On Thursday, Web site-monitoring firm WatchMouse released the results of a study about the performance of 104 social-media sites--social networks, blogging communities, bookmarking sites, and the like--and boldly deemed them to be overall "slow and inaccessible."
WatchMouse used its "Site Performance Index" (SPI) methodology to track the reliability and load time of the sites in question; this figure is computed by calculating the time needed to call up a site's home page and applying a penalty for each failed request. Lower is better: an SPI of 500 is considered good, whereas the Utrecht, Netherlands-based WatchMouse considers over 1,500 to be indicative of "a seriously negative user experience."
According to the study, social networks in general are not particularly reliable: 51 of the 104 sites surveyed came up with SPIs of 1,500 or more, and only six small social networks were awarded with SPIs under 500 (Faceparty, Tagged, ASmallWorld, Flirtomatic, Rummble, and StudiVZ). At the top of WatchMouse's blacklist was Facebook, which it assigned a whopping 6,629 SPI. That was the worst ranking out of any of the sites surveyed--even microblogging service Twitter, whose frequent downtime has become a punchline of sorts. (WatchMouse assigned an SPI of 1,467 to Twitter.)
Facebook has not yet issued a response to the study.
Many of the other poorly-performing social media sites aren't exactly household names, like Searchles (SPI 5,856) and RateItAll (SPI 3,370). Music-based social networks tended to come in with disconcerting indexes, perhaps because of the amount of streaming media hosted on many of them--Last.fm, acquired by CBS Interactive last year, had an SPI of 1,837; the fast-growing Buzznet was assigned an 1,868; and Mog had an index of 1,911.
But according to WatchMouse, many of the highest-profile social networks didn't perform all that badly. MySpace, which had a famous outage in the summer of 2006 when a heat wave crashed its servers, clocked in a rather respectable index of 923. Business network LinkedIn came in with a 1,006. The youth-oriented Bebo achieved a score of 912. And Google's Orkut, third-string in the U.S. but dominant in countries like Brazil and India, had an enviable index of 564.
WatchMouse is only one company, however, and every study's methodology has limitations--just look at the controversy over traffic monitoring statistics. The SPI is based on home page load time and reliability rather than individual pages on a social network--it's monitoring, for example, Myspace.com rather than Myspace.com/whinyemoband. Other performance monitoring firms would likely show different results on a similar study. We've contacted a few for comment.