Web getting fatter as data plans getting slimmer

03 Jul

Here’s a funny joke you can tell at the next party you’re at (warning: it’ll only get laughs if you happen to be partying with a bunch of nerds): how are Americans like websites? Answer: they’re both getting fatter.

Is it a website or a wireless provider?

It’s true. The obesity epidemic – as it pertains to people’s actual waist sizes – is well documented. The Web’s bloat, however, not so much.

Back in December, the HTTP Archive reported that the average website size had grown to just about one megabyte in size. That’s more than triple the size of three years ago, when the average was about 300 kilobytes. This growth is pretty standard – websites averaged only about 14 KB way back in 1995 – but things are about to get a whole lot worse as Apple seeks to again reshape the Web with its high-definition Retina displays.

One estimate figures that websites will climb to about 5 MB as a result. As some observers have noted, that’s going to have dire repercussions on internet users – especially here in Canada, where usage limits are low.

Web traffic is still the third biggest use of the internet, making up about 16%, according to Sandvine. That’s down from about 38% in 2009, with online video through the likes of Netflix coming on strong in that time. Video consumption isn’t likely to go down any time soon, which means the fatter web is going to contribute to larger usage overall.

It’s not as big of a problem with home wired networks and their bigger caps, but it is in wireless. Let’s do the math. If $17 gets you 250 MB of data for your iPad per month, that’s about 50 web page views per month or 1.6 each day. And that’s only if you view websites, never mind YouTube videos or app downloads. It’s hard to say how many websites the average person visits, but not too many keep it to less than two a day.

Carriers in both Canada and the United States have been ratcheting down the amount of data users get in exchange for faster LTE speeds. Now, 100 MB and 200 MB are not uncommon. Remember the days where if you got into an argument with a friend at a bar over who was in that movie, and you could easily whip out the old smartphone to check? Better think twice as more and more of the web goes Retina.

Many websites have “optimized” versions for mobile phones, which is another way of saying they’re stripped down so that they load faster on slower wireless networks and display better on smaller screens. Still, the web has been getting fatter regardless of Apple’s Retina displays, while usage limits have been heading the other way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or network engineer – to see that we’re heading for a big collision: carriers versus customers.



Posted by on July 3, 2012 in apple, ipad, iphone, mobile, telecommunications


6 responses to “Web getting fatter as data plans getting slimmer

  1. Chris C.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Very good subject, that echoes my own situation very well, and that of many of my friends and acquaintances.

    I, as many others, have had to ‘upgrade’ to a plan with drastically reduced data when I replaced my ailing phone, going from unlimited mobile browsing to 100MB per month. As a consequence, I’ve had to severely curtail my mobile online activities and have been using my smartphone much more as a dumb phone than for what it was designed for 😦

    The real problem I see with this issue is that, as technology advances, the powers that be, as has happened before in politics after the press was invented, are attempting to restrict the flow of information and shape the internet to keep control, so that only the most affluent can afford the full internet from their mobile.

    In other words, in a world where democracy is under attack by regulations that want to limit and regulate what people do online and limit media rich information such as cell phone video, which is rapidly becoming the guarantor of freedom of expression and often the only protection against repression (police brutality in recent public demonstrations come to mind), restricting bandwidth to those who can afford it is nothing more than an attempt to muzzle dissent by the disadvantaged.

  2. Jason Gambacort (@Wammy70)

    July 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Had a user this month on our Bell corporate plan tether his Blackberry for 29 minutes. Unaware that tethering was different than our “unlimited” data plan, the 29 minute evaluation of tethering cost us $877.

    Yet Bell offers “unlimited” (and I put that in quotes because nothing is really unlimited) tethering for $68/month as an add on feature.

    So I ask you… if the “all you can eat” buffet is $68, what justifies Bell in charging $877 for an appetizer?

    ISPs are bending us over in this country and we’re letting them do it.

    • Chris C.

      July 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      ”So I ask you… if the “all you can eat” buffet is $68, what justifies Bell in charging $877 for an appetizer?”

      Simple, they do it because they legally can. Isn’t that a great racket? Not even the mob practiced extortion at these outrageous levels.

  3. BT

    July 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    “how are Americans like websites? Answer: they’re both getting fatter”

    Actually, it’s looking like the obesity rates in the US started to plateau in late 2011, and have remained steady (albeit still way too high) into 2012.

    • Chris C.

      July 3, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      Obesity is the perfect symbol of the waste we’ve come to expect of our modern society. We need 3,000 lbs of metal an plastic to move a 150 lb person, our houses are 4 times larger than when families were twice the size, we waste 90% of everything we consume and our software is 100 times too bloated and struggles to do what it used to do 20 years ago when computers were 1000 times less powerful.

  4. Marc Venot

    July 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Maybe you can explain your views on how this can be solved (for example with the change from analog to numeric (digital) for the TV channels)? or even if it should or not (meaning is this excess fat or the need for a refinement in standards)?

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