Javascript Off

I’ve been browsing the web with Javascript turned off more and more frequently lately. While to a web developer this might look like I’m crippling the user experience, to me most of the time I find it more pleasurable. Even though I’m on a Core 2 Duo, websites are noticeably faster with Javascript turned off.

Javascript is blazing fast these days, and all browsers pride themselves about how fast they are at running Javascript. But even though Javascript can run fast doesn’t mean every script is well written and will run fast. Moreover it doesn’t affect at all the latency associated with loading more script files and the script performing additional network requests to do various tasks. For speed alone, this is worth giving it a try.

A second advantage is less tracking. In the absence of Javascript, the only way for a website to track you is with plain old cookies. With Javascript turned on, websites have so many way to track you. And it’s so tricky to get rid of those identifying tags; try erasing an evercookie for instance. I’m not paranoid, but sometime I value my privacy and I don’t want an advertising company to know about almost every page I’m visiting. With Javascript turned off, it’s one less bother.

The big disadvantage is that, for some websites, Javascript is pretty much required. You can’t view a Youtube video without Javascript for instance, even with the HTML5 player turned on. In my opinion, that’s just bad web design; Javascript shouldn’t be required to browse any website, except when the content can’t exist without scripting (this game for instance).

So when I encounter a website where it is worthwhile to activate Javascript, I hit Command-Comma then check the Javascript checkbox in Safari’s preferences, and I repeat this in reverse to deactivate Javascript when I leave. It’s certainly trouble, so for some sites I don’t bother and just leave.

And it’s pretty much the same story for Flash.


Follow-ups


Comments

Joshua Kehn

I actually find this same thing, especially with Flash. Sometimes I find that “high-end” websites feel the need to list 200+ objects all in Flash. Turning Flash off cuts the loading time by 80%, and speeds up the page response so much I’m worried about people on less powerful machines.

I still keep JavaScript on for sites I’ve allowed, but most of the time if I don’t notice severely broken functionality I leave it off.

Pierre Lebeaupin

I’ve resorted to the same thing, but in a very specific situation: when I was browsing the web with my iPhone tethered on EDGE. Not only EDGE is slow (at this level, your heart sinks every time you see the 50kB of jQuery in the activity window), but too often some resources simply fail to load given how unreliable the medium is, so you have to load the page again (do not hit reload! Or all resources will be invalidated and reloaded), but some resources are uncacheable and even if they were previously loaded, have to be reloaded… and may fail to reload. Combine that with the fact many scripts, for whatever reason, are included at the top of the page (and therefore block the rendering of the content afterwards until they’re loaded), and some sites simply end up being unloadable in practice on EDGE if you don’t disable JS.

Oskar @ Esvelte Web Design

Just stumbled across your blog, Michel. I think Pierre has a good point about taking into account mobile browsers - i.e. viewing a site over EDGE. It’s a bit like going back to the days of dial-up and making sure there is a lightweight version of a site available to those on slower connections/machines!

Personally I’m a believer in progressive enhancement, so that a site will function satisfactorily in all browsers while newer browsers and those with Javascript enabled will get all the refined touches.

davidfunny

Some of these comments people are saying here on this issue really seem to make me look at this in a whole new way. I do enjoy the responses though.


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