What loading a home page should not look like

jwatte's picture
I like watching Anime. Netflix has a lot of good things, many of which come from the American importer/distributor Funimation. But Funimation has started not making everything they have available to Netflix; instead they have a subscription service specifically for their own site. This service is about as expensive as a Netflix streaming subscription (I think one dollar cheaper?) I'm afraid this is the future of streaming video, unless someone can come up with a $30/month all-high-quality-programming streaming video service. But I digress.

So, when I started a subscription to this service, it had a bunch of problems. It was slow. It was hard to find programming you want. The site was full of ads that get in the way, even if you paid for it. It was slow. It didn't keep track of what you had or hand't watched yet. It took three clicks to get to your "favorites" list that was the only way to try to manage what you want to watch. It was slow. It put ad-supported and premium streams in the same tableau even for paying subscribers. The "save my login" feature didn't actually work. Also, it was slow.

Looking at the site and URLs, I think it's written in Drupal. Nothing bad about Drupal in and of itself -- this site runs Drupal! -- but I don't think the site is written, maintained, and optimized by people who know how to make sites work well for paying customers. Or perhaps they're just not given the money that comes in as a means to actually provide the service?

The streaming would work well enough when you could get to it -- it seems to be out-sourced to some other company. It doesn't change bit rates smoothly like the Netflix playback does, but it also doesn't suffer from bitpipe outage that much, so that part has been acceptable most of the time.

But loading the home page will look like this, with times from Firebug: (click to enlarge)

bad homepage load

Also: 136 elements to load for a home page?



It gets worse

So, it's now a month and a half later, and one of the things from above is no longer a problem. Specifically, they have removed the "save my login" feature from the login page, so you won't be confused by a broken feature. All the other problems are still there -- except, now it's even slower.

In fact, today, I couldn't even get to the site at all. 21-second time-outs from both Firefox and Chrome. (Other sites on the web work fine -- this is not a customer-end problem) 21-second time-outs mean, as far as I can tell, that the TCP stack tried a number of SYN packets, and none of them made it back as SYN/ACKs, and then it gave up. This usually means that the pipe to the server is completely full, and is dropping a lot of packets.

This is a pay-for entertainment subscription service. However, it does not provide an experience that anyone in their right mind would want for their entertainment. Letting your internet connection flood to the point that users can't even get to your servers is simply not acceptable for a modern, pay-for site. It shouldn't be a big surprise -- if traffic is growing, you will see this on your bandwidth monitor charts, and you'll scale up as needed. Well, if you know how to run a pay-for website.

Interestingly, the times when I've logged in before, there has been no communication about site performance, and no communication about what they intend to do about the site. Just lots of ads for their purchasable goods, even when I'm logged in as a paying streaming subscriber.

I'm not renewing. I'm sticking to what's on Netflix for now, and will look for other options that do not drive my blood pressure through the roof. If you provide entertainment, it should be painless and streamlined, and I'll be happy to pay for it! Am I alone? Are we all doomed to "survival of the shittiest?"



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