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Revisiting browser and connectivity defaults
03-15-2013, 03:53 AM
Post: #1
Revisiting browser and connectivity defaults
WebPagetest provides a bunch of browser and connectivity options but by far the most testing us done using whatever the defaults are set to. It is a pretty big deal to users if they change which is why I try to do it when only absolutely necessary but I think it's time to re-visit what the defaults are and at least have the discussion if it's finally time to change them again.

Browser

The last time the browser default was changed was in May 2011 (close to 2 years ago) when it was changed from IE 7 to IE 8. IE 8 is getting pretty long in the tooth and market shares have changed a LOT in the last two years.

At least according to statcounter, IE 9 has eclipsed IE 8 in every region except for Asia and outside of the US Chrome and Firefox both have more usage than IE:

US
Europe
Asia

Global

IE 9, Chrome and Firefox are all much more modern and comparable with each other than IE 8.

Akamai also provides browser usage share as part of their IO data set which is reporting much higher shares for IE.

I'm leaning towards switching to Chrome for the default but I could probably be convinced to use IE 9 instead (though with the auto-upgrade to IE 10 coming shortly there is a good chance that the IE mix will get murkier).

Connectivity

The default connectivity has never changed since WebPagetest's launch back in 2008. 5 years is quite a long time and it has done us well but it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. Getting good data on broadband speeds and adoption has been really difficult.

Akamai makes a bunch of data available regularly as part of their state of the Internet reports. The Q3 2012 report calls out the percent of users with > 4Mbps connections (62% in the US, over 80% in Asia and in the 70's for Europe).

Some other data I have been looking at also shows significant bandwidth increases across all percentiles, particularly over the last 2 years.

At 1.5Mbps (the current default), the majority of pages that I have seen are bandwidth constrained and any improvement basically requires reducing bytes (not a bad idea but may not move the needle for a lot of users that are not bandwidth constrained). Given the growth in sizes of pages, maybe it's a good idea to keep the focus there but it feels like it should be time to re-consider.

I'm inclined to switch to the "Cable" profile which is faster and with lower latency (5Mbps and 1/2 the latency) which should be a lot closer to the current medians (and more forward-looking) but I'd love to hear input.


Any changes will just be to the default settings, all of the options will continue to be available so the plan isn't to take anything away, just to update the defaults for where we steer people to optimize.
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Revisiting browser and connectivity defaults - pmeenan - 03-15-2013 03:53 AM

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