August 2011 Developments

Discussion in 'Forum Announcements' started by Mike, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    It is unusual that we announce feature removals, however, several changes have been made to improve site speed and performance. Unnecessary scripts and features have been removed to boost site speed.

    Translator software has been disabled in favor of browser (local level) translations performed by the end-user. The translator increased the size of the database significantly, created dramatic resource usage, and was only used 400 times in 2 years when someone made a post. FLUs (Foreign Language Users) translate English .com's into their home language all the time using 3rd party plugins and browsers like Chrome. After being analyzed over and over, these features were removed because they either were not being used, were slowing down the site, or both:

    Addthis.com JavaScript removed, as it was going unused (was called at the bottom of every page).

    Apture JavaScript removed, as it was going unused (was called at the bottom of every page).

    In-line text-based advertising has been removed permanently for a number of reasons, including the slow script call.

    My Threads/My Posts/Unanswered Threads were creating enough slowdown to warrant removal from the forum hooks system.

    The site now loads only 3 external (foreign) scripts on every page:

    Google AdSense
    Google Analytics*
    Facebook Graph API
    *This does not include the essentials such as jQuery or YUI

    The Google Analytics code called from VBSEO has been updated to support page speed reporting and tracking so that we can better understand page load times per region and area.

    Here are some early results. Whereas the site was taking 6-8 seconds to load (via T1 speed DSL) with all features turned on, it is now estimated that this has been cut in half to around 2-4 seconds. On cable Internet (10Mbps and higher), the site is loading anywhere from 0.2-2 seconds. This has been confirmed by Google Sitemaps here:

    google1.PNG
    This information is directly from Google Sitemaps. 1,000 milliseconds is of course 1 second. This data is important because it means that Googlebot is reflecting noticeable changes in page load time.

    The implementation of CSS sprites and the push of those files to the CDN network has significantly reduced load time. CSS sprites are the combination of multiple images into one larger file. This file is then sent across our continent delivery network which extends throughout the United States and Europe. The CDN is currently preparing a Hong Kong node for general use. Some estimates of the impact of these changes can be seen here:

    pagespeed_graph.

    loadtime_graph.

    Further changes have been made that are of significant importance because they enhance the useability of the web server's I/O memory cache feature, MySQL memory utilization, and other proprietary cache functionality which is currently being used to bolster page loading. This includes our template cache and forum optimization software as well as the opcache system we have switched to - XCache. Ultimately, these changes, while under-the-hood, will result in faster access to the website well into the future.

    Few new feature additions are planned until the release of vBulletin 4.1.7. As we are currently running a final version of vBulletin 4.1.5, the next release of vBulletin will focus entirely on mobile suite functionality, including a possible update to our Android mobile application. vBulletin 4.1.7 will include numerous bug fixes, and it is unlikely that there will be any significant feature enhancements until vBulletin 4.1.8+ and later.

    With that being said, forum members and visitors can instead look forward to additional content, videos, tutorials, changes to the organization of information on the website, and additional information that is the culmination of years of member contributions.

    From July 21st to July 31st, the website took a complete nose-dive in traffic, presumably due to site slowdown problems. Upon making these changes (particularly the removal of non-essential JavaScript and the language translator), the site saw an immediate jump back up to prior levels of around 50,000 to 60,000 unique visitors per day vs. approx. 20,000 at the lowest.

    Therefore, the current top priority of site development is to accommodate as much traffic as possible by providing the fastest possible load times around the world. The number of changes that have been made to improve page loading while maintaining specific site-wide graphics have been numerous and unprecedented for most forum websites. The site does make heavy use of graphics on the front page, and recent changes should allow the continued use of custom graphics for each forum, while also reducing the number of MySQL queries and HTTP requests overall. Again, new features will only be added which do not significantly increase page load time whatsoever.

    Members who are continuing to track our development progress can still look forward to:
    • New versions of vBulletin
    • Improved versions of VBSEO
    • New versions of pre-existing features that are already on the site
    • Perhaps most importantly... new content.
    New features will not be implemented on the site if they undercut page load times whatsoever. With that being said, existing and new members can enjoy some of the most robust features found on any modern forum website, while still being able to load a page in a reasonable amount of time. 3rd party scripts often times take far too long to load and we have reached a point where the forum code itself must be refined further before we are willing to take on any additional programming for "gloss" purposes. The site is currently operating at peak efficiency and it will be the goal over the next several months, from the administrative/development standpoint here, to make sure that this stays the case.

    With the constant burden of trying to add new features removed, further development of content can take place both here and on Windows8Forums.com. The CSS Sprites code is still in early development, but is seen as a major milestone as far as improving page load times and resource consumption for forums. Today we are more concerned about site accessibility since the website is already built on a rich feature set. That feature set can be augmented at times for user features, but not if those features actually start inhibiting or slowing down site access. I believe we have struck a balance between the two at this time.

    This will be an important issue to discuss at the meeting next week, and yes, there was some data-loss associated with these changes, which we will have to take as an acceptable loss. I believe that the site's general welfare was at extreme risk with the load time numbers I had started to see. We must remember that many people trying to access the site are still on the far corners of the earth, have poor connections, and in some cases are still on dial-up. Hopefully we can reach those people as well with the latest changes. The use of CSS-based images allows for asynchronous page loading and the removal of unnecessary scripts shows a noticeable improvement on nearly every test that has been run thus far.

    There will be areas to improve page load time and site speed even further by September 2011.
     
    #1 Mike, Aug 2, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2011
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  2. zigzag3143

    zigzag3143 Honorable Member
    Microsoft MVP

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    Substantially faster.


    This thread page

    Mouse click to first byte 0.446 Secs

    Mouse click to page completion 3.2 secs.

    Both down from over eight.
     
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  3. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    [TABLE="class: tborder, width: 100%, align: center"]
    [TR]
    [TD="class: alt2, bgcolor: #EFEFEF"]Web Server 4.1.3[/TD]
    [TD="class: alt2, bgcolor: #EFEFEF"]8-02-2011[/TD]
    [TD="class: alt2, bgcolor: #EFEFEF"]Minor bug fixes[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD="class: alt1, bgcolor: #DFDFDF, colspan: 3"]
    • Improved IPv6 support when loading Apache httpd.conf.
    • Improved bad request detection to avoid accidentally blocking IP while accessing non-configured HTTPS web site.
    • Fixed a bug that causes problem when uploading a large file.
    • Fixed a bug that causes file descriptor leak when page cache is in use.
    • Fixed a bug in SSI engine.
    • Fixed a bug in tracking HTTPS connections in-use.
    • Fixed bugs in real-time statistics.
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [/TABLE]
     
  4. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    After receiving an e-mail about possible brute force hacking attempts of an account, the Spam-O-Matic script with Akismet and StopForumSpam database protection was re-added to the website. This will require additional checking of moderated threads, since notices for threads and posts in the moderation queue are turned off (ModCP checks)
     
  5. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    The technological implementation problems that would have prevented Windows8Forums.com from making use of Sphinx search have been overcome with some additional programming. Windows8Forums.com now benefits from the Sphinx Search Engine.

    As shown below, the new search engine is capable of performing 3.7 million reads in 2.6 seconds and can process 8,215.96 documents in one second. It takes a major load off server resources and allows for more in-depth search.

    total 3,749,505 reads, 2.683 sec, 0.0 kb/call avg, 0.0 msec/call avg
    total 1,454 writes, 0.421 sec, 229.0 kb/call avg, 0.2 msec/call avg
    total 0.007 sec, 14606 bytes/sec, 8215.96 docs/sec

    (This change was accomplished by adding table prefixes to every forum table on both sites. If you notice any kind of database error, please report them to me immediately)
     
    #5 Mike, Aug 11, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2011
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  6. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    The forums are now using custom 404 pages instead of redirecting to the homepage on missing content. This will also take place if a thread cannot be found. The new 404 error page is designed to promote using advanced site search or Google search to help find whatever content could not be found, instead of simply throwing members back to the homepage. This is the beginning of an effort to improve system messages from the website overall. The custom 404 pages also instruct the search engines that the page being requested is not found, and that it should remove it from the index, as opposed to simply throwing a redirect error code.
     
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