Breaking Bad : Quantifying the Addiction of Web Elements to JavaScript Article - 2023

Romain Fouquet, Pierre Laperdrix, Romain Rouvoy

Romain Fouquet, Pierre Laperdrix, Romain Rouvoy, « Breaking Bad : Quantifying the Addiction of Web Elements to JavaScript  », ACM Transactions on Internet Technology, à paraître. ISSN 1533-5399

Abstract

While JavaScript established itself as a cornerstone of the modern web, it also constitutes a major tracking and security vector, thus raising critical privacy and security concerns. In this context, some browser extensions propose to systematically block scripts reported by crowdsourced trackers lists. However, this solution heavily depends on the quality of these built-in lists, which may be deprecated or incomplete, thus exposing the visitor to unknown trackers. In this paper, we explore a different strategy, by investigating the benefits of disabling JavaScript in the browser. More specifically, by adopting such a strict policy, we aim to quantify the JavaScript addiction of web elements composing a web page, through the observation of web breakages. As there is no standard mechanism for detecting such breakages, we introduce a framework to inspect several page features when blocking JavaScript, that we deploy to analyze 6,384 pages, including landing and internal web pages. We discover that 43 % of web pages are not strictly dependent on JavaScript and that more than 67 % of pages are likely to be usable as long as the visitor only requires the content from the main section of the page, for which the user most likely reached the page, while reducing the number of tracking requests by 85 % on average. Finally, we discuss the viability of currently browsing the web without JavaScript and detail multiple incentives for websites to be kept usable without JavaScript.

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