Facebooks says its Facebook iOS app update makes the notoriously slow iPhone version of the social network "twice as fast as the previous version when launching the app, scrolling through News Feed and opening photos in feed," per an announcement on their website. But is it fast enough?
The app is certainly faster, with The New York Times' Nick Bilton confirming that "these new versions much faster" and AllThingsD's Mike Issac making a similar claim calling the change "drastic," as did Robert Scoble who after testing it called it "buttery smooth." But, as others have pointed out, twice as fast for an app that was so painfully slow isn't enough of an improvement. "Twice as fast as something that is four times slower than it should be means that it still needs to double," tweeted Trevor Gilbert.
We decided to do a little comparison testing on our own using the old version of the Facebook app and the supposedly faster new one. Overall the new one feels faster, but, we wanted to know by how much. On the same Atlantic WiFi network, the Facebook update worked faster in every way the social network said it would. The start-up time on the old app took 14 seconds to load up, the new one took 6. Opening a photo took 4 seconds on the one without an update, 2 on the one with it. News Feed scrolling was smoother in a different way. The new app lets users scroll down through more posts, then took 4 seconds to load new ones. It took 3 seconds for the out of date app to reload the feed, but after fewer updates. At least from our limited sample size, the app does go two times faster than it used to. Though, we're not the only ones with that experience. Platform developer Steve Strezza called it "choppy and slow to load simple pages" on Twitter. And, like we said, the improvement, for some, isn't enough.
We shouldn't count on Facebook to get to making it even faster any time soon, though, as the social network took a very long time to address this issue in the first place. It even admits it has put performance at a low priority. "Up until now, we’ve focused on getting to scale," Facebook iOS developer told Issac. To reach so many people, Facebook used HTML5 to make it easier, which as The Times' Bilton explained earlier this summer, is what made the app so slow. "Applications that are predominantly HTML5 render most of the components of an app as a Web page, pulling images and content from the Web directly into the application," he wrote, which is "like putting the engine of a Smart Car in the body of a Ferrari." The new app scrapped all the HTML5 and now uses the Objective C programming language, which, to stick with our similes is like putting a Ferrari into the body of a Ferrari.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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