Web Mender

An incessant whine on web design.

April 07, 2003

Conserve Bandwidth, Stay Online

Flash crowds can happen to anyone! Trim file size to mitigate the damage should one appear at your site.

Some people don't expend much energy reducing the sizes of the files that make up their web site. The list of tricks for reducing the bandwidth required to transmit the essential content is large. A sampler:

  • Use text instead of graphics of text
  • Use CSS instead of excessive <font> containers.
  • Use JPEG for photographic and contone content. Crank the Q settings for the JPEG until the image quality is unacceptable, then back off one setting.
  • Use PNG or GIF for line art. Reduce the number of colors encoded in the file, especially for GIF.

Reducing the bandwidth per page benefits both the author and the reader. The reader sees faster response times from the server. The author has room for more content on the server, and expends less of their bandwidth quota with each page. Heck, since the rest of the Internet no longer has to carry the extra bytes, the whole world wins! The web is possibly the first medium whose distribution costs are determined by the size of the audience, but with no upper bound on audience size. Be prepared!

I saw a Slashdot post advertising a funny arts'n'crafts project. The site, sadly, had been buried under the dread Slashdot Effect before I could see it. The site's owners didn't take this as a compliment, though.

Due to the people at slashdot.org linking to this site without asking the owners or the hosters, asciipr0n.com is offline until further notice. Maybe you guys should start mirroring the sites you link to...

I can't argue that a hobbyist weathering a flash crowd might be hit with some bandwidth overage charges. I think it's goofy to expect influential news sources to hunt down all relevant parties before linking. That way madness lies, especially considering the lawsuits filed by several sites to prevent "deep linking". Besides, would they have complained if the traffic was coming from, say, Dave Barry's blog, or do they just resent Slashdot?

The real question is what every site can do to avoid being buried in the future. A throttling server is certainly one option, especially if there's a way to have the throttling be based on referral headers from the clients. A far simpler candidate, though, would be to reduce the file size. One /. comment suggested that if the site had been careful to use the appropriate file formats, they might not have been buried by the flood of traffic. Having seen a mirror of the page, the graphics most certainly should not have been JPEGs.

Posted by ventura at April 07, 2003 04:47 AM