Bad news for site owners and mobile users: The average web page is now 1 MB

I wrote about this at greater length in this post for GigaOM (which also includes some nifty graphs), but want to summarize a few of the key points here.

  • According to the HTTP Archive, which gathers stats on the top million sites in the world (as ranked by Alexa), the average web page has surpassed the 1 MB mark.
  • In the past 18 months, the average web page has grown by 50% — from 702 KB in November 2010 to 1042 KB on May 1, 2012. (Side note: Since I wrote the GigaOM piece, the HTTP Archive has refreshed with new data. The average page is now 1059 KB.)
  • At this rate, the average page will hit 2 MB by 2015.
  • Images and third-party scripts (i.e. analytics, ads, social sharing buttons) are the main culprits.

Mobile users take the hardest hit.

Consequences include being throttled by providers or being hit with massive roaming charges. (For example, earlier this month I bought 25 MB of data from my provider for $100 while travelling in Europe. This works out to $4 per page.)

There’s a head-in-the-sand tendency to assume that just because our devices, browsers, and networks are more powerful than ever, end-user performance must also be getting better.

To disprove this, here’s a graph I created, in which I overlaid two sets of numbers spanning the past 12 months. The red line represents the page size data from the HTTP Archive. The blue line represents the mobile load time index from Keynote. While the two lines represent different data sets, it’s pretty clear that the general trend is up — bigger and slower.

Correlation between web page size and mobile load time

As I’ve said many (many!) times, building a mobile-specific site isn’t the answer.

One-third of a site’s visitors will choose to visit the full site if given the option between the two. That’s because people want the same breadth and depth of content and a consistent user experience, no matter what device they use. Site owners who can deliver a fast, reliable, cross-platform user experience are going to be the ones who own the web of the not-so-distant future.

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