The digital publishing industry faces ongoing challenges, with site traffic being a key concern. According to the Echobox 2023 Publishing Trends Report, nearly half of publishers (47%) cite declining traffic as a major issue, while 63% prioritize increasing traffic. Amidst these challenges, prioritizing a positive user experience is paramount.

Google’s recent update to Core Web Vitals highlights this emphasis on user experience. Interaction to Next Paint (INP) now replaces First Input Delay (FID) as a more comprehensive measure of page interactivity. While this shift certainly presents an opportunity to enhance user experience (crucial for site engagement), it also poses additional hurdles for publishers to overcome.

For instance, when executing third-party scripts like those from Taboola, there’s a potential for the browser to become unresponsive to user inputs and rendering updates, thus potentially generating poor INP scores. Taboola recognizes the importance of minimizing page load impact to enhance page experience and ensure Core Web Vitals success.

Taboola’s Response to Page Performance

In order to effectively limit Taboola’s presence on the page, we’re introducing a completely new rendering process that maintains the same ad performance and doesn’t require new publisher code. Taboola’s current engine was not specifically built for page performance, meaning the files included multiple, heavy modules that resulted in large transfer sizes and long execution times, but our new solution resolves all of these concerns.

Introducing TRECS

TRECS (Taboola Recommendation Extensible Client Service) is a redesigned rendering process that ensures minimal browser effort by only actioning the tasks required for site configuration. This means removing the two major rendering files in the current engine, and creating a single file that serves all of the publisher’s needs.

Image: the loader.js and impl.js files as seen in Chrome DevTools

The current loader.js and impl.js files (see image above) will be replaced by the TRECS loader, which is designed to be more streamlined in both size and execution time. Once fully rolled out, the TRECS loader file will be 50% lighter than the current loader.js and impl.js files combined!

The TRECS loader initiates additional files to render what’s needed for the page. We call these lines of work “extensions,” and this work includes a combination of non-rendering functions like performance tracking or consent signal handling and visible features like the Taboola Feed or card customizations.

Image: Visualization of the TRECS Extensions

Performance Fader

In order to keep browser work to a minimum when adopting new products, TRECS includes a performance management feature called Performance Fader. This tool uses browser APIs to optimize task execution, limiting Taboola blocking time and prioritizing more critical tasks—a must-have for INP success.

The Fader also re-prioritizes interrupted Taboola tasks to complete its activity (and Taboola scripts) as fast as possible and avoid any risk of the recommendations loading too late in the page view.

Long Animation Frames API

Along with improving loading and task prioritization, Taboola has become an early adopter of the new Chrome tool – Long Animation Frames API. This tool allows us to identify specific scripts that cause a delay to a rendering update by over 50ms. A rendering update can be non-user generated or caused by user input.

By using the LoAF API, we’re able to analyze (in Real User Monitoring (RUM) conditions):

  • Site Long Animation Frames Blocking Time
  • Taboola generated Long Animation Frames Blocking Time
  • Site INP
  • Taboola generated INP

With LoAF and TRECS, Taboola has been able to reduce total INP on publisher sites while maintaining the same ad performance metrics. Check out Google’s Case Study on our work for all the details.

Product Status and Success

Where does that leave us? Taboola is now rolling out TRECS to all of our publishers. There’s no change to the code on the page, and no publisher development effort required.

To maintain consistency, we’ll be gradually transferring key components from the current engine to TRECS. That means page performance will keep improving until there’s no further reliance on the current engine. Thousands of Taboola publishers using a Javascript integration are already running elements on TRECS on their sites today!

The initial results are very promising and we anticipate further improvements as we progress with development. We’ve seen the following reductions across a number of key metrics:*

  • Site TBT –  up to 44%
  • Site Long Animation Frames Blocking Time – up to 38%
  • Taboola generated Long Animation Frames Blocking Time – up to 40%
  • Site INP – up to 44%

Traffic may remain an ongoing challenge in our space, but Taboola is committed to giving our publishing partners the best of both worlds: high-performing native ads and engaging editorial content recommendations, plus a solution to INP that improves page performance and delivers SEO success. Contact us for more information on TRECS and how Taboola is committed to delivering innovative technologies for publisher developer teams.

*We measure all performance data using the percentiles, taking the 75th percentile to calculate a percentage change. The results shared here show the best results from individual partners.

Originally Published:

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