How The Web is Really Built

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My 2020 was colored by the considerable amount of time I spent analyzing data about CSS usage in the wild, for the CSS chapter of the Web Almanac, by the HTTP Archive. The results were eye-opening to me. A wake-up call of sorts. We spend so much time in the bubble of bleeding-edge tech that we lose touch with how the web is really built. Most of the web favors old, stable tech instead of new bling.

CSS-in-JS? Only 2% of websites.

React? Only 4%.

Service Workers? Less than 1%.

Houdini? Practically 0%

Nobody uses jQuery anymore, right? Wrong. It appears on 83% of all websites! Everyone uses Jamstack instead of bloated CMSes, right, right? Wrong. Static site generators are used in less than 1% of websites, WordPress powers one-third of the Web.

A lot of the code we found could have been written a decade ago. When new tech ends up being used sufficiently to appear in these stats, it’s often because the primary driver is a popular library or framework. Effectively, we (standards folks, browser implementers, etc.) are building tech for tooling authors, who are the ones really building tech for the average web developer. Quite a perspective shift, isn’t it?


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