Websites and web applications continue to become more complex, which is why Google is constantly working on new performance improvements for the Chrome browser. Now the company is trying a new experiment that could lead to faster loading times.
Long ago, web browsers loaded the entire content of a page at once – images, embedded plugins, etc. Over time, browsers and websites began to transition to “lazy loading”, where certain content is not loaded until it is visible. For example, a site might not load a video in the middle of the page until you scroll down that page.
Google Chrome supported lazy loading for most embedded objects, like videos and PDFs, since July 2020 (and many sites had their own hacks before that). To avoid breaking anything, Chrome only lazily loads embedded content if the page specifically allows it. However, Google is currently testing a new experience that will automatically load some embedded content, without the page that requests it.
The new experience, dubbed “LazyEmbeds,” is expected to start with 1% of people running the stable version of Chrome 104 (to be released on August 2). Embedded content that meets certain criteria (hosted from a third-party site, source matches a curated list, frame size, etc.) will not load until visible on the page, as have images and other embeds that have opted for lazy loading.
Google hopes this feature can bring the performance and battery life benefits of lazy loading to even more pages, without breaking any sites in the process. The explanatory document states that “it is not uncommon for an integration to request and execute large amounts of scripts, which can have a surprising impact on the performance of the parent page – from resource contention to lag in preparation for interaction.
Google said in 2020 lazy loading YouTube videos on Chrome.com reduced mobile load times by 10 seconds, and lazy loading Instagram embeds saved over 1MB of data usage. These improvements would be great to see on more pages, but we’ll have to wait for the results of the experiment to see if it breaks any sites. If it works, the feature should come to other Chromium-based web browsers, such as Microsoft Edge, Brave, and Vivaldi.