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The Reality of Real-Time Web Services


To all our users, thank you for your quick feedback about our new idle mode. I wanted to take a brief moment to discuss a little bit about why we created this feature, a workaround for those that don’t want it, and what our commitment is to you and all our users.

The real-time Web is a balancing act. Everyone remembers Twitter’s early days with frequent service interruptions. Speed often comes at an expense, obviously, in server costs, but also in terms of reliability. In the not too distant past, traditional websites only had to serve one page per pageview. Today, real-time Web services and live updates can mean continually serving hundreds or thousands of updates for each pageview.

Our challenge:What makes Netvibes so great is that we ping all your feeds and services for updates minute by minute, so you can see a live river of content. We aggregate multiple real-time Web services, from Twitter to Facebook, and more than 1,000,000 different newsfeeds – all constantly updated automatically for our users. This represents about 10,000,000 new items to collect, every day.

Our solution: idle mode. We wanted to create a solution that would be transparent (so our users are aware) and invisible (so as not to cause annoyance). In our first iteration last week, idle mode would kick in after 20 min of inactivity and required users to click to reconnect. Thanks to your feedback, we quickly realized that this was interrupting the user experience – we heard ya!

Our dev team immediately worked around the clock to make it more unobtrusive. Now users can restore their session simply by moving their mouse. Moreover, we continue to count and update your feeds in the background–you can still see the number of new articles climb, even when in idle mode.

This is a critical issue of fairness for all users. Without idle mode, our inactive or “away” users would inadvertently slow down the network for active users. We feel this is the best and fairest solution for maintaining speed and reliability all our users.

Why did Netvibes implement idle mode?

  1. Speed. Less load means greater speed and reliability for users that are active. By implementing idle mode for users that are inactive for 20 min or more, we can save nearly 2/3 of our server load – which means more resources are liberated for our active users.
  2. Sustainability. Less load means fewer watts being burned by our servers.
  3. Economics. We are committed to keeping Netvibes.com free and ad free. We do this in by generating revenue from our business Dashboard Intelligence products. And we do this by being efficient with our bandwidth and distributing it fairly to active users who need it most.

Workaround?
We realize that there is an elite population of Netvibes users who need idle mode turned off. This includes professionals and organizations who want to monitor feeds all day on dedicated second monitors. These types of users would benefit from the Netvibes VIP service. Netvibes VIP members can disable idle mode and they also benefit from personalized project support and guaranteed service agreements – for only €29,90/year, which is just $0.10/day.

Let’s be perfectly clear: This is by no means an attempt to brick our service and force users to become Netvibes VIPs (especially at 10 cents a day!). This is an issue of fairness, speed, sustainability and economics to continue to provide our free users with an ad free service and to empower professional users who want customized support to get what they need. By so doing, we hope to meet the needs of all our different types of users.

Again, thank you for all your patience, understanding and honest feedback.

Freddy Mini
CEO Netvibes

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14 Responses to “The Reality of Real-Time Web Services”

  1. #1 | Wes | May 19th, 2011 at 17:37

    Thank you for quickly fixing the problem.  I understand your need to scale back the demand on your servers, and I think this new way is the best way.  

  2. #3 | Dave | May 19th, 2011 at 20:24

    So your solution is for us to pay you to remove an unwanted feature that nobody asked for? Well played, sir (if anybody actually coughs up for this).

    • #4 | Freddy Mini | May 19th, 2011 at 21:04

      have you read the post above?  

      • #5 | Dave | May 19th, 2011 at 23:49

         Every word. It will now cost me €29,90/year if I don’t want a feature that didn’t exist a week ago.

    • #7 | Mary | May 20th, 2011 at 15:39

      They listened to their users and came back with very acceptable solutions. Job well done. Congrats Netvibes. Deal with it or go complain on some other product blog.

  3. #8 | Cal | May 20th, 2011 at 14:03

    As long as Netvibes counts all the new entries, I’m totally okay with the idle mode.

    I have another issue, and there has been no answer to it. Feeds with URLs that start with a minus are still unavailable. Why is that?

  4. #10 | Mike McMllan | May 20th, 2011 at 15:26

    Thanks a lot. Pretty obvious you have to manage your costs to keep this super useful tool. Notion of freemium is not new and works very fine. 
    Keep up the very good work.

  5. #11 | Hampus | May 21st, 2011 at 15:07

     OK, good, idle mode is less of an annoyance…
    Will we ever get a fix for all the other stupid modifications made to the reader view with that update?

  6. #12 | Dale Cooper | May 23rd, 2011 at 11:59

    in my opinion netvibes has done everything right to suit the majority of users. ppl, please accept the thing that you produced traffic even if you haven’t been watching the site. this was a waste of bandwith and energy. idle mode is a good thing.

    what i still do not like ist that “prevoius” and “next” are now on the bottom of each article, so much harder to navigate through the articles

  7. #13 | KNTRO | May 24th, 2011 at 14:01

    I think Idle Mode is OK. It’d be better if I could choose the time to start the Idle Mode. For example, 10 mins, 15 mins, 20 mins, etc.

    Sometimes I’m over the phone or takin’ coffee while listening to web radios, so I would like to set Netvibes to 10 mins or 15 mins for goin’ Idle Mode. It’d be really helpful to me.

    Thank you.

  8. #14 | Peweiss | May 25th, 2011 at 22:56

    Hi,
    I complained about idle mode from the beginning – but it is fine with me the way it works now.
    Although I understand that ppl with a special need for permanent updated might turn away and look for alternatives.
    I´ll stick around for now …
    Regards – Peter