Coining the term FOSC

Roughly 10 years ago, it was the blog that first used the term Flash Of Unstyled Content (FOUC). This described the appearance of a website before the loading of an external stylesheet. Now that we’ve overcome most of the common causes for the FOUC a much bigger threat has dawned on the horizon.

 Flash Of Styled Content

Introducing the FOSC, or Flash Of Styled Content. Basically describing the appearance of a website before getting a WSOD (White Screen Of Death) when a malfunctioning (third-party) script is fired when the document reaches the ‘ready’ state.

It was the rapid and widespread adoption of the Google +1 button that caused the first wave of FOSCs. People would briefly see a webpage being loaded before the Google +1 button loading kicked in causing a WSOD. The real cause for this is hard to pinpoint because it only occurs sporadically. But having your visitor end up with a blank screen, and not being able to get rid of it in some cases with a simple refresh, is very bad.

I’m not trying to pin this on Google, but if this happens to a company of their stature then it will happen to other companies running similar services too. And therein lies the tragedy of all these third-party scripts that are being loaded in our websites on load. We don’t have any control over them and we place our websites in the hands of the companies/networks issuing them.

What can we do?

We, as end users, should be more skeptical about the stuff we implement in our websites. We’ve seen performance drops, WSODs and other unexpected stuff happening to our pages. It would be really nice if networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ would release the code being run in their social sharing services under an open source license so they can get feedback – and improvements – from the community. Sadly, I don’t think that will happen any time soon.