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AWS vs Packet.net
Why we left AWS

Benchmarking AWS’s Network, Disk, and CPU Performance

AWS vs Packet.net
Why we left AWS

Benchmarking AWS’s Network, Disk, and CPU Performance

If this sounds like a glowing review of Packet.net – it is. I found myself re-reading this post over and over, trying to make it sound less shrilly – but I can’t. It’s just a ridiculously good product and value – EC2 containers just don’t make sense anymore.

A friend once told me, “Rishi – sometimes if you don’t advocate a product aggressively – you can be doing society a disservice in your attempt to be neutral. If the value is so good, you must tell everybody about it.”

This is one of those times.

EDIT: Feeling really grateful the HackerNews community decided to link to Tiingo a second time. In the first HackerNews posting many of you asked for an API, which is what led to me finding the AWS bottleneck. The API launched [quietly] this week at: https://api.tiingo.com where Tiingo is now the first company to bring IEX (anti-HFT exchange/darkpool) data to mainstream FinTech. Kind of went full-circle as this post wouldn’t have existed without the original HN coverage.

TL;DR:

The performance of AWS on network speed, disk speed, and CPU performance are quantitatively just “not good,” for what we needed. When we introduced real-time market data, we were in search of our bottleneck and realized it was AWS. We made the decision to switch to Packet.net and the below reflects on our decision and explains why. The benchmarks continue to reaffirm our decision. Having said all of this, certain features of AWS remain incredibly convenient like S3, Cloudfront, and Route53 – but we can’t justify using EC2.

In Networking: Packet is significantly faster, more stable, and 15%-44% cheaper

In Disk Usage: Packet is more performant and 92% cheaper

In CPU: Packet is 30-40% more performant and 15% cheaper

In machines: Packet’s systems are all bare-metal/dedicated, whereas AWS charges extra for dedicated machines

 

If you’ve noticed Tiingo being particularly snappy these days, it’s because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had tried everything – buying more expensive instances on AWS, allocating more space, scaling horizontally, but it wasn’t matching up to my local dev machines. And so I started searching for the bottleneck – only to realize it was AWS.

I started researching AWS, I found I wasn’t alone. Many people experienced what I had but I tried prolonging the switch. Trying to change cloud service providers is  frustrating: scripts break, performance temporarily suffers, you experience downtime, and you know there will be unknown-unknowns.

Recently we just got real-time market data and this exacerbated the issues. Our websockets were being overwhelmed in queues and throwing more nodes at the problem was becoming expensive. We were trying to put a bandaid over a burst pipe. I finally decided on Packet.net and I want to share the reasons why. I’ve included benchmarking results to help emphasize the point.

Our search was motivated by two major reasons:

  1. The costs were getting out-of-hand
  2. After reading the below Reddit post on AWS’s [lack of] network stability, we started asking around and realized the experts were right… AWS’s network is slow. If we are going to give our users real-time data directly from the exchanges, that’s a heck-of-a-lot of data and we need it to be as fast as possible.

The Reddit/Blog Post was from an engineer at Stack Overflow.

http://nickcraver.com/blog/2016/02/17/stack-overflow-the-architecture-2016-edition/.

More specifically, this Reddit comment on AWS’s network stability that seemed echo’d by many:

Reddit Comment Inspiring Inquisition
https://www.reddit.com/comments/468p2m

We explored options like DigitalOcean, but Tiingo, like all financial data/analytics companies, is very data heavy and their plans didn’t allow for flexible data storage (EBS on Amazon for example). We looked into Rackspace and Azure, but the cost differentials didn’t make it seem worth the transition. Admittedly, having used Rackspace in the past – I’ve always loved their customer support and was personally disappointed I couldn’t justify the cost.

Eventually I came across Packet and spoke to their engineers since I hadn’t heard of them before.

I took a chance. It paid off.

I told them my concerns and what I was trying to solve (market data connectivity and high data transfer rates). One of the co-founders, who was a networking engineer, personally oversaw my connectivity project to the data exchanges. I’m pretty sure this was Paul Graham 101 on start-ups and customer service.

Ultimately though – I’m a data nut and so I decided to benchmark AWS vs Packet and was really curious about the Reddit comments on AWS’s network stability. The benchmarks closed the deal for us. It was a no-brainer. Part of the major reason being that Packet.net is bare metal (dedicated physical machines) whereas AWS tends to be focused on virtual machines. The hardware/pricepoint is actually even cheaper on Packet. We are paying 1/3rd of what it would cost to get a similar, less performant, system on AWS.

SO here you have it!

The tests below compare AWS vs Packet for disk, network, and CPU benchmarking – and also cost.

I’ve outlined and commented the results below so you can reproduce the tests.

Hardware

Since we are testing Packet vs AWS, we started off with the Packet hardware and found the AWS price equivalent. We started with the Type 1 and worked backwards to find the equivalent in performance/price on AWS.

Note: For the network test, we also test a smaller machine. The reason for the lighter hardware is for load balancing (HAProxy in this sense). If all of the back-end servers can have high network throughput, but we need to send it to the end-user, the load-balancer’s networking performance will be the determining factor. This is especially important in cases like real-time data.

Packet:

Instance Name CPU Memory/RAM Price Price/Month Notes
Type 1 (Server) (4 core, 8-threaded)  3.4ghz Intel Xeon E3-1240 v3 32gb $0.40/hr

$0.37/hr if reserved for 1 month

$292.80/month
Type 0 (Load Balancer) (4 core) 2.4ghz Intel Atom C2550 8gb $0.05/hr

$0.0459/hr if reserved for 1 month

$36.60/month What somebody may choose as their load balancer

*Note:We assume 732 hours in a month; but if you reserve a Packet instance for a month, they will only charge you 672 hours per month. However, to make apples-to-apples comparisons, all calcs in Price/Month assume you choose hourly pricing (732 hours for 1 month) to keep things normalized.

AWS:

Instance Name CPU Memory/RAM Price Notes
m4.2xlarge (Server) 8 VCPU  (2.4ghz Intel Xeon E5-2676) 32gb $0.479/hr $350.63/month xlarge was chosen for it’s optimized network performance
t2.medium (Load Balancer) 2 VCPU  (Xeon processors burstable to 3.3ghz) 4gb $0.052/hr $38.07/month What somebody may choose as their load balancer

 

OS:

Ubuntu 14.04 server

 

The Benchmarks

Network:

For this test, we used iperf3 as per the AWS documentation

(https://aws.amazon.com/premiumsupport/knowledge-center/network-throughput-benchmark-linux-ec2/)

We wanted to simulate a very real-world network configuration for ourselves – basically what our site looks behind a load balancer. Load balancers tend to require very low processing power, and serve as a network bottleneck to the user.

We are testing:

  • Internet -> Load-balancer (Haproxy)
  • Load-balancer (HAProxy) -> Server
  • Server -> Server

The “Internet” machine used was an Azure machine. Not perfect, but we figured it was a good 3rd party control.

You can view the detailed methodology in the Appendix below.

Results:

Performance:

AWS came out incredibly inconsistent – with a high std. deviation and low mean transfer rates. What AWS considered a “High” performance network tier, was the least expensive tier on Packet. Why didn’t we use AWS Elastic-Load-Balancer (ELB)? For our use case with websockets, – we found ELB to be lacking what we needed. This will be a blog post for a later day.

 

Comparing transfer speeds across machines on Packet vs AWS

What was particularly interesting was the inconsistency of the lower tier machines. We ran our benchmarks over an hour, and here is what the rates looked like when making requests to-and-from the lower tier (t2.medium) EC2 Instance. This seems consistent with their “burstable” instance – which is great and all…except Packet’s lowest tier outperforms it:

AWS's speeds decay significantly over time for the T2.medium instance- making it a poor choice for a load balancer
AWS’s speeds decay significantly over time for the T2.medium instance- making it a poor choice for a load balancer

 

Pricing:

The above AWS configuration is $.081/hour more expensive than Packet and also less performant.

Another consideration is bandwidth costs. AWS charges $0.09/GB (for the first 10TB) out to the internet. Packet.net charges $0.05/GB out to the internet. Within the same data centers (availability zones in AWS), both Packet and AWS are free. However, when transferring to a different availability zone, AWS charges $0.02/GB and Packet.net charges $0.05/GB.

Conclusion:

Packet is the clear winner in this. In both absolute speed and stability. In terms of price, Packet is cheaper by $.081/hour in the above configuration, or 15% cheaper – and for the majority of our bandwidth we go external to the internet. In outbound internet traffic, Packet is 44% cheaper.

Disk:

Packet offers two storage types: Basic (500 IOPS) and Performance (15,000 IOPS).

We created a EBS volume on both Packet & AWS with provisioned IOPS of 500 and then 15,000. Then we used sysbench to run an I/O test (see Appendix below for methodology).

Results:

Performance:

When getting to the 15k IOPS, we saw a more significant performance differential favoring Packet. At Tiingo we used the performance tier given the amount of data we store and calculate.

Disk Trasnfer Rates

Price:

Provisioning 15,000 IOPS on AWS @ $0.065/IOPS  = $975. But wait, that’s not all! They also charge $0.125/hour per GB.  So a 15k IOPS 500GB HDD on AWS would be $1037.50

On Packet it would be 500GB * $0.15 = $75.

Doing  a bit of algebra, the cost for 15k IOPS on AWS would be cost effective if you have >39TB of storage. That’s right – Packet is cheaper until you hit 39TB of storage….

Conclusion:

Packet is literally 92.3% cheaper than AWS for 15k IOPS performance, and Packet is even more performant. It’s the victor in disk performance as well.

CPU:

CPUs cannot be benchmarked purely on the speed of the processor [clock] alone.  For these reasons, we ran a sysbench test as well on different threads.

Results:

Performance:

The results are damning for AWS. On an 8 processor machine, the benchmark ran slower on 8 cores than 4. I ran this multiple times, double checked to make sure this was an m4.2xlarge. Then I spun up another m4.2xlarge and the results were more in line with what I expected (still slower than Packet).
However, I am going to keep the original instance’s benchmark below to highlight the point of noisy neighbors. With AWS, you can get a shared machine with other neighbors who are processor intensive and reduce your performance. This is what virtualization is. With Packet, you get a dedicated system. What most likely happened was that our original machine had a noisy neighbor.

Here are the results – you can see at 8 threads Packet performs 4x faster than AWS.

Packet is 4x Faster on This Noisy Neighbor AWS Machine

OK OK – I will show the second instance’s performance – even when there are no noisy neighbors.

Packet is 30-40% faster even with a better AWS instance
Packet is 30-40% faster even with a better AWS instance

Even with a non-noisy neighbor machine, Packet is 30-40% faster in processor benchmarks.

EDIT: A user asked me to run the benchmark using a compute-optimized EC2 instance. I decided on c4.2xlarge which has 8 threads, but half as much memory (16gb). It cost $0.419/hour ($0.019/hr more expensive than a Type1 Packet server). Here are the results (Packet wins again but less drastic of a margin)

Even using AWS Compute-optimized, Packet Type 1 outperforms it

Price:

On the above setup, Packet is $0.079/hour cheaper.

Conclusion:

There really is no way around it – the above benchmarks show the issues with virtualization. Even with those issues aside, AWS is slower and more expensive. Packet wins this one again.

Conclusion

Even giving AWS the benefit of the doubt, there is no way around it – Packet is faster and SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper.

Let’s take a very real-world example of our server set-up:

Packet:

Instance Name CPU Memory/RAM Price Price/Month
Type 1 (Server) (4 core, 8-threaded)  3.4ghz Intel Xeon E3-1240 v3 32gb $0.40/hr

$0.37/hr if reserved for 1 month*

$292.80/month
Type 0 (Load Balancer) (4 core) 2.4ghz Intel Atom C2550 8gb $0.05/hr

$0.0459/hr if reserved for 1 month*

$36.60/month
15k IOPS 1TB HDD $0.15/GB $150/month
2TB Outbound Bandwidth $.05/GB $100/month
Total $579.40/month

*Note:We assume 732 hours in a month; but if you reserve a Packet instance for a month, they will only charge you 672 hours per month. However, to make apples-to-apples comparisons, all calcs in Price/Month assume you choose hourly pricing (732 hours for 1 month) to keep things normalized.

AWS:

Instance Name CPU Memory/RAM Price Price/Month
m4.2xlarge (Server) 8 VCPU  (2.4ghz Intel Xeon E5-2676) 32gb $0.479/hr $350.63/month
t2.medium (Load Balancer) 2 VCPU  (Xeon processors burstable to 3.3ghz) 4gb $0.052/hr $38.07/month
15k IOPS 1TB HDD $0.125/GB + $0.065/provisioned IO $1,100/month
2TB Outbound Bandwidth $.09/GB $184.23/month
Total $1,838.84/month

 

Packet is literally less than 1/3rd the price and is more performant than AWS.

It’s allowed us to deploy resources we didn’t think would be affordable before.

Thank you to everyone @ Packet for making this product possible.

Further Steps:

If anybody wants to continue this study, I would love to hear your results. AWS does allow you dedicated machines for extra $, but we didn’t bother testing them since Packet is already cheaper than their virtual machines.

Appendix:

Methodology:

Networking:

Setting up AWS:

We want to make sure we give AWS the best chance. First, we have to make sure enhanced networking is enabled. Running the command:

modinfo ixgbevf

Will give us the output, and look for “version”. In our instance we have version 2.11.3-k. Amazon recommends we upgrade. For the ubuntu users out there, follow this gist and run the commands:

ixgbevf 2.16.1 upgrade for AWS EC2 SR-IOV “Enhanced Networking” on Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty) LTS

After rebooting run:

modinfo ixgbevf

Again to make sure the version now reads: 2.16.1

Let’s also check via command line to make sure enhanced networking is supported (Ubuntu 14.04):

sudo apt-get install python-pip
sudo python pip --upgrade pip
sudo pip install awscli
#Note: Create an IAM user and attach the policy: AmazonEC2ReadOnlyAccess
#Use the security credentials in the configure policy
aws configure
#after configuring run (replacing instance_id with your instance_id):
aws ec2 describe-instance-attribute --instance-id instance_id --attribute sriovNetSupport

If you get the output, you’re good:

"SriovNetSupport": 
{ 
"Value": "simple" 
},

Next, we used iperf3 to run the diagnostic scripts and scrapy bench. iperf3 is a common network benchmarking tool and scrapy is the framework that powers Tiingo’s scraper farm. We figured Scrapy would be another real-time test to see how things flow.

the iperf3 command was:

iperf3 -B internal_ip_of_current_machine -c internal_ip_of_iperf_server -i 1 -t 3600 -V -p 80 -P 10 --logfile test.txt

Meaning we ran the tests for one hour (3600 seconds), and with 10 processors in parallel. Also note to set the -B option on Packet machines as it takes advantage of the full bonding algo and increases thoroughput.

Note: make sure to use the internal IP addresses to give the best benefit of doubt 🙂

Disk:

First install/update sysbench on your Ubuntu machine using the code:

echo "deb http://repo.percona.com/apt trusty main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/percona.list
echo "deb-src http://repo.percona.com/apt trusty main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/percona.list
apt-key adv --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --recv-keys 1C4CBDCDCD2EFD2A
apt-get update
apt-get install sysbench

Then we used the command:

sysbench --test=fileio --file-total-size=150G --file-test-mode=rndwr --max-time=720 --max-requests=0 --num-threads=8 --file-num=64 --file-io-mode=async --file-extra-flags=direct --file-fsync-freq=0 run

The file size must be greater than the RAM size for this test to properly work.

CPU:

See the above “Disk” section to set up sysbench.

We then ran the command below, replacing “num-threads” with 1, 4, and 8 respectively

sysbench --test=cpu --cpu-max-prime=20000 run --num-threads=1

 

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The Protagonists Fixing the Problem that Apps Created (Part 2)

The Protagonists Fixing the Problem that Apps Created (Part 2)

This is part 2 of the blog post: Apps Have Recreated the Problem the Web Was Trying to Fix

 

In this post we’re going to discuss the protagonists who are creating tools and frameworks to unify the “App” experience across desktop and mobile. If successful, this will mean we are getting closer to mobile and desktop cross-platform and cross-browser compatibility. Please read part 1 if you are curious as to what this problem has meant for firms and developers.

Google

All UX engineers will tell you that the mobile interface is fundamentally different than a desktop application. After all, we all know what the “three lines” mean, right?

The three-lines we came to know as the “Hamburger Menu”

It is universal code for, “There are more features that will show themselves if you click us. Do it. Click us.”

What Google is therefore doing is creating a design specification that makes a unified standard across both desktop and web applications. For a very comprehensive description of this, check out their website available here: Material Design Introduction. It’s a wonderful read of their philosophy and great information for those of you learning UX like myself.

One example of Material Design, for those of us familiar with Google’s Hangouts App, is this menu:

 

Here we can see Google is attempting to unify the experience of the “Hamburger Menu,” by creating both a mobile and desktop interface for it.

But Google isn’t the first to attempt this.

Note: The hamburger menu has it’s critics, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

Twitter (Bootstrap)

Twitter created a platform known as Bootstrap that’s become ubiquitous and set a new standard for a unified desktop/mobile experience, otherwise known as “responsive.” It set the foundation for many of the design frameworks you see today and almost all responsive web applications rely on this framework today.

It popularized the “grid layout” and always had the philosophy of “Mobile First.” It even helped set the mobile and web icons  you see today. For a full list of all the features please visit: http://getbootstrap.com/components/

If there was a museum of “web development,” I would argue Bootstrap would have its own exhibit. The impact it’s had is absolute awe-inspiring and all of the criticisms people have of it come with an implicit asterisk:

*We are not insulting bootstrap. It’s amazing. The whole reason we can critize them is because they set a new standard that got people thinking differently.

Please visit: http://getbootstrap.com/components/ as no matter what images I post, it will not due them justice.

Microsoft

Microsoft has been the platform I have been the most excited about. Close friends of mine have heard my rants on unified web experiences, so it felt like kismet when a senior product individual reached out to me asking to test out their Web App Studio.

I was impressed with the premise: they are allowing individuals to create their own apps meanwhile creating a container process to take HTML5 web apps and make them feel like native experiences. While they are not the first (as we will discuss below), they are the major web company actively supporting this process given the deprecated “Mobile Chrome Apps.”

The premise of the App studio is two fold (Fed Dual mandate anyone?…sorry)

  1. Allow users to create their own apps in a point-and-click manner
  2. Allow your HTML5 web application to feel like a native app

While this post won’t get into 1, it does help many small businesses who want an app alongside their product.

With respect to 2, I found the app submission process relatively easy, with the majority of my time spent typing out app descriptions, ratings, etc. The actual wrapping of the Tiingo took all of about 15 minutes.

Here is a screenshot of Tiingo running a native desktop application in Windows 10:

Tiingo Running in their Web App Studio Container
Tiingo Running in their Web App Studio Container

For those of you who’ve never published an App before in the Windows Store, use the videos in the middle of the page: Web App Studio. I find it difficult to sit still and watch videos, so I will be posting a graphical walk-through of how to do this.

Having been around web development and seen multiple container processes come and go, this has been the easiest experience to date. So far I have not found the same memory leaks that have plagued the fork’d Chrome projects with a similar premise in mind.

Also – a thank you to Microsoft with their Edge browser. Seriously -the company that brought you IE6, has launched a new browser that is challenging other browsers in benchmarks (include Google’s benchmarking tests) and recently they have open-sourced their javascript engine: https://github.com/Microsoft/ChakraCore. While it has a ways to go, especially with extensions and feature compatibility, initial results are more than promising – they’re exciting. And thankfully, this performant javascript engine is powering their Web App container.

Apache Cordova

The 500 lb gorilla in the room: Apache Cordova

I love what this platform is doing, but I detest that it’s had to exist because the major tech giants couldn’t get together to hammer out a standard (looking at you Apple….from my iPhone).

The goal of this platform is to take an HTML5 web application and wrap it so it can be pushed to the App Stores of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. This has benefits as this means a native feel and interaction with a phone’s hardware and interfaces such as cameras, GPS, and notifications.

The downside, and similar to the Java Virtual Machine, is that these programs run in Javascript and the performance noticeably slower since native code will always be faster than Javascript (although the gap doesn’t have to be this wide – something Java has closed decently well).

Compatibility Features with Native Applications
Compatibility Features with Native Applications

 

Conclusion

The open source and web-dev communities are doing wonderful things to address the problem of cross-platform/browser compatibility, but ultimately it is the platforms that have web stores that should be pushing forward with a solution. If Apple continues down this road, it will only be a matter of time before development becomes more inconvenient, and if market-share shifts, the iOS will become the second app we develop for instead of the first. Even more so, arguably the Safari browser is becoming more difficult to work with. As Microsoft can tell you, that’s a hard reputation to brush off.

Ultimately, projects like Apache Cordova are wonderful, but I hope go the direction of jQuery where they are no longer necessary or become components of high-level frameworks like Angular. The work jQuery did set a new standard and I hope Cordova goes the same way.

I applaud both Google and Microsoft from tackling this problem head-on with different solutions: support for Cordova, making a unified UX, and explicitly supporting Web App Containers to save developers time.

Well done –

 

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Apps Have Recreated the Problem the Web Was Trying to Fix (Part 1)

Apps Have Recreated the Problem the Web Was Trying to Fix (Part 1)

It’s no question the word “App” has become ubiquitous and for good reason. For users it’s allowed us to install entire applications within a click. Just 10 years ago, we had to run into a store like Best Buy, look for an oversized software box, and load the game or software over 4 CDs. For developers, it’s meant we can take our product and unleash into a massive pipeline where people are already on their phone constantly.

I still have font memories of replacing CD after CD 6 times to install this game
I still have font memories of replacing CD after CD 6 times to install this game

The problem is we’ve distracted ourselves from a problem the web has been working to solve: cross-platform compatibility. In fact, we’ve made it even worse.

Let me explain.

Before Tiingo and trading, I used to work at the National Institutions of Health (NIH) 10 years ago where I co-founded an open-source computational chemistry tool. We called this project CHARMMing (Chemistry at HARvard Molecular Mechanics INterface and Graphics – yes I also had to take a breath to finish the acronym).

I was a junior software engineer at the time but I remember the discussion vividly. We knew we wanted to make a pretty interface to this complex chemistry package. We wanted this UI to be both educational and friendly, but we also wanted to disrupt a commercial vendor that was charging insane rates (and now you know where the ethos of Tiingo started).

The problem was that if students were part of our audience, how could we make this chemistry package accessible when it was only usable via scripts, command lines, and on UNIX based systems? If we wanted non-technical chemists to conduct research, asking them to run scripts and switch to RedHat would be unreasonable.

So how could we make our program accessible on Windows, Macs, and Linux-based systems? We call this concept cross-platform compatibility.

For those of you new to programming, this has always been an issue. You can see it today where some Apps are only available for Androids and/or iPhones. The reason a solution to cross-platform compatibility been so coveted in the programming world, is that if solved, it would result in hours of development time saved. It would be millions of dollars saved, and keep developers from pulling their hair out. It would mean developers would not have to make one app for iOS and another for Android. There would be just one app.

This is why you see certain applications more feature rich in one operating system (or phone) over another. It’s also why you see the wide-spread use of Java – a programming language meant to solve this problem.

The obvious solution to the cross-compatibility of our chemistry software at the time, which many people supported, was indeed Java. At the time though, Java was still riddled with performance issues that really made our process difficult. But the deciding factor was we didn’t enjoy coding in Java and we were just getting into Python. So we could’ve used Java, but something inside of us hesitated. We struggled with this until a chemistry researcher in our lab proposed something different:

“What if we made a web application? I think this will be the future of software development.”

Looking back that foresight was visionary.

Keep in mind this was 2005. We had witnessed the end of the tech bubble, the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet, YouTube has just been founded, and Will Smith was still writing songs.

 

So we  developed the web app, making our interface cross-platform. But there was another problem – we had to make it cross-browser compatible. While cross-platform dealt with different operating systems, cross-browser meant the web application had to work with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and so on.

For newer web developers, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Edge all tend to render pages similarly now, but this wasn’t the case of 2005. For those of you unfamiliar, the web has always been almost the wild west of software libraries. You can see this with the modern day website.

When making a new website, you need to know at least 3 different languages. You have HTML to layout the page, CSS to further advance the layout and style the page, Javascript to write code in the browser, and [usually] a different programming language on the backend to deal with server logic.

Not only that, originally CSS and Javascript were not even standardized across browsers! So developers had to program special conditions for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. While Chrome and Firefox were far better at following this standard, eventually Internet Explorer (now Edge) caught up.

Even with all of this complexity behind the web and forming standards, it didn’t deter leaders in the web community to come together and hammer out a standard that was actually followed. It took awhile, but finally now all browsers [mostly] comply.

However…

The “App Revolution” is undoing the work the web community put in to make the internet both cross-platform and cross-browser compatible.

When Apple launched their App Store, they required a programming language known as Objective C, and then acquired a “friendlier” version known as Swift. Meanwhile, Google with the Android phone promoted Java – yep the same one mentioned above. At least Google was trying…

So while web standards were hammered out to create unified experiences, Apps started going in the exact opposite direction.

What does this mean for the developers behind your favorite websites?

Let’s say you are a developer and you make a website/webapp (like Tiingo) that is accessible from everywhere around the world, and because of the work of many experts across the web, you know your users are getting the same experience regardless of their browser or operating system when using their desktop or laptop.

But now your users are asking you to make apps for their phones and tablets. What do you do? After all they are very friendly and native ways to interact with users on the go.

Now let’s make this even worse 🙂

Some people don’t want to download your app (we’re all guilty of it), and want to google your site on their phones. Now you have to make a mobile version of your site so it looks decent on mobile phones, even if somebody isn’t using an app.

The modern day web company therefore has to do the following to be accessible on the majority of computers, phones, and tablets:

  1. Make a desktop version of the website
  2. Make a mobile version of the website
  3. Make an iPhone app
  4. Make an Android App

In order to make these apps, you have to code an entirely new front-end to communicate with iPhones, then do it again for Androids (there are some tools that help with this but they are not perfect). So now you need to know HTML, CSS, Javascript, a back-end programming language, Objective C/Swift, AND Android Java for a modern web app. This is why you see newer companies choosing either an app or a web app for their product.

But is there really a reason we have to re-create 3 mobile versions of our products? After all, shouldn’t the mobile version of the site work on all phones the same way? Given how much work was done to standardize browsers and webpage rendering?

Exactly.

This abandoning of cross-compatibility in the web has led to multiple programming teams just for mobile, which means higher costs, more overhead, and slower development. It has been a huge cost on companies and developers but luckily there are protagonists to this story.

In Part 2, we will be discussing the steps Microsoft, Google, and a few other smaller companies have been doing to unify the “App” experience.

 

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