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My white whale: A use case for will-change

February 24th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

 Nic Chan:

[…] the will-change property landed in major browsers in August 2015, and I’ve been on the lookout for when to use it ever since. It might seem self-evident to apply it to commonly animated properties such as transform or opacity, but the browser already classifies them as composite properties, thus, they are known as the few properties that you can already expect decent animation performance from. So, heeding the advice of the great developers who came before me, I was cautious and waited for the right opportunity to come along.

I was thinking-out-loud about this as well on ShopTalk not too long ago. I get the spirit behind will-change. It’s like responsive images or DNS prefetching: you give the browser extra information about what you’re about to do, and it can optimize it when it happens. But with will-changewhen? Why isn’t there a simple reduced test case demo to showcase something with bad performance, then will-change being applied, and it becomes good performance?

Well Nic found one little directly useful case where a hover-transformed pseudo-element leaves a little dingus of color behind in Safari, and that goes away if you use will-change. I tested it in the latest versions of Safari and found it to be true. Alrighty then, one use case!

I’d love to see a more obvious direct use case. I imagine the sweet spot is on lower-power devices (that still have GPUs) but are new enough to know what will-change is.

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