Based on the highly accurate instruments I keep in the seat of my pants, I would say that, in general, the Internet is getting faster every year. Pages don't take 10 or 20 seconds to load anymore, and, on the whole, I see less spinning globes and more delightful content. Things are getting better.
Which it pains me, a professional Internet baby, to admit.
But then why, oh why are there still loading screens on the Internet? These spinning widgets and loading bars are an anachronism, a bizarre holdover from a more primitive age. Amusingly, they show up most often on those Flash and multimedia-heavy sites of people and companies that are advertising their creative or design services. Like illustrating that you have no idea what people look for on websites is an advertisement of your design savvy.
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"I'll tell the users what they want, and they'll be thankful for it."
More high-profile are all those travel websites. These make heavy use of loading screens, and, sure, there might be technical reasons for that. These sites do supposedly have to poll external databases to get the hottest, tautest deals to you. I remain a little skeptical about that -- there are backend techniques to minimize that -- and many of these loading pages feel unnecessarily drawn out, with their "Hang On, We're Searching For The Perfect Vacation For You" messages, like they're using the loading screen less as a technical necessity and more as an excuse for branding.
I have no idea what this means.