Why “Bringing data closer to your users” is a waste



Yes I made FireScroll, which is a DB designed for the edge. Through the development, as well as building startups that have scaled to thousands of users in every continent (except the obvious ones), I’ve developed a unique perspective on the topic.

Startups Rarely need it

Because even a shitty product that solves a dire problem will be used regardless of how slow and broken it may be.
Michael Seibel has a great analogy from one of the YC videos about solving “hair on fire” problems. The analogy is roughly this:
If your target customer’s hair is on fire, and you’re selling a brick, they are going to buy that brick from you and start smashing it against their head to smother the flames, because there is nothing else that’s better.
The takeaway? Customers aren’t using your product because the dashboard loads faster, it’s because it solves something better than anything else currently does.
The example above shows how imperfect a solution can be, if it’s just better than others.
This analogy applies the same if you are building something that already exists, but cheaper. Lots of customers will deal with crappier products just to be able to get access to functionality that they’d otherwise be priced out of.
What you may need is say:
  1. A region in us-east
  1. A region in eu-west
  1. A region in apac
That covers extremely high availability, high scale, and low latency an enormous customer base

Where might Startups need it?

There are certainly cases where it’s needed:
  1. When speed is one of your features/selling points (ex: CDN, Edge Config database, content streaming)
  1. When availability must be 100% above all else (reads only)
  1. When a single logical site can’t handle your scale (Apple I guess?)
Other than this, there is no reason that a 3-region setup can’t handle anything you throw at it.

It’s a marketing trap

Just like “serverless” (even amazon knows serverless is not always better: https://www.primevideotech.com/video-streaming/scaling-up-the-prime-video-audio-video-monitoring-service-and-reducing-costs-by-90), the “edge” is a massive marketing play.
Think about how many times over something needs to be stored to be able to server it in 10 regions, much less 200+. Modern CDNs can easily cache things for customers, and you can use a push-cache as needed.