On The Verge

Quite a few people have been linking to an article on The Verge with the inflammatory title The Mobile web sucks. In it, Nilay Patel heaps blame upon mobile browsers, Safari in particular:

But man, the web browsers on phones are terrible. They are an abomination of bad user experience, poor performance, and overall disdain for the open web that kicked off the modern tech revolution.

Les Orchard says what we’re all thinking in his detailed response The Verge’s web sucks:

Calling out browser makers for the performance of sites like his? That’s a bit much.

Nilay does acknowledge that the Verge could do better:

Now, I happen to work at a media company, and I happen to run a website that can be bloated and slow. Some of this is our fault: The Verge is ultra-complicated, we have huge images, and we serve ads from our own direct sales and a variety of programmatic networks.

But still, it sounds like the buck is being passed along. The performance issues are being treated as Somebody Else’s Problem …ad networks, trackers, etc.

The developers at Vox Media take a different, and in my opinion, more correct view. They’re declaring performance bankruptcy:

I mean, let’s cut to the chase here… our sites are friggin’ slow, okay!

But I worry about how they can possibly reconcile their desire for a faster website with a culture that accepts enormously bloated ads and trackers as the inevitable price of doing business on the web:

I’m hearing an awful lot of false dichotomies here: either you can have a performant website or you have a business model based on advertising. Here’s another false dichotomy:

If the message coming down from above is that performance concerns and business concerns are fundamentally at odds, then I just don’t know how the developers are ever going to create a culture of performance (which is a real shame, because they sound like a great bunch). It’s a particularly bizarre false dichotomy to be foisting when you consider that all the evidence points to performance as being a key differentiator when it comes to making moolah.

It’s funny, but I take almost the opposite view that Nilay puts forth in his original article. Instead of thinking “Oh, why won’t these awful browsers improve to be better at delivering our websites?”, I tend to think “Oh, why won’t these awful websites improve to be better at taking advantage of our browsers?” After all, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that web browsers on mobile really were awful; incapable of rendering the “real” web, instead only able to deal with WAP.

As Maciej says in his magnificent presentation Web Design: The First 100 Years:

As soon as a system shows signs of performance, developers will add enough abstraction to make it borderline unusable. Software forever remains at the limits of what people will put up with. Developers and designers together create overweight systems in hopes that the hardware will catch up in time and cover their mistakes.

We complained for years that browsers couldn’t do layout and javascript consistently. As soon as that got fixed, we got busy writing libraries that reimplemented the browser within itself, only slower.

I fear that if Nilay got his wish and mobile browsers made a quantum leap in performance tomorrow, the result would be even more bloated JavaScript for even more ads and trackers on websites like The Verge.

If anything, browser makers might have to take more drastic steps to route around the damage of bloated websites with invasive tracking.

We’ve been here before. When JavaScript first landed in web browsers, it was quickly adopted for three primary use cases:

  1. swapping out images when the user moused over a link,
  2. doing really bad client-side form validation, and
  3. spawning pop-up windows.

The first use case was so popular, it was moved from a procedural language (JavaScript) to a declarative language (CSS). The second use case is still with us today. The third use case was solved by browsers. They added a preference to block unwanted pop-ups.

Tracking and advertising scripts are today’s equivalent of pop-up windows. There are already plenty of tools out there to route around their damage: Ghostery, Adblock Plus, etc., along with tools like Instapaper, Readability, and Pocket.

I’m sure that business owners felt the same way about pop-up ads back in the late ’90s. Just the price of doing business. Shrug shoulders. Just the way things are. Nothing we can do to change that.

For such a young, supposedly-innovative industry, I’m often amazed at what people choose to treat as immovable, unchangeable, carved-in-stone issues. Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.

Every bloated advertising and tracking script on a website was added by a person. What if that person refused? I guess that person would be fired and another person would be told to add the script. What if that person refused? What if we had a web developer picket line that we collectively refused to cross?

That’s an unrealistic, drastic suggestion. But the way that the web is being destroyed by our collective culpability calls for drastic measures.

By the way, the pop-up ad was first created by Ethan Zuckerman. He has since apologised. What will you be apologising for in decades to come?

Have you published a response to this? :

Responses

tinokremer.nl

Interesting piece from Jeremy Keith about The Verge’s statement mobile browsers suck: https://adactio.com/journal/9312

I totally agree. I can run The Verge reasonably fast by using NoScript and carefully removing a lot of crap I don’t need. I understand websites that are supposedly free need to make money somehow. I do not understand how anyone would let their website become such a useless mess caused by so much scripting and resources from all over the web. Sometimes the businessmodel itself or the way it’s implemented is just plain wrong. This is a good example in my opinion. That said, I do have a wishlist for Chrome on my Nexus 6, but that’s a whole different subject.

# Thursday, July 16th, 2015 at 7:00am

Jeremy Keith

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Andrew Smyk

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Anselm Hannemann

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Rob Weir

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by Rob Weir on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 1:08pm

Onyeka Aghanenu

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Glynn Smith

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Clemens S.

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by Clemens S. on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 1:15pm

Adam Bankin

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Baldur Bjarnason

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Neil Gateley

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Cliff Spence

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Tino Kremer

Interesting piece from Jeremy Keith about The Verge’s statement mobile browsers suck: https://adactio.com/journal/9312 I totally agree. I can run The Verge reasonably fast by using NoScript and carefully removing a lot of crap I don’t need. I understand websites that are supposedly free need to make money somehow. I do not understand how anyone would let their website become such a useless mess caused by so much scripting and resources from all over the web. Sometimes the businessmodel itself or the way it’s implemented is just plain wrong. This is a good example in my opinion. That said, I do have a wishlist for Chrome on my Nexus 6, but that’s a whole different subject.

Alex Carpenter

RT @paulrobertlloyd: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice.” Some good, necessary words from @adactio: adactio.com/journal/9312

Keir DuBois

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Scott Lawson

RT @paulrobertlloyd: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice.” Some good, necessary words from @adactio: adactio.com/journal/9312

to

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by to on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 3:03pm

Edward Stapleton

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Tony Pitale

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Tino

Interesting piece from Jeremy Keith about The Verge’s statement mobile browsers suck: https://adactio.com/journal/9312

I totally agree. I can run The Verge reasonably fast by using NoScript and carefully removing a lot of crap I don’t need. I understand websites that are supposedly free need to make money somehow. I do not understand how anyone would let their website become such a useless mess caused by so much scripting and resources from all over the web. Sometimes the businessmodel itself or the way it’s implemented is just plain wrong. This is a good example in my opinion. That said, I do have a wishlist for Chrome on my Nexus 6, but that’s a whole different subject.

Share this:

# Posted by Tino on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 4:01pm

Paul Hayes

RT @paulrobertlloyd: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice.” Some good, necessary words from @adactio: adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by Paul Hayes on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 5:00pm

Bram de Haan

RT @paulrobertlloyd: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice.” Some good, necessary words from @adactio: adactio.com/journal/9312

Christof

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by Christof on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 5:34pm

Donny Truong

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Larry Garfield

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Sven Albrecht

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

David Weber

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

fij

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by fij on Monday, July 27th, 2015 at 9:20pm

Igor Czerwinski

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

About the Author: john v willshire

Cruise is to Adverts as Shatner is to Phones By: john v willshire On: July 27, 2015 In: marketing, rivetings Views: 88 Like Bobbing and weaving through the tweets an hour ago, I picked up on Jeremy‘s post on the issue of website performance vs serving ads/tracking people… …in fact, I really picked up on it because of Mark‘s reply: Which is interesting, because there’s something been pinging around my head recently about why the advertising industry decided on this as their future. And why did we as people decide that advertisers knowing all this about us was OK…? Here’s my hunch; Tom Cruise is to Adverts as William Shatner is to Phones. Which means what? Well, there’s the famous, perhaps apocryphal story that the mobile phone, specifically the flip phone, were inspired by the Star Trek communicator. The engineers growing up and watching telly around this time had a ready-made prototype of ‘the future’ in front of them… and so, it came to pass. Let’s make that. Another example – last week at IED, the brilliant Andres Colmenares was talking about the Hendo Hoverboard that’s received kickstarter funding. It’s basically the Marty McFly hoverboard. Let’s make that. And the advertising example? Minority Report, of course. Specifically the scene in which Tom Cruise goes hurtling through a crown of people in a shopping mall, and all the adverts start addressing him individually… You’ll know the scene, because no doubt everyone’s been shown it often enough in presentations about ‘personalised marketing’. It became so trite that people stop using it. It may even be cool and retro to start using it again (I’m not really sure, as I don’t do enough advertisingy type things anymore to know). Basically, it became a cultural shorthand; ‘This is a future for advertising’ became ‘this is the future for advertising’. When enough people can use it as a common reference point, they can sit in meetings and decided what advertising should be in the future by using this example. When people were talking about how the ads that would support their platform, they’d major on just how ‘identifiable’ people were, and so the ads could be personalised too. “You know, like in Minority Report”. And maybe that’s why we’re here. Thanks, Tom Cruise. Thanks a bunch. Share this:TwitterMoreFacebookLinkedInTumblrRedditEmailPrintPinterestGoogle Tags: About the Author: john v willshire Previous post:Delaminating Reality – a week at IED Barcelona Next Post: Logging In… Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Matt Halliday

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

blog.henrikcarlsson.se

→ Nilay Patel might be asshat of the week. – Adactio: Journal—On The Verge. EDIT As pointed out to me by Jeremy Keith on Twitter calling Patel an asshat was uncalled for. I do believe his article (Patel’s that is, not Keith’s) deserve harsh criticism for being such a backwards take on the problems with the mobile web, but the insults should have been thrown at the article, not Patel himself.My apologies to Nilay Patel. ∞ Do you have any comments? Feel free to @mention me on Twitter (@synvila) or e-mail me (info@henrikcarlsson.se).

# Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 12:23am

Nathan Reed

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Russell Heimlich

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Daniel Bachhuber

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

bfulgham

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by bfulgham on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 5:57am

Brady Eidson

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Adam Demasi (kirb)

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

John Crean

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by John Crean on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 4:05pm

James Catt

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by James Catt on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 at 5:36pm

James Frost

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Cameron Moll

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Jeremy McDuffie

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

R.A. Ray

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by R.A. Ray on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 at 3:20pm

Nathan Pointer

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Sam Howat

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by Sam Howat on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 at 4:22pm

Matt Nicolaysen

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Ahmed El Gabri

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Gethin James

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Alex Sutcliffe

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Mihkel Eidast

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Edmundo Santos

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Eric Steinborn

RT @jgarber: “Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” – @adactio adactio.com/journal/9312

Kevin Marks

I’m probably going to be apologising for Technorati and helping change writing on the web from a daily contemplation to a headlong rush for rapid, vapid responses.

roycifer

“For such a young, supposedly-innovative industry, I’m often amazed at what people choose to treat as immovable, unchangeable, carved-in-stone issues. Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.” https://adactio.com/journal/9312

# Posted by roycifer on Thursday, September 29th, 2016 at 7:27pm

Klaus Zeuge

The performance issues are being treated as Somebody Else’s ProblemPretty nice summary of the philosophical battle between slow ad fueled web sites versus the fast ones. https://adactio.com/journal/9312There are of course some remedies - like using performance budgets and making an informed choise each time a feature, an adtracker, an ad is added. Will the added popularity and revenue be larger than the added slowness which drives away users?The whole debate might of course soon be moot: http://www.zeldman.com/2015/09/18/ad-blocking-and-the-future-of-the-web/?immmid=0d9207&cmp=em-web-na-na-newsltr20150923 Because of Apple

# Posted by Klaus Zeuge on Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 9:13pm

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