04 July 2010

want to speed up web access? block Facebook!

Back when I was researching the most efficient way to commit Facebook suicide, I came across an article about how Facebook can pursue you even in the non-Facebook afterlife. I made a note to try it out once my account was good and gone.

The account is officially dead, so I went ahead with the next step and blocked "www.facebook.com" in my router's firewall settings. These settings were originally designed for parents to keep children from porn sites and the like. It felt pretty strange blocking myself from a site that I never use anyhow, but I was curious as to why people were recommending it in the first place.

Adding the domain to my settings took under five minutes. It would have taken under two if I had known where in the router's settings I needed to do the data entry.

After the router restarted and I was back on the web, I headed over to my favourite on-line magazine web site to do some light reading. To my astonishment, the site loaded much faster than it normally does, so quickly I checked the status bar on my browser for an error message. Nope, nothing. So I scrolled down the home page to see if there had been a noticeable revamp of the layout or something else to explain the speed. Everything looks the same, except for what's shown in the screen shot below, and that was my doing:

I knew from the "www.facebook.com" test I did after the router reset that the block is very fast — the router is very quick to check and invoke the blocked URL settings (which is about what you'd expect, but it's nice to see it in action).

Traditionally pulling in information and displaying it from disparate URLs was known to slow down page loads, but this was the first time I'd ever really noticed it since switching from dial-up to DSL over ten years ago.

Out of curiosity I went to a couple of my favourite newspaper sites. Same thing, and for apparently the same reason.

Now, I'm not nearly enough of a propeller-head to do the measurements and attach some numbers to this, but what I thought would be a "set it and forget it" ethical stance against a site that had annoyed me turned out to have some immediate, positive benefits.

It was tempting to see what would happen if I blocked "www.google.com," but I didn't. Why? Mostly because, while I refuse to be anyone's fangirl, Google doesn't bug me nearly as much as Facebook does. But that's another blog post.

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