What the Web Almanac tells us about JavaScript

Now in its third year, the Almanac Web explores all aspects of web building and relies on over a hundred experts to make sense of the data collected by HTTP Archive. Here are some of his findings on the almost universal use of JavaScript and WebAssembly, conspicuously absent.

The Web Almanac is a comprehensive report on the state of the web, supported by real data collected by examining the metadata of over 8 million websites each month. It comes from HTTP Archive, a community-run project, which has followed the construction of the web since its launch by Steve Souders in 2010. Using WebPageTest, it gathers basic metrics such as the number of bytes per page. , whether the page was loaded over HTTPS and individual request and response headers. It gets the URLs from the Chrome UX report, a public dataset from Google that aggregates user experiences across millions of websites actively visited by Chrome users.

2021 sees the third edition of Web Almanac, which, as its editor-in-chief Rick Viscomi explains, aims to give a picture of the state of the web as a whole. Composed of 24 chapters, it brings together the contributions of more than a hundred people, each covering the parts of the Web ecosystem of which they are experts.

The data used for the 2021 edition of the Almanac Web comes from the July 2021 crawl which in turn used a list of websites visited by Chrome users in May 2021. In total there were 8,198,531 sites Web, of which 7,499,763 are mobile sites and 6,294,605 ​​desktop websites. most of the websites being included in the mobile and desktop subsets.

Users and purists keep complaining about the amount of JavaScript we force them to consume. Currently, that appears to be 427KB per page at the 50th percentile on mobile devices and 463KB on the desktop. Which means that 50% of the pages are bigger than that! To put this in context, that doesn’t seem like much compared to the megabytes of images and resource data that a typical page downloads.

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Despite the impression created by frequent references to React, 84% of websites still use jQuery and only 8% use React.

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You can argue that jQuery comes with everything and that no sane programmer would use it, but there are always good reasons to adopt it if you don’t need a full framework. The reason given by Web Almanac for the prevalence of jQuery is that most WordPress sites use jQuery and WordPress is used on almost a third of all websites. Another conclusion is that the most popular version of jQuery is 3.5.1, which is used by 21.3% of mobile pages. The jump to version 3.0 can be explained by a change to the WordPress core in 2020, which upgraded the default version of jQuery from 1.12.4 to 3.5.1.

With only 8% React usage, you might wonder why we all think this is the obvious way to build a modern webpage? The same could be said of WebAssembly. You can see amazing demos of how a game or an entire app currently runs in the browser, but in the real world it really doesn’t have much of an impact. It is only detected on 0.06% and 0.04% of all domains on desktop and mobile correspondingly. It might still be early days, but it seems like it takes years to get a mature system and easy-to-use environments. Even then, there’s still a possibility that for general web use, it just might be too exotic and solve a problem that we don’t really have.

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More information

Web Almanac 2021

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