Today, Patrick Meenan (the mastermind behind WebPagetest) wrote a great blog post titled Motivation and Incentive. In this post, Patrick discussed his favorite performance article from 2012 – an article by Kyle Rush about the A/B testing that took place on Obama’s campaign site during the 2012 election. Patrick went on to talk about the importance of having the right incentives in place to make change happen.
I’ve been talking a lot lately about the misaligned incentives of CDNs. I was pleased to see Patrick agrees:
Maybe it’s my tinfoil hat getting a bit tight, but given that CDNs usually bill you for the number of bits they serve on your behalf, it doesn’t feel like they are particularly motivated to make sure you are only serving as many bits as you need to. Things like always gzipping content where appropriate is one of the biggest surprises. It seems like a no-brainer but most CDN’s will just pass-through whatever your server responds with and won’t do the simple optimization of gzipping as much as possible (most of them have it as an available setting but it is not enabled by default).
Certainly you don’t want to be building your own CDN but you should be paying very careful attention to the configuration or your CDN(s) to make sure the content they are serving is optimized for your needs.
If you haven’t read his post yet, be sure to check it out. He hits on a lot of important topics as he explores the root motivations behind providers across the entire tech stack.