Web 2.0 is often described as an evolution, from the Web-as-information source (that is, Web 1.0) to the Web as a more engaging, participatory medium. The Web page has evolved accordingly, from a static download with limited functionality to a starting point for a rich Web experience full of complex applications and third-party services that take users down elaborate paths of functionality.
Today, a single Web 2.0 transaction can consist of viewing a product catalog, filling a shopping cart and executing a transaction-all from within the same Web page. This is thanks to rich Internet applications such as AJAX, Flash and Flex. Measuring performance-or the response time or speed at which applications and services are delivered to users-is no longer as simple as testing page-per-page response time.
A new approach to measuring the performance of this new type of Web 2.0 transaction is needed. And since so much of the processing of Web 2.0 applications happens client-side (within users' browsers), businesses need a more accurate way of testing performance, particularly under load.
Finding your Web application's weakest link
Web 2.0 applications are highly complex and include an average of six third-party services that provide additional content and functionality. While third-party services help deliver a more comprehensive, satisfying online experience, they also present a liability by comprising up to 50 percent or more of the time a user spends waiting for a Web site or application to load.
Today, the performance of a complex Web application in its entirety hinges on the performance of each and every third-party element comprising it. Together, these elements comprise a highly interdependent Web application delivery chain where the poor performance of any one element in the chain can mean the difference between a successful and disappointing user experience.
Keep in mind that when a user accesses a third-party enabled application or service-an advertisement, for example, which may block or slow the main content coming from your site-they are not leaving your single Web page. So it matters little to users what is causing the slow performance; they will simply think your site is slow and associate a negative Web experience with your business. This hurts your brand image, revenues and customer satisfaction.
For these reasons, businesses cannot make assumptions regarding the performance of the external components that come between their data centers and their users' browsers. This is important during normal traffic periods, but is especially critical during peak traffic periods given shrinking customer thresholds for poor online performance. Case in point: in a recent study, it was found that a mere one-second increase in response time can reduce online sales conversions by seven percent.