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How Browsers Work

Ahmad Alfy
January 09, 2019

How Browsers Work

How web browsers work

Ahmad Alfy

January 09, 2019

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  1. Browsers have evolved from an application that we use to

    read content to mini-operating systems that can run heavy applications written in JavaScript. Understanding how the browsers work is something you cannot ignore to grow in your career as a front-end developer. It’s almost always the key for understanding why your code behave in a certain way and how to trace and find the root of a problem you are facing. Learning the internals of browser operations helps you make better decisions and know the justifications behind development best practices
  2. What Browsers Can Do? • Display HTML content with style

    applied to it • Display images and play videos • Display PDF files
  3. HTML Parsing • HTML is downloaded and parsed from the

    top toward the bottom of the page. • As the browser start encountering external assets (link, image, script) it will attempt to download it under certain conditions • Web browsers have a forgiving nature and a way to handle error. A lot of these conditions are recommended by the W3C to ensure smooth and consistent error handling.
  4. Browsers will close a script tag if it include a

    string matching the closing tag. Example:
  5. Other examples • Inserting block elements inside elements that only

    accept children of phrasing type only (paragraph). • Any type of elements other than <li> inside <ul> or <ol> • Tables without tbody
  6. Images • Image in the HTML with valid src attribute

    will be downloaded no matter what.
  7. Images in CSS • Image in the CSS will only

    be downloaded once the document content is parsed and the render tree is added.
  8. Scripts • The specs says that the browser should only

    attempt to download a script only if it has a valid “type” attribute
  9. Links • The specs says that resources on links should

    be downloaded once the link is inserted into the document
  10. Links - Cont • If the link has an invalid

    type, it will be downloaded but not parsed
  11. • While the document is downloading, a lot of factors

    affect its rendering: • Is there any scripts being downloaded or executed? • Are we still downloading CSS files? • Is the CSS inline or referenced in external files?
  12. CSS • While downloading CSS files, rendering in the web

    page is completely blocked. This is because of a phenomenon called “Progressive Rendering”. Without it, you will see content shifting and changing their style while the assets are being downloaded. • Inline CSS is an exception, it will render immediately after loading.