PageSpeed: Defer loading of JavaScript (deprecated)


Deferring loading of JavaScript functions that are not called at startup reduces the initial download size, allowing other resources to be downloaded in parallel, and speeding up execution and rendering time.

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Like stylesheets, scripts must be downloaded, parsed, and executed before the browser can begin to render a web page. Again, even if a script is contained in an external file that is cached, processing of all elements below the script is blocked until the browser loads the code from disk and executes it. However, for some browsers, the situation is worse than for stylesheets: while JavaScript is being processed, the browser blocks all other resources from being downloaded. For AJAX-type applications that use many bytes of JavaScript code, this can add considerable latency.

For many script-intensive applications, the bulk of the JavaScript code handles user-initiated events, such as mouse-clicking and dragging, form entry and submission, hidden elements expansion, and so on. All of these user-triggered events occur after the page is loaded and the onload event is triggered. Therefore, much of the delay in the "critical path" (the time to load the main page at startup) could be avoided by deferring the loading of the JavaScript until it's actually needed. While this "lazy" method of loading doesn't reduce the total JS payload, it can significantly reduce the number of bytes needed to load the initial state of the page, and allows the remaining bytes to be loaded asynchronously in the background.

To use this technique, you should first identify all of the JavaScript functions that are not actually used by the document before the onload event. For any file containing more than 25 uncalled functions, move all of those functions to a separate, external JS file. This may require some refactoring of your code to work around dependencies between files. (For files containing fewer than 25 uncalled functions, it's not worth the effort of refactoring.)

Then, you insert a JavaScript event listener in the head of the containing document that forces the external file to be loaded after the onload event. You can do this by any of the usual scripting means, but we recommend a very simple scripted DOM element (to avoid cross-browser and same-domain policy issues).