Web

Google says the web is getting faster (unless you live in certain countries)

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The web is getting faster, much faster.

That’s the assessment of Google, which today released its annual analysis of global web speeds. According to the company the web in 2013 is 30% faster than it was in 2012; an improvement which it described as “impressive.”

Summary of web speeds 2012/2013
Summary of web speeds 2012/2013

But the overall increase in browsing speeds hides a significant piece of data. People living in repressive regimes saw a decrease in their Internet speeds over the past year. And in many cases this decrease was significant.

First let’s look at the data.

Using data from Google Analytics, Google says that mobile and desktop users now enjoy a faster web, thanks to “significant improvements in the core infrastructure that powers the Internet.”

Faster browsers, increased use of LTE/4G, and faster desktop and mobile device processors have all helped.  Although it’s not only the technology that’s changed; now that Google penalises sites with slow loading times webmasters have been busy squeezing every Kb from their sites’ file sizes.

Desktop web speed. 2012 2013
Desktop web speed. 2012 2013
Mobile web speed. 2012 2013
Mobile web speed. 2012 2013

But let’s not get too excited, mobile is still far slower than desktop connections – even after mobile download speeds have improved by 30%.

“While access from desktop is only a bit faster, it is still impressive given that the size of the web pages have increased by over 56% during this period. It’s great to see access from mobile is around 30% faster compared to last year.

This is evident from the histograms below as well. For desktop, there is not a significant change in the bucket distributions, but for mobile we see a shift from slower buckets (i.e. higher page load time) to faster buckets.”

As for specific countries, of the 23 lists by Google the company reports that most saw an increase in speed but a few actually saw a decrease in desktop web speeds from 2012 to 2013. China, Algeria, Argentina, and Vietnam now have, on average, access to slower download speeds than they did last year.

Desktop web speed by country
Desktop web speed by country
Mobile web speed by country
Mobile web speed by country

Two of the four, China and Vietnam, are listed as “enemies of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders. While media freedom in Algeria and Argentina is described as “strained.”

Algeria was the only country which also saw a decrease in mobile download speeds (-13%).

So, while the overall trend is positive Google’s data suggests that technological improvements are not shared equally.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).