28 Oct 2011
A couple of months back, Strangeloop released a report about the load times of North American and European sites in China — arguably the fastest growing e-commerce sector in the world. We found that the average load time for these sites was just over 16 seconds.
In my post about the report, Steve Souders asked a great question: To make the case that luxury sites need to be faster, it would be great if you could compare their load time (16.2 seconds) with the load time of popular Chinese sites.
Steve’s question has been percolating on a back burner (I have a lot of back burners), and I was reminded of it when looking at Mary Meeker’s slides from her presentation on internet trends at the recent Web 2.0 Summit.
This slide in particular jumped out:
Of the top 25 websites, six are based in China. While none of these sites come even close to the top four U.S. sites in terms of profitability and valuation, it’s important to remember that this is an online marketplace that is still in its babyhood. By 2015, China’s e-commerce base is expected to increase by almost 400%. It’ll be interesting to see what this table looks like then.
But getting back to Steve’s question, I thought this would be a good time to run some tests and see how China’s top sites compare to the sites we tested in our study. (I used the same parameters: Testing via WebPagetest‘s location in Jiangsu, China, using Internet Explorer 7.)
Page load times of leading Chinese websites
|Website||Load time (seconds)
|Average Chinese site
|Average NA/EU site
A few thoughts
- This is a tiny sample size, of course, but it’s still an interesting snapshot of how China’s top websites fare when it comes to performance.
- There’s a clear performance divide between verticals, and these correlate closely to the same performance divide I’ve observed in western-based sites. The news sites — Sina and 163.com — experienced 20+ second load times. The e-commerce sites — Ctrip (travel) and Alibaba (retail) — were much faster, with sub-5-second load times. The search site Baidu was the fastest of the bunch, while, ironically, the internet service provider Tencent was the worst. (I suspect that competition isn’t a concern for them.)
- Only one site, Ctrip, uses a content delivery network.
- And returning again to Steve’s question, while the overall average load time of just over 13 seconds wasn’t much lower than the 16 seconds we recorded for western sites, it should be noted again that the top e-commerce sites did load in under 5 seconds. From this, we can deduce that leading e-tailers in China are taking performance seriously — which means that western e-tailers need to do the same in order not to get left behind in the global marketplace.