@necolas 5 months, 2 weeks ago 413 views

A brief analysis and comparison of the CSS for Twitter's PWA vs Twitter's legacy desktop website. The difference is dramatic and I'll touch on some reasons why.

Legacy site *downloads* ~630 KB CSS per theme and writing direction.

6,769 rules
9,252 selectors
16.7k declarations
3,370 unique declarations
44 media queries
36 unique colors
50 unique background colors
46 unique font sizes
39 unique z-indices

PWA *incrementally generates* ~30 KB CSS that handles all themes and writing directions.

735 rules
740 selectors
757 declarations
730 unique declarations
0 media queries
11 unique colors
32 unique background colors
15 unique font sizes
7 unique z-indices

The legacy site's CSS is what happens when hundreds of people directly write CSS over many years. Specificity wars, redundancy, a house of cards that can't be fixed. The result is extremely inefficient and error-prone styling that punishes users and developers.
The PWA's CSS is generated on-demand by a JS framework that manages styles and outputs "atomic CSS". The framework can enforce strict constraints and perform optimisations, which is why the CSS is so much smaller and safer. Style conflicts and unbounded CSS growth are avoided.
How does the PWA do responsive design with 0 media queries? Modern responsive design is about conditionally rendering entire component trees, and making components adapt to their own dimensions. You need to use 'ResizeObserver' for that. Media queries in CSS aren't good enough.
In fact, putting state in CSS (:hover, @media, etc) is as much of a problem for dynamic web apps as putting state in the DOM. Removing state from style definitions simplifies coordinating changes to trees & styles, and opens the door to more native-feeling interactions.
The Twitter PWA is a good example of how a huge, highly dynamic app benefits from a simpler "styles in JavaScript" paradigm (powered by a subset of CSS) that is significantly more effective and reliable than working directly with CSS or CSS-in-JS.

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