Google plans to give slow websites a new badge of shame in Chrome

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is experimenting with a badge of shame for websites that load slowly in Chrome. “In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging,” explains a blog post from the Chrome team. “This may take a number of forms and we plan to experiment with different options, to determine which provides the most value to our users.”

A new badge could appear in the future that’s designed to highlight sites that are “authored in a way that makes them slow generally.” Google will look at historical load latencies to figure out which sites are guilty of slow load times and flag them, and the Chrome team is also exploring identifying sites that will load slowly based on device hardware or network connectivity.

Google is testing a variety of slow site warnings

Google is experimenting with having a loading screen (splash screen) to warn Chrome users, or a loading progress bar that would appear green if the site is fast and, presumably, red if it’s slow. “We are building out speed badging in close collaboration with other teams exploring labelling the quality of experiences at Google,” explains the Chrome team. “We are being very mindful with our approach to setting the bar for what is considered a good user experience and hope to land on something that is practically achievable by all developers.”

It’s not clear exactly when this new badging system will appear in Chrome, but Google unveiled its plans at the company’s Chrome Dev Summit in San Francisco today. The company has carefully worded its announcement with lots of “may” hedges, so it’s likely Google is looking for immediate feedback from web developers before it progresses.

Google also unveiled its vision for the future of Chrome today, and it appears the company is focusing on WebAssembly, powerful capabilities, and Progress Web Apps (PWAs). Hopefully this will mean even more powerful web apps soon, and ones that feel a lot more like native apps.


sorta weird when the biggest culprit of slow loads are ads and the marketing analytics tracking elements attached to them.

On a lot of our client sites, Google Tag Manager is the slowest loading element, sometimes by a factor of 10. The majority of the tags used are google one between Google Ads and Analytics.

We don’t build sites with adsense, I can only imagine how much that would affect load speed.

All that being said, I welcome this change. I am constantly telling new or potential clients that load speed is a key usability and ranking factor, and they pretend that there is no issue at all. Lets see how east it is to keep up that attitude with a whopping great "SLOW LOADING SITE" badge on load.

GTM is a great idea in theory but it’s mostly a curse. Now that managers have an easy way to blanket add any tracking pixel or worse, huge JS library that some vendor persuades them will increase metrics and/or revenue we have DOZENS of GTM tags now

Even still, are you all loading content first then post loading the ads and other 3rd party junk later? As long as the content shows up lightning fast Google is generally happy, and more importantly, everyone still gets paid.

Especially when the ad guys insist that the ads render on page load. No async, no lazy loading. Meanwhile, core site developers get looped into endless meetings looking to shave of a few kb of CSS and JS and ignore the 2mb elephant in the room.

That’s because you should read this as,

"Google to shame companies that don’t give their users’ data to Google"

And then it all makes sense. Stop using Chrome, people.

Every single Wordpress website in the world is going to get flagged. Good riddance!

What nonsense. We use Wordpress for 90% of our website builds and it is as fast as any other CMS.

Just ran one of our Wordpress sites through Google Page Speed insights:
First Contentful Paint 0.6 s
Speed Index 2.9 s
Time to Interactive 0.7 s
First Meaningful Paint 0.7 s
First CPU Idle 0.7 s
Max Potential First Input Delay 30 ms

If your wordpress sites are running slow, look to your developer / server rather than the CMS.

A wordpress site properly configured with AMP is not only going to render than most sites in the world but is also going to get extremely preferential treatment from Google Discover and Google News. Not only that, but WP sites on Jetpack consistently have the lowest latency and least likely to have outdated mobile standards.

What do you suggest instead, a bunch of unheard of Github repos named after Tolkien characters?

What do you suggest instead, a bunch of unheard of Github repos named after Tolkien characters?

I was happy with wordpress, but you won me over.

As a web dev whos seen the industry turn to sh*t due to wordpress , I have nothing but fond hopes for a potential wordpress armagedon.

Buuut folks will just work out how to set up proper caching/proxying and its back to "client wants information site built on wordpress with custom bootstrap based theme". Gah, Im out, mobile dev it is. Lifes too short to volentarily accept this monotony.

Speed shaming.. that’s a new one.

I’m not sure if the benefit lies in users knowing their connection isn’t playing up, or shaming the site owners into doing better. My first feeling though is that it doesn’t seem like a positive move.

Hey, the SSL at $70 a year or get your site labeled as spam was an amazing bonanza — how about the "pay me big bucks or you will get labelled as "glacial".

SSL is free from letsencrypt.

There is no excuse.

Lets encrypt has been a godsend, but lets not deny most of the SSL industry is a rent seekinging protection racket.

Thinking more about it, it bothers me how this could harm some already marginalised groups. The community groups or small businesses who’ve cobbled something together or paid for some basic package, but don’t really understand it themselves and can’t afford for a developer to optimise it or give advice. Or the sites hosted in regions where network infrastructure isn’t great – Nigeria, India and others.

It seems to incentivise change for those who can do something, but could harm the reputation of those who can’t.

This is a good point. Back in the 90s, early 2000s I ran a server that hosted about 40 club and activist sites based at our student union. We had no money so we literally dumpster dived parts that where being thrown away by the uni and built a machine that didnt have a lot of power but coped well enough. On heavy days it could get quite loaded down especially with the three indymedia sites but its all we could afford. This would have slayed us.

This is not new. Google has been downranking slow loading websites in their search algorithm for about a decade now and for good reason. Metrics show users don’t want to sit there and wait 5+ seconds for content to show. Same as you changing the channel (people still watch cable TV right? :p) if the screen goes dark for the same amount of time.

You can blame Google all you’d like but they’re just modeling their results from natural human behavior.

This is gonna be a giant pain in my ass, and I welcome it.

My concern would be the possibility of Google exempting pages it owns or at least does not compete with from it’s (new) normal standards, or even any standards at all, while making it very hard for a non-Google or a competing non-Google site that competes with Google to avoid the badge of shame. It’d be anti-competitive and an abuse of their monopoly, but monopolies do tend toward such things because of the lack of significant enough competition to force them to, well, compete.

Google should give itself a badge of shame for stealing unsuspecting users’ health data.

That’s project Nightingale, in reality that is legal since HIPPA allows hospitals to share patient data with Google, without telling their patients.
Perhaps this is legal, but it shows how wrong HIPPA was designed in first place by lawmakers that don’t care about patient records history privacy. IMO only doctors should have this information and this is a clear a violation to US Constitution, but that’s just my opinion.

Employer driven health care is a nightmare for workers. There’s a reason that old people have trouble finding work.

We need real privacy laws in this country.

Considering the incredible, outsized, amount of stuff that gets loaded on The Verge’s front page, isn’t it at risk for the red badge of courage here?

I have to say I can only think of bad reasons for this and no good reasons for this to exist. I’d love to be convinced otherwise though.

Hmm. We might be really far apart in our understanding, but I’m mostly the opposite:

  1. Slow loading badges will show it’s the website and not your internet connection acting up.
  2. Vice-versa, a lack of a slow loading badge will mean it’s your internet connection and no the site.
  3. Avoiding the slow loading badge will be an incentive to lazy load ads (and anything else you can, but it’ll mostly be ads and tracking), speeding up websites for everyone. (And ads will still load parallel to the page load, so no great loss for advertisers either.)

The only potential downside I see is if Google exempts its own pages like CharmCityCrab said.

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