Apple Store web site performance in Mac OS X: A combination of JavaScript and high latency

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 23rd, 2008 • 6:50 pm

This post is the conclusion of my investigation of the responsiveness issues I have been experiencing while browsing the Apple Store web site in Mac OS X. It comes after this post and this post, and combines the feedback I have received from various people and the further testing I have been doing.

Here are the facts.

If I try to browse the Apple Store web site in Safari over my high-latency satellite Internet hook-up, I get major responsiveness issues where the whole Safari application becomes unresponsive (with the Spinning Beach Ball of Death) for extended periods while the pages are loading.

Turning off JavaScript in Safari’s preferences eliminates the responsiveness problem. The pages are still slow to load, but at least Safari remains responsive at all times and I can browse/read other sites in other windows or tabs.

But the problem is not limited to Safari. I experience the same lack of responsiveness with the Spinning Beach Ball of Death when I try to browse the Apple Store web site with Firefox or with the latest WebKit build, even though it’s supposed to include the revamped SquirrelFish JavaScript interpreter.

Ironically, if I fire up Parallels and try to load the Apple Store site in Internet Explorer 7 under Windows XP, the responsiveness problems only affect the Explorer window containing the Apple Store web site. I can continue to browse other sites in other Explorer windows without problems, which is exactly what I’d like to be able to do and am unable to do on the Mac side.

In other words, with my high-latency Internet connection, the experience of shopping at the Apple Store on my Mac is actually more pleasant (or rather, less unpleasant) in Internet Explorer under Windows XP under Parallels than in any Mac OS X-native browser.

Now, I strongly suspect that the high latency of my Internet connection has a lot to do with the problem. It looks like the JavaScript code in the Apple Store’s web pages requires immediate responses from Apple’s servers, and if it does not get them, it causes the browser to become completely unresponsive.

But that’s about all that I can establish with my limited personal experience. It would be interesting to know if other Mac users with a satellite hook-up are experiencing the same problem, but obviously there aren’t too many of those around to begin with, otherwise Apple would have done something about this a long time ago.

As a long-time Mac user, I am of course used to being in the minority. But I still find it somewhat ironic that the web site that causes the worst responsiveness issues for me in Mac OS X browsers is Apple’s own web store. Like I said before, if I weren’t a faithful customer, this problem could easily put me off and prevent me from returning to the store. But I am pretty much a “captive” customer for Apple here, and other Mac users with high-latency connections are probably in the same situation, so it’s highly unlikely that Apple will ever pay any attention to this particular issue.

Supposedly, some time before the end of 2009, every Nova Scotian is supposed to have some kind of access to a broadband Internet service, either cable or local wireless. When this finally happens, I can ditch my satellite hook-up and enjoy some semblance of Internet access normalcy. But until then, I guess I will continue to use the on-line Apple Store with pincers. (I should probably use Fluid to create a stand-alone browser just for that site. This will help isolate the responsiveness issues.)

7 Responses to “Apple Store web site performance in Mac OS X: A combination of JavaScript and high latency”

  1. helge says:

    The reason why IE on Windows doesn’t hang completely is that IE launches a new copy of itself for every window. Therefore, if one window hangs or even crashes, the other windows are unaffected.

  2. corbin says:

    Ah, your in Nova Scotia, eh? Did you see me unicycling by at anytime? I was one of the first three people in the pack. What a great country!


  3. corbin says:

    Oh, and a small bug report. After submitting the comment I was taken to:

    which gave me a 404. Some bad URL rewriting… the # was escaped.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    I heard about the unicyclists going by, but I didn’t actually get to see them :). I am not on the main road…

    As for the “bug,” not sure how this happened, but it is most certainly a WordPress bug beyond my control. If you can reproduce it reliably, you might want to submit a bug report to the WP guys. It certainly does not happen when I submit comments.

  5. corbin says:

    It could be wordpress, or it might be something else (such as the Safari version I was using). I haven’t seen it happening in other versions of wordpress (like the ones on my blog), but I’ll double check.

    Let’s see if this comment works….

  6. corbin says:

    …why yes it did (on another machine). It is related to the version of safari i use on this machine.

  7. Recent Links Tagged With "squirrelfish" - JabberTags says:

    […] public links >> squirrelfish links for 2008-07-24 Saved by mixedman on Mon 15-12-2008 Apple Store web site performance in Mac OS X: A combination of JavaScript and high latency Saved by Narutolover556200 on Tue 02-12-2008 SquirrelFish = faster mobile web browsing… Saved […]

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