The New Yorker and the Importance of Optimization

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Update 2013-03-07: Please see the correction at the bottom of this article.

I have a small obsession web platforms, and discovering what platform a site is using. There are some great tools that help, but nothing beats viewing the source. Recently I encountered the New Yorker

It’s a sight. I encourage you to check the source for yourself, but it’s a templating system gone wrong. The day I discovered it, I tweeted

in the midst of 90 new-lines, sits @NewYorker’s <html> tag. a scant 1006 lines later, the <body>.

—to no reply. It’s for real though: their homepage serves, of this writing, 16101 newlines. Many of their tags are surrounded by no less than 30 newlines each. Their <head> contains 998 alone. So this gets me thinking:

A newline character, usually represented as \n in many languages, but represented by the unicode U+000A tends to be represented as an 8-bit ASCII character, or one byte. For the purposes of this excercise we’ll assume exactly that.

In terms of websites:

Now lets talk bandwidth: 16101 bytes is 0.0153 MB—less than two-hundredths of a megabyte—it’s not much. Now traffic-wise: According to Compete, they see 1,103,088 unique visitors per month.

Or, if you prefer: 16.54 GB of newlines per month, strictly in unique visits to the homepage. Hey, Condé Nast: might be time to optimize?

Correction: Reddit has bested me on this one. As the commenters point out, my math is done assuming that the web server isn’t configured to compress with gzip—and it is. Since all major browsers support gzip, the actual impact of The New Yorker’s excessive newlines is minimal.

So, this is more or less an article about the comical result of a templating system than it is about performance. Thanks to those on Reddit that pointed out this error.