The Web Almanac is a project organized by HTTP Archive. HTTP Archive was started in 2010 by Steve Souders with the mission to track how the web is built. It evaluates the composition of millions of web pages on a monthly basis and makes its terabytes of metadata available for analysis on BigQuery.
The Web Almanac’s mission is to become an annual repository of public knowledge about the state of the web. Our goal is to make the data warehouse of HTTP Archive even more accessible to the web community by having subject matter experts provide contextualized insights.
The 2021 edition of the Web Almanac is broken into four parts: content, experience, publishing, and distribution. Within each part, several chapters explore their overarching theme from different angles. For example, Part II explores different angles of the user experience in the Performance, Security, and Accessibility chapters, among others.
The HTTP Archive dataset is continuously updating with new data monthly. For the 2021 edition of the Web Almanac, unless otherwise noted in the chapter, all metrics were sourced from the July 2021 crawl. These results are publicly queryable on BigQuery in tables prefixed with
All of the metrics presented in the Web Almanac are publicly reproducible using the dataset on BigQuery. You can browse the queries used by all chapters in our GitHub repository.
#standardSQL # Sum of JS request bytes per page (2021) SELECT percentile, _TABLE_SUFFIX AS client, APPROX_QUANTILES(bytesJs / 1024, 1000)[OFFSET(percentile * 10)] AS js_kilobytes FROM `httparchive.summary_pages.2021_07_01_*`, UNNEST([10, 25, 50, 75, 90, 100]) AS percentile GROUP BY percentile, client ORDER BY percentile, client
There are 8,198,531 websites in the dataset. This represents an increase of 9% compared to the 2020 edition of the Web Almanac. Among those, 7,499,763 are mobile websites and 6,294,605 are desktop websites. Most websites are included in both the mobile and desktop subsets.
HTTP Archive sources the URLs for its websites from the Chrome UX Report. The Chrome UX Report is a public dataset from Google that aggregates user experiences across millions of websites actively visited by Chrome users. This gives us a list of websites that are up-to-date and a reflection of real-world web usage. The Chrome UX Report dataset includes a form factor dimension, which we use to get all of the websites accessed by desktop or mobile users.
The July 2021 HTTP Archive crawl used by the Web Almanac used the most recently available Chrome UX Report release for its list of websites. The 202105 dataset was released on June 8, 2021 and captures websites visited by Chrome users during the month of May.
Due to resource limitations, the HTTP Archive can only test one page from each website in the Chrome UX report. To reconcile this, only the home pages are included. Be aware that this will introduce some bias into the results because a home page is not necessarily representative of the entire website.
HTTP Archive is also considered a lab testing tool, meaning it tests websites from a datacenter and does not collect data from real-world user experiences. All pages are tested with an empty cache in a logged out state, which may not reflect how real users would access them.
HTTP Archive collects thousands of metrics about how the web is built. It includes basic metrics like the number of bytes per page, whether the page was loaded over HTTPS, and individual request and response headers. The majority of these metrics are provided by WebPageTest, which acts as the test runner for each website.
Other testing tools are used to provide more advanced metrics about the page. For example, Lighthouse is used to run audits against the page to analyze its quality in areas like accessibility and SEO. The Tools section below goes into each of these tools in more detail.
To work around some of the inherent limitations of a lab dataset, the Web Almanac also makes use of the Chrome UX Report for metrics on user experiences, especially in the area of web performance.
Some metrics are completely out of reach. For example, we don’t necessarily have the ability to detect the tools used to build a website. If a website is built using create-react-app, we could tell that it uses the React framework, but not necessarily that a particular build tool is used. Unless these tools leave detectible fingerprints in the website’s code, we’re unable to measure their usage.
Other metrics may not necessarily be impossible to measure but are challenging or unreliable. For example, aspects of web design are inherently visual and may be difficult to quantify, like whether a page has an intrusive modal dialog.
The Web Almanac is made possible with the help of the following open source tools.
WebPageTest is a prominent web performance testing tool and the backbone of HTTP Archive. We use a private instance of WebPageTest with private test agents, which are the actual browsers that test each web page. Desktop and mobile websites are tested under different configurations:
|Device||Linux VM||Emulated Moto G4|
|User Agent||Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/91.0.4472.114 Safari/537.36 PTST/210702.163639||Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Moto G (4)) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/91.0.4472.114 Mobile Safari/537.36 PTST/210702.163639|
|Location||Google Cloud Locations, USA||Google Cloud Locations, USA|
|Connection||Cable (5/1 Mbps 28ms RTT)||3G (1.600/0.768 Mbps 300ms RTT)|
|Viewport||1376 x 768px||512 x 360px|
Desktop websites are run from within a desktop Chrome environment on a Linux VM. The network speed is equivalent to a cable connection.
Mobile websites are run from within a mobile Chrome environment on an emulated Moto G4 device with a network speed equivalent to a 3G connection.
Test agents run from various Google Cloud Platform locations based in the USA.
The results of each test are made available as a HAR file, a JSON-formatted archive file containing metadata about the web page.
Lighthouse is an automated website quality assurance tool built by Google. It audits web pages to make sure they don’t include user experience antipatterns like unoptimized images and inaccessible content.
HTTP Archive runs the latest version of Lighthouse for all of its mobile web pages — desktop pages are not included because of limited resources. As of the July 2021 crawl, HTTP Archive used a combination of 8.0.0 and 8.1.0 versions of Lighthouse.
Lighthouse is run as its own distinct test from within WebPageTest, but it has its own configuration profile:
|Download throughput||1.6 Mbps|
|Upload throughput||0.768 Mbps|
For more information about Lighthouse and the audits available in HTTP Archive, refer to the Lighthouse developer documentation.
HTTP Archive runs the latest version of Wappalyzer for all web pages. As of July 2021 the Web Almanac used the 6.7.7 version of Wappalyzer.
Wappalyzer powers many chapters that analyze the popularity of developer tools like WordPress, Bootstrap, and jQuery. For example, the Ecommerce and CMS chapters rely heavily on the respective Ecommerce and CMS categories of technologies detected by Wappalyzer.
All detection tools, including Wappalyzer, have their limitations. The validity of their results will always depend on how accurate their detection mechanisms are. The Web Almanac will add a note in every chapter where Wappalyzer is used but its analysis may not be accurate due to a specific reason.
The Chrome UX Report is a public dataset of real-world Chrome user experiences. Experiences are grouped by websites’ origin, for example
https://www.example.com. The dataset includes distributions of UX metrics like paint, load, interaction, and layout stability. In addition to grouping by month, experiences may also be sliced by dimensions like country-level geography, form factor (desktop, phone, tablet), and effective connection type (4G, 3G, etc.).
As of this year, the Chrome UX Report dataset now includes relative website ranking data. These are referred to as rank magnitudes because, as opposed to fine-grained ranks like the #1 or #116 most popular websites, websites are grouped into rank buckets from the top 1k, top 10k, up to the top 10M. Each website is ranked according to the number of eligible page views on all of its pages combined. This year's Web Almanac makes extensive use of this new data as a way to explore variations in the way the web is built by site popularity.
For Web Almanac metrics that reference real-world user experience data from the Chrome UX Report, the July 2021 dataset (202107) is used.
Blink Features are indicators flagged by Chrome whenever a particular web platform feature is detected to be used.
We use Blink Features to get a different perspective on feature adoption. This data is especially useful to distinguish between features that are implemented on a page and features that are actually used. For example, the CSS chapter's section on Grid layout uses Blink Features data to measure whether some part of the actual page layout is built with Grid. By comparison, many more pages happen to include an unused Grid style in their stylesheets. Both stats are interesting in their own way and tell us something about how the web is built.
Blink Features are reported by WebPageTest as part of our regular testing.
Third Party Web is a research project by Patrick Hulce, author of the 2019 Third Parties chapter, that uses HTTP Archive and Lighthouse data to identify and analyze the impact of third party resources on the web.
Domains are considered to be a third party provider if they appear on at least 50 unique pages. The project also groups providers by their respective services in categories like ads, analytics, and social.
Several chapters in the Web Almanac use the domains and categories from this dataset to understand the impact of third parties.
This special purpose tool significantly improved the accuracy of many of the metrics in the CSS chapter. CSS in all external stylesheets and inline style blocks for each page were parsed and queried to make the analysis possible. See this thread for more information about how it was integrated with the HTTP Archive dataset on BigQuery.
This year’s CSS chapter revisits many of the metrics introduced in last year's CSS chapter, which was led by Lea Verou. Lea wrote Rework Utils to more easily extract insights from Rework CSS's output. Most of the stats you see in the CSS chapter continue to be powered by these scripts.
Parsel is a CSS selector parser and specificity calculator, originally written by 2020 CSS chapter lead Lea Verou and open sourced as a separate library. It is used extensively in all CSS metrics that relate to selectors and specificity.
The Web Almanac took about a year to plan and execute with the coordination of more than a hundred contributors from the web community. This section describes why we chose the chapters you see in the Web Almanac, how their metrics were queried, and how they were interpreted.
The 2021 Web Almanac kicked off in April 2021 with a call for contributors. We initialized the project with all 23 chapters from previous years and the community suggested additional topics that became two new chapters this year: Structured Data and WebAssembly.
One explicit goal for future editions of the Web Almanac is to encourage even more inclusion of underrepresented and heterogeneous voices as authors and peer reviewers.
To that end, this year we’ve refined our author selection process:
- Previous authors were specifically discouraged from writing again to make room for different perspectives.
- Everyone endorsing 2021 authors were asked to be especially conscious not to nominate people who all look or think alike.
- The project leads reviewed all of the author nominations and made an effort to select authors who will bring new perspectives and amplify the voices of underrepresented groups in the community.
We hope to iterate on this process in the future to ensure that the Web Almanac is a more diverse and inclusive project with contributors from all backgrounds.
In May and June 2021, data analysts worked with authors and peer reviewers to come up with a list of metrics that would need to be queried for each chapter. In some cases, custom metrics were created to fill gaps in our analytic capabilities.
Throughout July 2021, the HTTP Archive data pipeline crawled several million websites, gathering the metadata to be used in the Web Almanac. These results were post-processed and saved to BigQuery.
Being our third year, we were able to update and reuse the queries written by previous analysts. Still, there were many new metrics that needed to be written from scratch. You can browse all of the queries by year and chapter in our open source query repository on GitHub.
Authors worked with analysts to correctly interpret the results and draw appropriate conclusions. As authors wrote their respective chapters, they drew from these statistics to support their framing of the state of the web. Peer reviewers worked with authors to ensure the technical correctness of their analysis.
To make the results more easily understandable to readers, web developers and analysts created data visualizations to embed in the chapter. Some visualizations are simplified to make the points more clearly. For example, rather than showing a full distribution, only a handful of percentiles are shown. Unless otherwise noted, all distributions are summarized using percentiles, especially medians (the 50th percentile), and not averages.
Finally, editors revised the chapters to fix simple grammatical errors and ensure consistency across the reading experience.
The 2021 edition of the Web Almanac is the third in what we hope to continue as an annual tradition in the web community of introspection and a commitment to positive change. Getting to this point has been a monumental effort thanks to many dedicated contributors and we hope to leverage as much of this work as possible to make future editions even more streamlined.
If you’re interested in contributing to the 2022 edition of the Web Almanac, please fill out our interest form. Let’s work together to track the state of the web!