(Note: people, this is just my opinion, possibly overexcited and incorrect. Discuss cordially with me if you think I’m wrong 😊. I’m on Twitter @SpeedTestDemon. And by the way, I’m not affiliated with Mighty App whatsoever. I don’t know anybody who works there).
There was this big commotion on Twitter and the news media that Mighty App was just a glorified Desktop-in-the-cloud, and “why would anyone in the world pay for $30/month for this”. And noticeably Paul Graham on twitter tweeting many supporting tweets, including a “There’s a good chance it’s the new default infrastructure“
For those who don’t know Mighty App, it’s a service where a datacenter runs Chrome (Chromium?), and is streamed to the user’s computer. Advertised benefits are: multi-day battery life, better browser experience.
While I personally was not 100% skeptic, I wasn’t 100% convinced either.
But then I had this epiphany while testing CDN speeds. I finally realized what could make Mighty App work.
It’s like getting a VIP pass in Disneyland with short lines. It’s like a toll road with almost no traffic. It’s like TSA pre-check line with few people.
What am I talking about?
It seems the main focus of all the Mighty App skeptics is they think Mighty is simply a faster computer hosted in the datacenter. You know: a faster CPU, more RAM, faster disk (NVMe?). And, the skeptics say, why would you pay $30/month for a faster computer when you could just shell out $1000 for a computer that lasts a few years?
The thing is, Mighty App’s performance gains are NOT just about “a faster computer”. If it were really just about “faster hardware”, I’d agree with the skeptics.
However……while those things are nice, and certainly help, what everybody is missing is the internet speed in a datacenter is blazingly faster than anything you could ever hope to buy at home.
The thing is that you simply cannot buy a “faster internet”. The fastest internet you could possibly buy, apparently, is Google Fiber. They advertise “max speed of 2000 Mbps”, but according to “highspeedinternet.com”, they only have slightly higher average download speed of 160.5 Mbps, and average upload speed of 173.6 Mbps. Seems fast, right? And it’s fiber optic too!
Except if you run an internet speed test on a DigitalOcean VM, which I did while speed testing CDNs, it’s a whopping 1740 Mbps! Upload speed was 1420 Mbps.
What the hell! 1740 Mbps? You simply cannot buy that kind of internet unless you’re Tony Stark on a buying binge with no regard for cost. It is simply not commercially available.
Do you guys realize how crazy that 1740 Mbps number is? It’s 10x faster than the Google Fiber number of 160 Mbps. 10x faster.
Wait a second. Does this mean files will download 10x faster? Really? Let me check.
I test downloading a file from CloudFront…and the DigitalOcean VM downloaded the file in just 22 milliseconds. Seriously! While my home computer downloaded it usually around 300 milliseconds.
That’s right. 300 milliseconds vs 22 milliseconds. More than 10x speedup. Holy cow.
And you can easily reproduce the results yourself. Here’s a CloudFront URL you can use from your home computer vs DigitalOcean VM: https://d20zaq59cm4c4j.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/cf.png and here’s a tutorial on curl performance testing.
When I saw that 10x speedup show up in the terminal, was the moment I had the epiphany that Mighty App is really on to something.
How did DigitalOcean do that? Turns out it’s not just fiber optic cables. Cloud providers like DigitalOcean can have something called “peering”, which is much faster than usual internet connections. As a very simplified summary: “peering” is like running a cable between your computer and the server, while normal internet connections rely on many intermediate routers. In other words, it’s like getting in the special VIP line at Disneyland. They have a special line so that the data travels faster.
Do you think you can buy that at home? How are you going to get peering connections with the popular CDNs or services like Netflix? It is not simple to replicate that internet access.
So, that’s what I mean when I say the Mighty App is like a VIP pass to the internet. They literally have special access to the most popular CDNs and data centers.
And that’s just the beginning. There’s so many mind-boggling performance hacks that Mighty App can do.
- Cache common internet pages so every user’s browser simply reads from disk instead of downloading from internet?
- Buy ASICs (custom hardware) for TLS encryption. This is probably a 10% speedup by itself, and is extremely expensive hardware.
- Heck, design a custom ASIC for JS? LOL.
But SpeedTestDemon, you still have to account for the time it takes to stream a frame over! Answer: the good news is no matter how large the web app is, you’re only streaming that frame, while the web app is speedily downloaded (or cached!).
But SpeedTestDemon, 1 Gbps is going to be more and more available! Answer: I already talked about this. Even if you had Google Fiber, which advertised 2 Gbps max speed, you still only had average download 160 Mbps. Even if everybody in the world got Google Fiber, chances are pretty good you’re never going to get the “peering” agreements that data centers have, unless you’re Tony Stark and decide to buy your own data center.
But SpeedTestDemon, mightyapp.com tech specs advertise only “over 1 Gbps”, not 1740 Mbps! Answer: that may be true for now. My bet is if DigitalOcean could make it work, then so can Mighty.
But SpeedTestDemon, I want to say something you didn’t point out here! Fine, drop me an angry comment on this twitter thread I wrote for this article. I promise to at least read it 😊.