What Web Almanac Tells Us About JavaScript
Written by Ian Elliot   
Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Now in its third year the Web Almanac explores every aspect of how the web is built and relies on over a hundred experts to make sense of data collected by HTTP Archive. Here are some of its findings about the almost universal use of JavaScript and WebAssembly which is conspicuous for its absence.


The Web Almanac is a comprehensive report on the state of the web, backed by real data collected by examining metadata over 8 million websites on a monthly basis. It comes from HTTP Archive, a community-run project, that has been tracking how the web is built since it was started by Steve Souders in 2010. Using WebPageTest, it gathers basic metrics like the number of bytes per page, whether the page was loaded over HTTPS, and individual request and response headers. It sources 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 the Web Almanac, which as explained by Rick Viscomi, its Editor-In-Chief aims to give a picture of the state of the web as a whole. Comprising 24 chapters it has contributions from more than a hundred people, each covering the bits of the web ecosystem in which they are experts.

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

Users and purists never stop moaning about the amount of JavaScript that we force them to consume. Currently this seems to be 427 KB per page at the 50th percentile on mobile devices and 463 KB on the desktop. Which means that 50% of the pages are bigger than this! To put this in context it doesn't seem much compared to the megabytes of image and resource data a typical page downloads.


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


You can argue that jQuery is bundled with everything and no sensible programmer would use it, but there is still good reason for adopting it if you don't need a complete framework. The reason given by Web Almanac for jQuery's prevalence is that most WordPress sites use jQuery and WordPress is used on nearly a third of all websites. Another finding is that the most popular version of jQuery is 3.5.1, which is used by 21.3% of mobile pages. The leap to version 3.0 can be explained by a change to WordPress core in 2020, which upgraded the default version of jQuery from 1.12.4 to 3.5.1.

With only 8% using React, you could ask why we all believe that it's the obvious way to build a modern web page? The same could be said of WebAssembly. You may be seeing amazing demos of how some game or full app is currently running in the browser, but in the real world it really isn't making much impact. It is only detected on 0.06% and 0.04% of all domains on desktop and mobile correspondingly. Perhaps it is still early days but it seems to be taking ages to get a mature system and easy to use environments. Even then there is always the possibility that for general web use it is just too exotic and solves a problem we don't really have.




More Information

Web Almanac 2021

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 December 2021 )