Justin Duke

App sizes are under control, they just aren't under scrutiny

I wrote at the first of last month about bloat in apps, in response to a thoughtful piece by Ben Sandofsky about how he minimized bloat in Halide.

I had some misgivings with the post and the ideas it espoused — namely, that “bloat is bad” is a reductionist truism — but still admired the approach Sandofsky took and the clear tradeoffs and sacrifices he discussed.

This post by Trevor Elkins making the rounds today has the same message, though it lacks the nuance and pragmatism:

As app developers, we should be more conscious of the space we use. Take some time to remove the cruft that builds up and push back against needless waste.

So really, how does an app that occasionally sends me a connection request and recruiter spam take up 275MB? Maybe I’ll do an analysis at some point, but for now it’s deleted.

Trevor works for Kayak, whose iOS app weighs in at 176 MB.

Perhaps Trevor is actively working on reducing the size of the app bundle, in which case he knows how difficult it is to make decisions like do we spend two weeks reimplementing this framework or just eat the 5MB it adds to our final app size?

Or perhaps he isn’t, but he’s talked with fellow Kayak engineers who have determined that the bloat is worth the cost — maybe they’ve got a lot of high-resolution assets, or have decided that the development velocity a framework-heavy approach enables is worth the drop-off in installs.

Or perhaps he didn’t even know Kayak’s app size is so large in the first place, because it’s a factor that doesn’t impact the majority of users after the initial download. 1

Either way, it’s kinda shitty to insiniuate that an app is bloated due to incompetence; it’s kinda shitty to insiniuate that an app is bloated due to indifference.

Everything is a trade-off. Some companies don’t think it’s worth it to slim down their bundle sizes; some companies do. It’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

(For what it’s worth, I think the Kayak iOS app is great.)


  1. Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t impact users — it’s to say that the surface area of the impact is pretty small. [return]
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