Benchmarking Your Web App With Fasterfox

Posted on November 28, 2006

I had a real problem when I arrived at Joyent, people would complain about page load times, web apps “feeling slow”, or judgments on server performance based on page serving. What I needed was a way to quantify page loads so that I could measure the effects of change to the underlying structure. Did tweaking PostgreSQL’s query cache actually help? How much did it help? Whats the effect of turning this nob? These are all questions that I had a very hard time answering.

Then about 2 weeks ago Joyent super-support engineer Josh Roebuck mentioned Fasterfox which provides “performance and network tweaks for Firefox”. Of its features the most interesting one to me was a time counter at the bottom of the browser that it adds to measure page load times in seconds. Finally the solution I’d needed! Now I quantify exact performance improvements!

Besides just telling me how my app performs its great for quantifying the speed of other web applications. For instance, people have wanted Joyent Connector, our Web 2.0 Collaboration application implemented in Rails, to be as fast as Gmail. I was happy to find that we’re about par for page load times! Mind you, getting to that point was a lot of work, but we’ve done it… not only can you send mail to and from Joyent Connector as fast as Gmail can but we can also load pages as quickly and in some cases more quickly with much more functionality.

So, before you complain about web performance make sure to download Fasterfox and have numbers to show, and if your a developer have numbers to help you tune and then use to gloat to your manager. 😉