By Supporting Navigation Timing, Safari Has a Brighter Future
August 05, 2014

Mehdi Daoudi

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Web performance optimization is a task that is quickly gaining momentum. DevOps professionals monitor web users’ experiences in an effort to find and fix performance problems that can ultimately cost their businesses significant revenue.

Real User Measurement (RUM) has been a go-to method for gaining insight as to how a site is performing at the last mile and whether end users encounter any errors or performance lags during their time on the site. Without the use of a Navigation Timing API, however, this insight is extremely shallow and leaves many stones unturned.

For this reason, one of the biggest gripes DevOps professionals have had with Apple’s Safari browser has been the absence of support for a Navigation Timing API. Finally, after years of complaints and even a signed petition, the latest beta release of Safari 8 (to be made available in both the upcoming Yosemite for Mac OS and on iOS) is now offering this missing functionality.

Thanks to a Navigation Timing API, collecting RUM data is done through JavaScript embedded on the webpage. Previously for older browsers (and until recently, Safari), Java-based RUM relied on the heuristic method of measuring page load times.

While other browsers were allowing you to gain insight into the various pieces that can effect page load time – DNS resolution, TCP Connection, Server Response, DOM timings, and more –the heuristic method was based on the time the user entered the page and the onload event. This method provides almost no insight into the specific causes of slowness.

With so many question marks in your data, there’s only so much optimizing that can be done to your site in order to create a better user experience. This lack of RUM data meant that businesses were able to see clearly into the user experiences on every major browser except Safari. Luckily the Safari-Navigation Timing drought is now over.

The importance of this release is game-changing for any business with an online presence because the Safari footprint is gigantic. It accounts for over a quarter of all internet traffic, but what’s even more impressive is that Safari owns almost 60 percent of mobile browser traffic. With the internet rapidly moving into the mobile realm, having the ability to collect data from such a large portion of your site’s traffic will likely have a major impact on the overall health of your business.

So as Safari begins to move on to its brighter future with support for Navigation Timing APIs, the DevOps community is in a much more advantageous position. Businesses around the world will now finally be able to catch a complete view of their sites’ performance, ultimately allowing errors and other performance issues to be found (and fixed) faster than ever.

Mehdi Daoudi is CEO and Co-Founder of Catchpoint
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