Aug 122010
 

The puzzle

Lately it seems like many of the web sites I browse stall for 5  or 10 seconds while they load. Sometimes they refuse to load at all and I have to hit the reload button to get them started again. When this happens I tend to look at the lower left corner of Firefox to see the domain of the content that is holding up the web page.  In many cases this is a domain other than the website that I am trying to load, such as advertisement servers.

After a while I noticed that an inordinate number of times web pages would be slow to load the domain that seemed to be holding up the works was fbcdn.net .  One particularly frustrating day I went looking for this offending domain. A little research and I discovered this was the FaceBook Content Developer Network domain.  The servers at fbcdn.net are used for providing most of the static content of Facebook, such as member pictures, images, buttons,  and other content that does not change.  With 500 million users on Facebook you can imagine what an incredible load these servers are under every day. They are also responsible for providing static content outside of Facebook and this is where the problem lies.

The answer

The next time I noticed a piece of content from fbcdn.net was holding up the loading of a non-Facebook web page I looked at the page source.  I discovered that the piece of content that was slow to load was one of those Facebook “Like” buttons. That’s when it occurred to me that since so many web sites are adding Facebook “Like” buttons the slow response of the servers at fbcdn.net could account for a major slowdown in the web browsing experience of almost everyone on the Internet!

What can be done?

If you are not a Facebook member you could use an ad-block add-on to your web browser and add the fbcdn.net domain to the block list. If you are a Facebook member I don’t think there is much you can do. Blocking fbcdn.net would pretty much ruin your Facebook experience.  If you are a webmaster you could remove the “Like” button or at least load it as far down your web pages as possible so that it impacts your readers less.

Of course the real answer would be for Facebook to make their server farm fast enough to handle the load. There’s no telling when that will happen.

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