking about employing the GPU for software rasterization, memory copying when scrolling, how long a computer takes to execute simple CSS paint times (longer than you think, and a much bigger deal as screen resolution increases), getting interesting… He made a parenthetical remark that web developers dress well, curious how he’ll tie that into CSS and rasterization performance. Focusing on gaming, now on scrolling Wikipedia pages (GPU caching). How to mitigate? “Tiling textures = memory win.” Man this guy is fast, can’t keep up.

11:48: David Sztykman, also an Akamai man, addressed “How to scale large live events to millions of end users,” leaving with a takeaway of planning for the worst. Large-scale caching and CDNs are intriguing so I’ll probably crank out a separate article on this.

11:55: Michael Schaffer has the floor, speaking of the importance of website speed to customers. Notes that this varies by website, for example people visiting the AARP’s site aren’t phased by a few extra seconds as Amazon shoppers would be. His talk is specifically e-commerce-oriented, and his company Work Glide may be able to help yours figured out what you need to do to your site to get that cash money flowing.

12:06: Ophir Prusak‘s expertise lies in simulated-real-world performance testing for websites, able to provide clients with a picture of how an iPhone 5 user in Japan would experience their website versus a Macbook user on a satellite DirecTV rig in North Dakota. This information can be helpful in site redesign, server relocation and CDN decisions, for starters.

1:35p: Informal group sessions, I picked WebP and its adoption with CDNs, now less challenging due to Chrome’s accept header that includes mention of support. Also discussing detecting browser dimensions and serving resized images on the fly, good topic for me.

2:37: You know, now that I think about it, this liveblogging thing is better suited for something like big product launches than to a series of lectures and my thumbs are aching so I’m going to just enjoy to the rest of this thing and network a bit. Signing off..

Doug Simmons