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Why Navigation Timing in Safari is Huge for DevOps

Posted on 7.30.2014

By Mehdi Daoudi, CEO of
Catchpoint Systems

As any DevOps professional can tell you, the value of passive monitoring with regard to Web performance optimization is huge. The ability to gain insight into the end users’ experiences through Real User Measurement gives you the most insight possible into how your site is performing at the last mile, and whether the users’ interaction with the site is encountering any errors.

For years developers used various JavaScript methods to determine how fast their pages loaded, though those methods were very limited. When the Navigation Timing API was introduced, DevOps teams were able to get an accurate view of end-to-end latency issues and the components impacting page loading. We could now measure the time it took to resolve the DNS, the time to establish TCP connection, how long it took for the server to send the first packet, and much more. For a lot of us, the data was eye-opening. 

The catch with Navigation Timing is that the browser had to implement and support the API in order for the developers to be able to capture these metrics. Without this API, the most insight that can be gained is through the old fashioned heuristic approach. This method relied on measuring the difference in time between a page starting to render and when it finished, and the difference from leaving Page A to start rendering Page B. Thus, not much insight on what impacted speed and room for a lot of error, creating several significant blind spots in gauging how a page is really performing for the users. And up until recently, one of the most popular browsers available – Safari – did not support the Navigation Timing API.

That changed last week, however, when the latest release of Safari 8 (in beta) finally added support for the Navigation Timing API that DevOps professionals have been requesting for years.

The importance of Safari including this is massive when it comes to providing the clearest picture of how sites are performing across all operating systems. The default Mac browser already accounts for over a quarter of all Internet traffic. But when considering that mobile Internet usage is consistently gaining a larger and larger portion of Web traffic, and the fact that Safari owned nearly 60 percent of mobile browser traffic as recently as this past April, it means that mobile monitoring will become vastly more reliable now that Navigation Timing is supported in the Safari browser.

And that, really, is the whole point of the efforts that many in the DevOps world have made in their attempts to get this feature included in Safari, including participating in a petition. For those of us who are committed to improving Web performance across the board, the ability to gain insight into the experience of as many end users as possible means that we will be able to identify problems earlier and fix them sooner. The end result will be a faster and more reliable Internet experience for everyone.

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