From the Bottom Line to “Faster by Default”

I just arrived here in Santa Clara for Velocity. I’ve got a million things to do to get ready for the sessions and keynote I’ll be presenting, but I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts I had on the plane about the evolution of web performance.

Performance has come a long way in an incredibly short time. It doesn’t seem that long ago (2007, to be specific) when Steve Souders was evangelizing the nitty gritty of the newly developed YSlow best practices.

Here’s a snapshot of how the performance landscape has changed in the past three years:

April 2007 – At Web 2.0 Expo, Steve laid the foundation by talking about the research projects that led to the development of the YSlow rules.

June 2008 – At Velocity 2008, Steve moved the conversation to metrics by asking “Fast web pages are critical to a good user experience, but what is “response time” and how should it be measured?”

June 2009 – At Velocity last year, Steve moved on to accountability and the impact of performance on the bottom line. He presented the new best practices he developed at Google, then scrutinized some popular websites to see how well they heeded the rules.

June 2010 – As you may know, the theme of this year’s Velocity conference is “Faster by Default”. What this means to me is recognizing that, given constantly permutating variables such as browser standards and dynamically delivered websites, we need to recognize the complexity of the problem and the complexity of the solution – or, more accurately, the set of solutions – needed to fix the problem. And wherever possible, we need to automate our solutions to respond nimbly and immediately.