Compressing and Deploying JavaScript

For AJAX, deploying JavaScript files may be important for you or not. If you are professional in AJAX, you must know the details of JavaScript deployment.

First, you can compress your JavaScript files before deploying them. Common compressors may cut 50% off of file size for normal JavaScript. That is to say, if your packed *.js is about 100k, the compressed *.js may be 50k. The compressed *.js may take about 100ms to decompress, but it when comparing to 50k over 1Mb/s bandwidth ( 50k * 8 / 1M = 0.4 s = 400ms). It worths such compressing. Usually bandwidth is not quite good as 1Mb/s, it will much better for compressed JavaScript.

Some well-known JavaScript compressors are Dean Edwards’ Packer and Shrink Safe by Alex at Dojo. You may find some other compressors, like Java2Script’s LZ77 JavaScript Compressor.

Second, you can send out your JavaScript files as gzip-encoded by Apache server. For most of modern browsers, gzip-encoding can be accepted. So you should configure your Apache server to do so especially when your JavaScript is over 200k. In common cases, gzip-encoding saves over 75% of JavaScript bandwidth. That is to say, 200k JavaScript only takes up 50k transmission. What a great improvement.

But please pay attention to some defects of JavaScript gzip-encoding for some browsers, like IE. Well, Internet Explorer takes up 80%+ of browser shares. You must not ignore IE’s defects on dealing JavaScript gzip-encoding. As IE6.0 SP2 and IE7+ already fixed this bug. You should support these two browsers, as it may get more and more market share.

So when configure .htaccess file for Apache httpd server, you should ignore those buggy IE browser or non-supported browsers. Here is my .htaccess file:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
# Netscape 4.x or IE 5.5/6.0
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 no-gzip
# IE 5.5 and IE 6.0 have bugs! Ignore them until IE 7.0+
BrowserMatch \bMSIE\s7 !no-gzip
# IE 6.0 after SP2 has no gzip bugs!
BrowserMatch \bMSIE.*SV !no-gzip
# Sometimes Opera pretends to be IE with "Mozila/4.0"
BrowserMatch \bOpera !no-gzip
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css text/javascript application/x-javascript
Header append Vary User-Agent

For more information about this gzip-encoding configuration, please google “IE gzip javascript encoding” or read Joshua Eichorn’s blog article “Compressing JavaScript and CSS”.

Third, this is still about gzip-encoding. But this method tries to include JavaScript in HTML sources directly. As IE has no bugs on decoding gzip-encoded HTML files, compress JavaScript in this way will suite for most IE6 users. As far as I know, GWT uses this way to send out their JavaScript. But loading those HTML files in an embed IFRAME may make the whole architecture a little strange or hard to understand. Few people uses this method.

Maybe there are some other ways to compress and deploy JavaScript. Please let me know or discuss with me if you have a new one.

This entry was posted in Architecture, Hacks, JavaScript. Bookmark the permalink.

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