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Some recent reading on performance

To coincide with the launch of the full program of our front end performance focussed conference Lazy Load, I’ve rounded up some recent reading on performance for this week’s links.

I hope you enjoy them.

Reflections on software performance

Nelson Elhage is an engineer and researcher at Anthropic, working on reverse-engineering large language models. He recently published “Reflections on software performance“, where he captures some of what he has learned about performance while writing performant software, and working with rather a lot more not-so-performant software.

It’s really worth a read.

I’ve really strongly come to believe that we underrate performance when designing and building software. We have become accustomed to casually giving up factors of two or ten or more with our choices of tools and libraries, without asking if the benefits are worth it.

Reflections on software performance

A Management Maturity Model for Performance

Alex Russel has worked to make the Web better for many years. One of the originators of one of the original JS Libraries (or is it a framework?) Dojo Tookit, originator along with his wife Frances Berriman of the term and ideas around the concept of Progressive Web Apps, he’s now working on Microsoft Edge after being on the Chrome team for many years. He’s been on the W3C’s Technical Architecture Group (TAG) that sets the architectural direction for the Web. He writes extensively and thoughtfully, and not always uncontroversially about the Web and where it’s headed.

This week he published “A Management Maturity Model for Performance”, the last in a 5 part series called The Performance Inequality Gap which started in 2017.

Alex knows the web inside out. He has quantitative and qualitative insight into the technologies of the web and how they are used second to literally no one.

This article defies easy summary, all I can say is if you engineer for the Web you really have to read it.

Identifying and testing blocking third-party requests

Whatever we do in our code, our builds, our deployments to improve performance means little when 3rd party code that almost every site or app relies on slows us down.

This is something we’ve covered a number of times in our conferences, and Fershad Irani who’s speaking at Lazy Load on how people who care about performance on the web also help to shape a greener, more sustainable internet looks at identifying and testing blocking third-party requests in this recent article.

Web-interoperable Runtimes Community Group

I’ll have a lot more to say about this in coming weeks and months, and it’s something we’ll be covering in detail at Lazy Load, but I feel a new architecture for Web applications has been emerging over the last few years, which took a big step forward this week with the announcement of the Web-interoperable Runtimes Community Group.

Before we get to what that is, what do mean by a new architecture?

As web sites and applications became more complex and sophisticated over the last 25 years, more of the work has taken place server side-not just the storage of large amounts of data, but heavy computational lifting.

One challenge is that those servers are usually a long way away, so network time becomes a limiting factor in performance. While Content Delivery Networks have helped address the network latency, they do so in relation to data, not computation.

The last few yers, and more so recently, the idea of edge computing, where computational power is not centralised on a server, but distributed to the “edge” of networks has emerged. It aims to move commotion closer to the end user.

Cloudflare were a pioneer in this area, with Cloudflare Workers which don’t only use JavaScript, they use the Web Worker API from the browser.

This week, Cloudflare along with Deno (a newish effort from Nodejs originator Ryan Dahl), Vercel, Shopify and others announced Web-interoperable Runtimes Community Group, whose aim is to

promote runtimes supporting a comprehensive unified API surface that JavaScript developers can rely on regardless of the runtime they are using: be it browsers, servers, embedded applications, or edge runtimes

This to me is an incredibly exciting announcement. The group is open for participation by anyone interested, at no cost.

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Ethan Marcotte Inventor of 'Responsive Web Design'