Myself and Stuart had a chat with Brian about browser engine diversity.
Here’s the audio file if you’d like to huffduff it.
You see, diversity of rendering engines isn’t actually in itself the point. What’s really important is diversity of influence: who has the ability to make decisions which shape the web in particular ways, and do they make those decisions for good reasons or not so good?
Like Brad, I switched to Firefox for web browsing and Duck Duck Go for searching quite a while back. I highly recommend it.
Dan responds to an extremely worrying sentiment from Alex:
The sentiment about “engine diversity” points to a growing mindset among (primarily) Google employees that are involved with the Chromium project that puts an emphasis on getting new features into Chromium as a much higher priority than working with other implementations.
Needless to say, I agree with this:
Proponents of a “move fast and break things” approach to the web tend to defend their approach as defending the web from the dominance of native applications. I absolutely think that situation would be worse right now if it weren’t for the pressure for wide review that multiple implementations has put on the web.
The web’s key differentiator is that it is a part of the commons and that it is multi-stakeholder in nature.
I would very much like this to become a reality.
Never-Slow Mode (“NSM”) is a mode that sites can opt-into via HTTP header. For these sites, the browser imposes per-interaction resource limits, giving users a better user experience, potentially at the cost of extra developer work. We believe users are happier and more engaged on fast sites, and NSM attempts to make it easier for sites to guarantee speed to users. In addition to user experience benefits, sites might want to opt in because browsers could providing UI to users to indicate they are in “fast mode” (a TLS lock icon but for speed).
Harry enumerates the reasons why client-side A/B testing is terrible:
- It typically blocks rendering.
- Providers are almost always off-site.
- It happens on every page load.
- No user-benefitting reuse.
- They likely skip any governance process.
While your engineers are subject to linting, code-reviews, tests, auditors, and more, your marketing team have free rein of the front-end.
This is an excellent UX improvement in Chrome. For sites like The Session, where page loads are blazingly fast, this really makes them feel like single page apps.
Our goal with this work was for navigations in Chrome between two pages that are of the same origin to be seamless and thus deliver a fast default navigation experience with no flashes of white/solid-color background between old and new content.
This is exactly the kind of area where browsers can innovate and compete on the UX of the browser itself, rather than trying to compete on proprietary additions to what’s being rendered.
This broke my brain.
The challenge: in the fewest resources possible, render meaningful text.
- How small can a font really go?
- How many bytes of memory would you need (to store it and run it?)
- How much code would it take to express it?
Lets see just how far we can take this!
Following on from Harry’s slides, here’s another round-up of those
rel attribute values that begin with
Slides from Harry’s deep dive into
I would urge front-end developers to take a step back, breathe, and reassess. Let’s stop over engineering for the sake of it. Let’s think what we can do with the basic tools, progressive enhancement and a simpler approach to building websites. There are absolutely valid usecases for SPAs, React, et al. and I’ll continue to use these tools reguarly and when it’s necessary, I’m just not sure that’s 100% of the time.
53% of mobile visits leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That means that a large number of visitors probably abandoned these sites because they were staring at a blank screen for 3 seconds, said “fuck it,” and left approximately half way before the page showed up. The fact that the next page interaction would have been quicker—assuming all the JS files even downloaded correctly in the first attempt—doesn’t amount to much if they didn’t stick around for the first page to load. What was gained by putting the business logic in the front end in this scenario?
I think I physically winced on more than one occassion as I read through Jake’s report here.
He makes an interesting observation at the end:
However, none of the teams used any of the big modern frameworks. They’re mostly Wordpress & Drupal, with a lot of jQuery. It makes me feel like I’ve been in a bubble in terms of the technologies that make up the bulk of the web.
Yes! This! Contrary to what you might think reading through the latest and greatest tips and tricks from the front-end community, the vast majority of sites out there on the web are not being built with React, Vue, webpack or any other “modern” tools.
Now this is a feature request I can get behind!
I’m serious about this. It’s is an excellent proposal for WebKit, similar to the never-slow mode proposed by Alex for Chromium.
Mozilla comes out with all guns blazing:
Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet. By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google.
Microsoft Edge: Making the web better through more open source collaboration - Windows Experience BlogWindows Experience Blog
The marketing people at Microsoft are doing their best to sell us on the taste and nutritional value of their latest shit sandwich piece of news.
We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Losing [browser] engines is like losing languages. People may wish that everyone spoke the same language, they may claim it leads to easier understanding, but what people fail to consider is that this leads to losing all the culture and way of thought that that language produced. If you are a Web developer smiling and happy that Microsoft might be adopting Chrome, and this will make your work easier because it will be one less browser to test, don’t be! You’re trading convenience for diversity.
Harry takes a look at the performance implications of loading CSS. To be clear, this is not about the performance of CSS selectors or ordering (which really doesn’t make any difference at this point), but rather it’s about the different ways of getting rid of as much render-blocking CSS as possible.
…a good rule of thumb to remember is that your page will only render as quickly as your slowest stylesheet.
This is a terrific spot-on piece by Rachel. I firmly believe that healthy competition and diversity in the browser market is vital for the health of the web (which is why I’m always saddened and frustrated to hear web developers wish for a single monocultural rendering engine).