Ensuring a performant web for the next billion people

Bruce Lawson

Performance for the next billion

Bruce Lawson, Opera Software

bruce in front of 'HTML' sign
opera software logo

Where will your next customers come from?

world map with a circle around China, India, S.E. Asia, Indonesia
Asia: population now 4 billion
Asia: population in 2050: 5 billion
Africa: population in 2050: 2 billion
Africa: population in 2100: 5 billion
China: Population: 1.3 billion, GDP growth: 7.7%

Shared taxis per day

Uber: 1 million.

Ecommerce (top sales day)

Black Friday + Cyber Monday: $2.9 Bn

Indonesia: Population: 250 million, GDP growth: 5.8%


in Indonesia 75% of users are on older 2G, or GSM/EDGE, networks, and the nation’s geography (it is made up of thousands of islands) presents additional challenges… more than half of Indonesian smartphone users said they experienced network problems daily.
Measuring and improving network performance - Ericsson, September 2014
Bangladesh: Population: 157 million, GDP growth: 7%
in 1993, Bangladesh became the first South Asian country to adopt cellular technology … household ownership of at least 1 working mobile phone grew from 29.85% in [2008] to 56.07% in [2011].
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - Feb 2015
Myanmar: 53 million, GDP growth: 13.6%

SIM: was $2,000 now $1.50

Five years ago, buying a cell phone SIM card in Myanmar could set you back more than $2,000… In August [2014], Qatar’s Ooredoo began selling data-enabled cards with a 3G connection for $1.50.
When a SIM Card Goes From $2,000 to $1.50 - Bloomberg (29 Sept '14)
India: Population: 1.2 billion, GDP growth: 6.9%
we expect the number of Internet users to at least double, from 190 million in 2014 to 400 million in 2018 … We expect the Internet to contribute $200 billion to India’s GDP (5% of total GDP) by 2020.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 23 April 2015

What do these nations have in common?

graph showing next billion online will be using smartphones

Top domains: USA

  1. google.com
  2. facebook.com
  3. youtube.com
  4. wikipedia.org
  5. yahoo.com
  6. twitter.com
  7. wordpress.com
  8. amazon.com
  9. tumblr.com
  10. blogspot.com

Top handsets: USA

  1. Apple iPhone
  2. Apple iPad
  3. Samsung GT-S7582
  4. Samsung GT-I9300
  5. BlackBerry 8520
  6. Apple iPod
  7. BlackBerry 9320
  8. Samsung GT-S7562
  9. LG 306G
  10. Samsung GT-I8190

Top domains: India

  1. facebook.com
  2. google.com
  3. google.co.in
  4. youtube.com
  5. wikipedia.org
  6. cricbuzz.com
  7. twitter.com
  8. in.com
  9. wordpress.com
  10. ndtv.com

Top handsets: India

  1. Nokia X2-01
  2. Samsung GT-E1282T
  3. Nokia 2690
  4. Nokia C1-01
  5. Micromax A106
  6. Nokia 2700c-2
  7. Samsung GT-S7262
  8. Nokia C2-00
  9. Nokia 5130c-2
  10. Samsung SM-B312E

Top domains: Nigeria

  1. google.com
  2. facebook.com
  3. news24.com
  4. www.bbc.co.uk
  5. youtube.com
  6. wikipedia.org
  7. livescore.com
  8. google.com.ng
  9. goal.com
  10. naij.com

Top handsets: Nigeria

  1. Nokia X2-01
  2. Nokia 200
  3. Nokia C3-00
  4. TECNO P5
  5. Nokia C1-01
  6. TECNO M3
  7. Nokia 2700c-2
  8. Nokia C2-00
  9. Nokia 210
  10. TECNO H5

Making the web work on lower-spec devices

a cake with '2048' iced on it

Installable Web Apps

Opera mobile browser with a banner offering to add a site to homescreen

Responsive images

tablet, phone, laptop etc showing a picture of a dog appropriately cropped for each form factor
brucelawson.co.uk blogpost proposing picture element

New HTML thingies

Video, tutorials

graph showing avergae web page is 2MB, of which 1.3 MB are images

Affordability of access

Citizens of rich nations pay on average just 1-2% of their monthly income to connect. In the 51 countries we analysed … the price for an entry-level mobile broadband package hovers at just above 10% of monthly incomes.
The Affordability Report, 2014

What are proxy browsers?

Other proxy browsers are available

press release about Microsoft signing a deal with Opera to transition its users to Opera Mini
Opera Mini is a light client program backed by servers
Opera Mini servers compressing a 1MB page into a 150K download

Testing in India

Opera Mini consumes on an average 14% less battery and 89% less data when compared to other mobile browsers.
Cigniti Technologies

(Chrome, UC browser, CM browser and UC Mini on Wi-Fi, 2G and 3G networks in India, March - April 2015)

120k transactions/second
23 PB last month

Approximately 600 million times per second, particles collide within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)…Electronic circuits record the passage of each particle …and send the data to the CERN Data Centre… Physicists must sift through the 30 petabytes or so of data produced annually.
CERN - computing
Opera Mini's top user bases: India, 50 million+; Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria: 20 million+; China, Bangladesh, Ukraine, 10 million+; Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil, Philippines, South Africa, Vietnam: 5 million+
Opera Mini servers are in China, Amsterdam, Iceland, East and West Coast USA
heavily overloaded truck

Single connection

In India, only 96k of the 736k cell towers are 3G enabled, but more critically, only 35k of those towers have a fiber-optic connection to the backbone, which results in inconsistent connection.

India's mobile Internet: The revolution has begun - Avdendus (2013)
User in South Africa sends one request to Mini servers in East Coast USA, which makes many requests to the destination web server and sends one connection back to user

Design considerations for developing markets

webpage with 'welcome back Bruce' written in red
webform asking for given name and family name; both are required
Indonesian woman in Opera t-shirt

Tech constraints for lower-spec markets

Bangkok tuktuk overcrowded with people

Everything happens on the server

More: Opera Mini and JavaScript.

Design won't always be preserved

Make SVG icons (even more!) responsive.

Progressive enhancement
website on a mobile phone urging users to upgrade browser

Holy Grail App

we've launched our first Holy Grail app into production! … It looks exactly the same as the app it replaced, however initial pageload feels drastically quicker

Holy Grail App #2

because we serve up real HTML instead of waiting for the client to download JavaScript before rendering.

Plus, it is fully crawlable by search engines. … It feels 5x faster.


Rise of The Smartphones

three smartphones in front of ruined cityscape

India emerged as the world's third-largest smartphone market after the U.S. and China. Total smartphone shipments are expected to increase to reach more than 150 million units in 2018.

Busiess Korea (8 May '15)
Smartphone shipments to the Middle East and Africa saw unprecedented year-on-year growth of 83% in 2014Feature phones have been hit hard … with shipments down 4.5% year on year in 2014.
International Data Corporation (IDC) (26 Apr '15)
list of phone brands (mostly unknown brands in West)

Bruce’s law of Smartness™

It doesn't matter how smart your phone is, if your network is dumb.
tabled mass of cabling in a Bangkok street


91.7% live within range of a 2G network. At less than a quarter the speed of a 56K dial-up modem, 2G/ GSM (9.6 KBPS) is insufficient for practical use of the internet.

48.7% live within range of a 3G mobile network.

State of Connectivity 2014 - internet.org
graph showing rise to 130 million Android users (53% up from last year)
windows phone and iphone, running Opera Mini. iOS product also compresses video.

What's next?

2005 - 2015

Last 10 years have focussed on compression at expense of compatibility

Bruce’s law of Smartness™

It doesn't matter how smart your phone is, if your network is dumb.

30% - 50% better compression

Developing countries are home to 94% of the global offline population.

State of Connectivity 2014 - internet.org

Internet matters

an increase in Internet maturity similar to the one experienced in mature countries over the past 5 years creates an increase in real GDP per capita of $500 on average during this period. It took the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century 50 years to produce the same result.
The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity (McKinsey Global Institute)