Katie Sylor-Miller Reveals the Secrets of the Web Browser

Drew Gorton , Former Director of Open Source and Industry Relations Reading estimate: 2 minutes

When you're frustrated with your work, what do you do? If you’re Katie Sylor-Miller, Frontend Architect at Etsy, you figure out how to fix it.

Then, you share that information with the world. At least this was the impetus for her “Happy Browser, Happy User” presentation at WordSesh 2019

I sat down with Katie to discuss web browsers, frontend development, and what motivates her. Watch the full conversation below, or read on for highlights.

Secrets of the Web Browser
12 Minutes


For the Love of the Browser

Katie may be best known in the web development world as the author of Oh Sh*t, Git!?!, a slightly irreverent guide to resolving inevitable missteps in Git usage. It turns out that Katie was not alone in her frustration; in just two years, the site racked up half a million views. "I've realized that people swear at Git a lot," she said. 

Now, Katie has turned her attention to the mysterious inner workings of web browsers and why page performance sometimes lags—even when you do everything by the book. "It's really important, but no one ever teaches you," she said. 

Katie started looking “under the hood” of web browsers while leading a project at Etsy to fix mobile performance on the product listing page. Browsers weren’t playing nice with the code, even though the development team was following best practices, such as including CSS at the top and scripts at the bottom.

As with Git, Katie poked around until she truly understood the inner workings of browsers. Based on her success, she was asked to share her findings with other Etsy engineers. And now, she's sharing her discoveries more broadly throughout development community. 

"Browsers are amazing," Katie enthused and, based on her presentation, it’s hard not to agree. Here’s one insight: After you type a URL into the address bar, there are over a dozen exchanges before the server sends anything to the browser. That’s one hard-working piece of technology! I highly recommend watching her whole talk; I’m confident you’ll learn a few things about how browsers actually work:

Happy Browser, Happy User
48 Minutes


Additional Resources

  • Happy Browser, Happy User: Katie’s detailed slides from WordSesh 2019 and GitHub List for Happy Browser, Happy User.

  • Git: Besides sharing her love for the browser, Katie continues to speak, write, and fume about Git. She recently gave a talk about Git at the SmashingConf SF 2019 entitled, "Visual Git: Filling In The Gaps." This presentation shared best practices, workflows, and ways to keep your commits in order. Also, her Oh Sh*t, Git!?! Twitter feed is a great source for swears, humor, and shared angst.

  • Development: Katie is also tapped to speak more generally about web development. During performance.now() 2018, Katie presented "Raiders of the Fast Start: Frontend Perf Archeology," which provided tips and tools to help improve frontend performance.

  • Word Sesh: While WordSesh 2019 is sadly over, the recordings from all the fantastic speakers are free to WPSessions members. Visit the site for more amazing content and to ensure that you don't miss out on upcoming events.

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