What can the HTTP Archive tell us about Largest Contentful Paint?

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is an important metric that measures when the largest element in the browser’s viewport becomes visible. This could be an image, a background image, a poster image for a video, or even a block of text. The metric is measured with the Largest Contentful Paint API, which is supported in Chromium browsers. Optimizing for this metric is critical to end user experience, since it affects their ability to visualize your content.

Growth of the Web in 2020

For the past 10 years, the HTTP Archive has tracked the evolution of the web by archiving the technical details of desktop and mobile homepages. During its early years, the Alexa top million dataset (which was publicly available until 2017) was used to source the list of URLs included in the archive and the number of sites tracked increased from 16K to almost 500K as testing capacity increased. To keep the archive current and include new sites, towards the end of 2018 we started using the Chrome User Experience Report as a source of the URLs to track.

An Analysis of Cookie Sizes on the Web

Cookies are used on a lot of websites - 83.9% of the 5.7 million home pages tracked in the HTTP Archive to be specific. They are essentially a name/value pair set by a server and stored in a client’s browser. Sites can store these cookies by using the Set-Cookie HTTP response header, or via JavaScript (document.cookie). On subsequent requests, these cookies are sent to the server in a Cookie HTTP request header.

SameSite Cookies - Are You Ready?

Last year Google announced updates to Chrome that provide a way for developers to control how cross site cookies should work on their sites. This is a good change - as it ultimately improves end user security and privacy by limiting which third parties can read cookies that were set while visiting a different site. It also defeats cross site request forgery attacks. The implementation is fairly simple, and only requires developers to add the SameSite attribute to their cookies.

Certificate Validity Dates

Back in 2017 the maximum validity lifetime for an HTTPS certificate was set to 825 days, a decision that was widely supported by both browsers and certificate authorities. However, since then there have been multiple unsuccessful attempts at reducing the maximum lifetime to one year. Scott Helme has written about this previously, and his blog post noted that browser vendors unanimously supported this while some certificate authorities objected to it.

San Certificates: How Many Alt-Names Are Too Many?

According to the HTTP Archive, 84% of HTTPS certificates are using the Subject Alternate Name (SAN) extension, which allows multiple hostnames to be protected by a single certificate. The largest certificate I found in the HTTP Archive contained a whopping 1275 alt-names! During this post we’ll explore why this is a web performance problem, and how you can determine what a reasonable limit would be for your certificates.

Chrome Image Lazy Loading - Sites Already Using it on Week 1!

Earlier this year the Chrome team announced plans to support lazy loading natively in the browser. The plan was to add a loading attribute in both <img> and <iframe> elements. Chrome 75 included it behind a feature flag so that developers could test it out. Last week, with the release of Chrome 76 this feature became generally available. I was surprised to see that it is already in use by more than 1000 sites. Lazy loading is an easy web performance win, so you may want to try this out on your sites.


© 2020 Paul Calvano. All rights reserved.

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