Responsiveness to user interaction is crucial for users of web apps, and businesses need to be able to measure responsiveness so they can be confident that their users are happy. Unfortunately, users are regularly bogged down by frustrations such as a delayed "time to interactive” during page load, high or variable input latency on critical interaction events (tap, click, scroll, etc.), and janky animations or scrolling. These negative experiences turn away visitors, affecting the bottom line. Sites that include third-party content (ads, social plugins, etc.) are frequently the worst offenders.
The culprit behind all these responsiveness issues are “long tasks," which monopolize the UI thread for extended periods and block other critical tasks from executing. Developers lack the necessary APIs and tools to measure and gain insight into such problems in the wild and are essentially flying blind trying to figure out what the main offenders are. While developers are able to measure some aspects of responsiveness, it’s often not in a reliable, performant, or “good citizen” way, and it’s near impossible to correctly identify the perpetrators.
Shubhie Panicker is a staff engineer working on Blink, the Chrome Web Platform, at Google, where she focuses on web performance, such as developing standardized web performance APIs.
Nic Jansma is a software developer at Akamai building high-performance websites, apps, and open source tools.
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