Douglas Bowman, pretty much the design and development leader in creating beautiful Web standards-based sites, wrote an interesting little piece called Throwing Tables Out the Window, with an obvious reference to the application made famous by Microsoft.
Bowman writes that if Microsoft would take out the fat, overloaded, non-semantic and inaccessible tables burdening its site, the company could reduce its file loads by 62%. What this means in “real” terms is that the company, getting 38.7 million page views per day, would save at least 329 terabytes per year.
How much data tranfer is this? Well, a terabyte is 2 to the 40th power which is about a thousand gigabytes, which is technically 2 to the 30th power or about 1 billion bytes. I recently purchased a harddrive with 80 GB on it. This means that a terabyte is about 12.5 of these hard drives, full. 329 terabytes is about 4112 of 80 GB harddrives — a large amount of data indeed. But what is the true cost of this data bloat?
For Microsoft, it’s very little. Their huge servers chug along quickly and quiety, regardless. The cost is to Web users more generally, who need to put up with downloading junky, wasteful code that reminds me a little of the operating system software the same company happily sells. (Truth: I’m actually not a Microsoft-hater. I use Word, Entourage, and other Microsoft apps as needed. But every time I visit a client who has Windows installed, the viruses, trojan horses, spy-ware garbage and crashes are the first things I undoubetedly see.)

One thought on “Tables”

  1. Thanks fr the article – that was fairly interesting, and I had no idea that MS’ site would be so clogged with archaic markup – though, if one thinks about the abomination that MS Word -> MS-HTML markup is, it’s not hard to figure out.
    ‘Spacer.gif’s? C’mon – that’s what the width and height tags are for – just drop in a non-breaking space ‘ ‘ and you’re set. I tend to kill those first if I’m out on a job someplace.
    And lastly, kudos to you Andrew – I never looked at your source-code before, but it looks as though you’ve got it all down. The only table here on Deckchairs is that little calendar you’ve got on the sidebar. I guess that’s why you get the big money…

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