Felix Arntz, WordPress core committer and developer programs engineer at Google, announced a plan to push a lazy loading feature to the platform. If testing goes well, this feature could land in WordPress 5.4 in March.

The concept of lazy loading allows a webpage to render without loading certain resources until they are needed. This leads to faster page loads and saves data on the visitor’s end. Lazy loading is particularly useful when rendering images on the web.

The opposite of lazy loading is called eager loading, which loads everything in bulk. By default, this is how all images are loaded on the web. This often leads to poor performance on image-heavy webpages where many of the images are not in the site visitor’s viewport when first viewing the page.

For many years, various JavaScript libraries have handled this feature but not always to success. A native solution is slowly making its way into browsers. Native lazy loading works by adding a loading attribute to an <img> or <iframe> element. Browsers can then decide how to load a resource based on the value of the attribute. Currently, Chrome, Edge, and Opera all handle the loading attribute. Once the attribute officially makes it into the HTML specification, the feature should be a standard that all browsers support.

The new Lazy Loading feature plugin is now available in the WordPress plugin directory. The plugin relies only on native browser support and does not add extra JavaScript. The implementation adds a loading attribute to images in post content, excerpts, comments, text widgets, avatars, and instances of using core WordPress image functions. By default, the plugin sets all images to load lazily rather than eagerly.

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