2012 predictions: The average web page will hit 1 MB, Google and Siri will face off, and Chrome, Windows 7, and RUM will rise

It wouldn’t be December without an avalanche of predictions for 2012. Here’s my contribution.

1. The average web page will surpass 1 MB in size.

Between December 2010 and now, the average web page grew from 716 KB to 965 KB, according to the HTTP Archive. That’s 30% growth in slightly less than one year. This kind of growth is the norm, as pages have grown at a rapid rate since 1995, when the average page size was just 14.1 KB. It’s pretty safe to assume that this growth will continue. We’re going to see sites grow by at least another 30%, taking them well over the 1 MB mark — a number that would have blown our minds 10 years ago. The main culprits: images (which account for more than half of the average page size) and third-party scripts like analytics, ads, and social sharing widgets.

2. Site owners are going to demand more transparency and control over third-party content and scripts.

As the graphs above show, scripts are the fastest-growing area of page growth. In just one year, scripts have grown by 50%, from 115 KB to 172 KB on the average page. As I wrote here a couple of months ago, the average top e-commerce site contains seven third-party scripts, with some sites containing up to 25 scripts. These can have a serious impact on page performance. Poorly optimized third-party scripts can slow down page load by several seconds or even stall it completely.

Currently, most third-party script providers don’t offer real-time monitoring of their scripts, nor do they offer meaningful service level agreements (SLAs). As site owners become increasingly educated about the importance of page speed, they’re going to start demanding that scripts be properly optimized to either load asynchronously (or better yet, load after document onLoad). They’re also going to demand better monitoring, reporting, and accountability from script providers.

3. Chrome will become the dominant browser.

For the past year, we’ve seen Internet Explorer and Firefox slowly dropping in popularity, while Chrome’s popularity has been rising steadily. Right now, IE is still dominant, and Chrome just passed Firefox. Chrome’s success is well deserved. It’s fast, clean, and comparably glitch-free. With Chrome set to unite with Android, which is as much a semantic merger as a technical one, we’re going to see Chrome’s numbers climb sharply.

4. Windows is going to surprise us on mobile.

Everyone thinks it’s an iOS/Android world, but that could all change when we see Windows 7 embedded in the next wave of Nokia devices. I recently had a chance to play around with a Win7 device, and it was pretty slick (which, coming from a die-hard iPhone user, is saying a lot). Remember how Internet Explorer blew Netscape out of the water back in the ’90s? Windows 7 might not be a game changer to quite that extent, but we’re going to see it become a contender in the mobile universe.

5. Mobile consumer behavior will continue to evolve as mobile users’ expectations grow.

Marriott recently reported that 47% of their mobile bookings happen on the same day as check-in. This implies an important paradigm shift among mobile user behavior. Clearly, these users have developed the expectation that they can book on demand and on the go. Mobile users expect 100% availability and quick response. There’s zero “try again later” mentality. They won’t return to a poorly performing site — they’ll bounce to another site that can give them what they want immediately. We’re going to see more of this type of behavior, and site owners are going to have to adjust to the fact that mobile users are even more demanding than desktop users.

6. Companies will focus internally on mobile development.

As I mentioned in this piece on O’Reilly Radar, the 2011 holiday shopping season Miroverve has proven that the mobile web is no longer a curiosity. Rather than keeping mobile on the sideline, in 2012 companies will grow their mobile teams, and these will eventually match the size and scope of their regular development teams.

7. Amazon Silk is not going to spark a browser revolution.

As I also mentioned in the O’Reilly interview, while Silk offers a performance boost for some tablet content, even its own product manager, Brett Taylor, says of tablet browsing, “It’s not meant to process and crunch a lot of heavy data.” I’ve written many times about the difference between basic versus advanced content optimization. Basic optimization techniques – such as those embedded in Silk – can actually slow down, or even break, pages. Web pages are becoming even more complex, data-intensive, and dynamic. Because of this, advanced content optimization – which takes a big-picture approach to accelerating the entire site — is increasingly emerging as the only reliable way to optimize sites without causing harm.

8. Google and Siri could begin a long face-off.

Google has become synonymous with search, and it would require a massive paradigm shift to dislodge them from this position. Siri has the potential to be a formidable contender. By taking users completely out of keyword-entry mode, and by focusing on local search, Siri is incredibly attractive to mobile users, who are often task-oriented and on the move. But it all comes down to results. Google became dominant in search because it delivered the most relevant results, and it delivered them fast. If Siri can do the same – and to be blunt, right now Siri kind of sucks — then it’ll be interesting to see how Google responds.

9. Companies are going to start shining a spotlight on internal application performance.

2010 and 2011 marked the years when companies realized how important site speed was for their e-commerce sites. Now that everyone has internalized the fact that faster pages equal more revenue, they’re going to take this insight and apply it to their internal web-based applications. There are a lot of studies, dating back as far as 1968, showing that employees can radically increase their productivity — in some cases by more than double — when computer response time is improved by just 2 or 3 seconds. But very few companies did anything with these findings. We’re going to see a renaissance in this kind of research, and we’re finally going to see companies aggressively pursue improving internal performance.

10. The CDN market is going to become a lot more competitive.

Until recently, whole site acceleration or dynamic site acceleration (DSA) was a big-ticket solution offered by one company. Now there’s a growing selection of competitive products backed by innovative companies offering newer technology and, ultimately, faster sites. Unlike the price wars that happened in the video delivery marketplace a few years back, the added value will keep prices and margins at reasonable rates (nothing like the usurious rates currently being charged). The big winners here are going to be savvy site owners, who could see their bills reduced, and their service quality go up.

11. Real user monitoring will make performance testing accessible to smaller, “mortal” companies.

Performance testing is challenging. When synthetic tests (sometimes called backbone tests) were first developed, they came with a pretty major price tag, which meant they could only be embraced by site owners with deep pockets. With the recent proliferation of affordable, quality real user monitoring (RUM) tools, site owners will be able to finally get real insight into their visitors’ behavior — at a decent price.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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