Not Every Website Needs to Vibrate: Browser Feature Usage on the Modern Web

April 7th, 2017

Cynthia Taylor, University of Illinois, Chicago and OC alum, will give this talk on Friday, April 21 Noon in King 239.

Modern web browsers are incredibly complex, with millions of lines of code and over one thousand JavaScript functions and properties available to website authors. This work investigates how these browser features are used on the modern, open web. We find that JavaScript features differ wildly in popularity, with over 50% of provided features never used on the web’s 10,000 most popular sites according to Alexa. We also look at how popular ad and tracking blockers change the features used by sites, and identify a set of approximately 10% of features that are disproportionately blocked (prevented from executing by these extensions at least 90% of the time they are used). We additionally find that in the presence of these blockers, over 83% of available features are executed on less than 1% of the most popular 10,000 websites. We further measure other aspects of browser feature usage on the web, including how many features websites use, how the length of time a browser feature has been in the browser relates to its usage on the web, and how many security vulnerabilities have been associated with related browser features.