Introducing BIRTA, a new boat built to power the next decade of Insider Inc.

BIRTA is the newest system designed to keep up with Insider Inc.'s ever-increasing demands.

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BIRTA is the newest system designed to keep up with Insider Inc.’s ever-increasing demands.
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NAN728/Shutterstock

A decade ago, our company built a small boat to power a blog covering the New York tech industry.

To support our growth, our team of engineers worked diligently, adding onto the boat, ultimately transforming it into a ship.

But, as people in our industry know, a hacked-together system works about as well as a cobbled-together ship.

Picture it for a moment: a ship that has been traveling consistently at 500 knots per hour, springing leaks, with a crew frantically working in the engine room to stay a float.

That’s what Business Insider’s web architecture felt like – until now.

As the company, now known as Insider Inc., enters its second decade, we can now cruise the high seas on an overhauled platform far better equipped to keep up with the company’s ever-increasing demands, whether it’s shipping content to partners like MSN or ensuring that ads are delivered as seamlessly as promised.

Our technology upgrade has been done in phases. Our latest launch – an important one – is Business Insider’s new presentation layer service, which provides a better experience for Business Insider readers, journalists, and clients.

The new system is called BIRTA, a Nordic word meaning “display,” and an appropriate follow-up to Viking, the name of our CMS (originally named by our pioneering tech team).

When and why did we decide to launch BIRTA? In late 2015, with fast-growing sites in the US and UK, the launch of Business Insider Deutschland, Tech Insider, and INSIDER – as well as dozens of global partners on the horizon – our engineers knew that the old boat could no longer deliver without ultimately capsizing.

We were in increasingly stormy waters. We had a disjointed release process that required multiple developers working overtime to ensure successful feature launches. We were operating a single vessel – our one codebase – that had to deliver content to tens of millions of readers internationally.

Today, however, BIRTA is ready for the high seas. A big feat for the company, as developing BIRTA was by far the most complicated project our team has undertaken.

BIRTA makes our content delivery – and product development – faster and more stable. It’s a sturdy ship that can support the amazing scale of the audience we serve, as well as the additional growth and innovation we’ll be seeing in the coming years.

While it just launched with Business Insider, BIRTA originally debuted in May 2017, with the launch of INSIDER. Both properties now operate on a highly improved platform offering the following:

  • Greater speed – We improved page load speed and reduced image sizes. We modernized how we compile assets – in the browser – and implemented a new browser-caching strategy.
  • Diagnosis and prevention – We have new standards, tests, and monitoring to ensure that anything we release has a higher chance of being bug-free. We have improved on both our JavaScript and PHP unit tests.
  • Responsiveness – We cater to multiple resolutions and we no longer have to build separate mobile and desktop templates. We revisited our core design principles for building large scale style sheets.
  • Efficiency – We reduced redundancy in code to make it easier and faster to make changes and add new features.
  • Configurability – We separated business requirements from technical requirements to make our jobs more simple. Advertising rules, shared features across multiple sites or post types, and configuring modules differently for each site is now a much more straightforward process. We now use data-first logic and we simplified our content structure.

So how’s BIRTA working so far? The proof is in the results.

Speedy content delivery has always been a top priority for the company. The following chart shows just how much faster our content delivery has become since BIRTA launched. It compares our initial speed curve results (speed and consistency) pre and post BIRTA, and shows a 4 second speed index boost (old pages vs. new).

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SpeedCurve

For us, BIRTA is more than just a new tech platform. It’s an opportunity for us to re-think how we work as a team and how we, Viking-like, can get better at dividing and conquering our workload. We have new processes and systems that make development smoother. And we’re able to deliver better products in a vastly more efficient manner.

Lastly, we’re especially proud that we’ve been able to build BIRTA with an engineering and product team that’s relatively small: fewer than 50 talented and hard-working people.

It took a team of seven engineers, 2 QA engineers, 1 project manager, and 1 product manager to rebuild our boat – all while still at sea – making sure Insider Inc. can deliver on its mission: to inform and inspire our audience, help our clients, and get better every day.

In the coming weeks, we are excited to show you the levels beneath the deck of BIRTA on our blog. Thanks for coming on board with us for the journey.