Infinite Scroll

15 minute read

Infinite scrollers pop up all over the internet. Google Music’s artist list is one, Facebook’s timeline is one and Twitter’s live feed is one as well. You scroll down and before you reach the bottom, new content magically appears seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a seamless experience for users and it’s easy to see the appeal.

begin with ABC

Coding begin with ABC.

General way

The additional content appended dynamically to the bottom of the page or to the container as the user approaches the end of the content, the elements’s rendering and appending will be handled only if and when the user needs it. If the user doesn’t reach the end of the viewport, data that is not in the viewport won’t be loaded and handled

Set the pen

The advantages are clear: data request dynamically, and it is sample to realize, we just need to judge if the bellow element is ready to show, if yes then rending it, we dont need to thinking about the upper datasets, means we increased the DOM node count, but when user scroll up, we save time of operation and requests. It is good when the datasets are not very big.

The virtual scrollbar

There are three flavors of virtual scrollbar implementation

  • Object pool —  based on “Object Pool” design pattern. A small subset of DOM elements are rendered and reused as the user scrolls down the page;
  • Use, drop and recreate  —  Recreates the DOM elements each time they are in the viewport, and releases them once they leave;
  • Just add the elements  —  As in infinite scroll, creates the elements as they come into view.

Set the pen

Unlike with the infinite scrollbar, with the virtual scrollbar, the scroll’s size is calculated before appending the elements, it keeps the element as constant count. and (index-1)*height is made by multiplying item-height by item-count. Each element gets an absolute position over the padding layer, and is offset from the top padding according to the element index. This solution is not very good, because we should add each element a padding attribute, and should change anytime, it is expensive, like that, we could use the Object pool.

A example from google

In this example this google team trying to build a message app demo, and there have an infinity scroll scene, so in this case, google team suggested 3 techniques to optimize this.


DOM recycling

The think of DOM recycling is reduce the count of DOM, whenever we scroll the screen, the general idea is to use the initial DOM or the already created DOM elements that are off-screen instead of creating new ones. Create a new DOM is cheap, but each of DOM have extra coast in memory, layout, style and paint. And with the increasement of DOM node count, low-end devices will get noticeably slower, also that every relayout and reapplication of your styles (a process that is triggered whenever a class is added or removed from a node) grows more expensive with a bigger DOM.

The first hurdle is the scrolling itself. Since we will only have a tiny subset of all available items in the DOM at any given time, we need to find another way to make the browser’s scrollbar properly reflect the amount content that is theoretically there. We will use a 1px by 1px sentinel element with a transform to force the element that contains the items (the runway) to have the desired height. We will promote every element in the runway to their own layer to make sure the layer of the runway itself completely empty. No background color, nothing. If the runway’s layer is non-empty it is not eligible for the browser’s optimizations and we will have to store a texture on our graphics card that has a height of a couple of hundred thousand pixels. Definitely not viable on a mobile device.

Whenever we scroll, we will check if the viewport has come sufficiently close to the end of the runway. If so, we will extend the runway by moving the sentinel element and moving the items that have left the viewport to the bottom of the runway and populate them with new content.

The same goes for scrolling in the other direction. We will, however, never shrink the runway in our implementation, so that the scrollbar position stays consistent.


Considering about the network latency and everything, if our users make use of flicky scrolling, they can easily scroll past the last element we have data for. If that happens, we will place a tombstone item – a placeholder – that will get replaced by the item with actual content once the data has arrived.

Tombstones Tombstones are also recycled and have a separate pool for re-usable DOM elements. We need that so we can make a nice transition from a tombstone to the item populated with content, which would otherwise be very jarring to the user and might actually make them lose track of what they were focusing on.

Scroll anchoring

Our scroll anchoring will be invoked both when tombstones are being replaced as well as when the window gets resized (which also happens when the devices is being flipped!). We will have to figure out what the top-most visible element in the viewport is. As that element could only be partially visible, we will also store the offset from the top of the element where the viewport begins.


If the viewport is resized and the runway has changes, we are able to restore a situation that feels visually identical to the user. Win! Except a resized window means that each items has potentially changed its height, so how do we know how far down the anchored content should be placed? We don’t! To find out we would have to layout every element above the anchored item and add up all of their heights; this could cause a significant pause after a resize, and we don’t want that. Instead, we resort to assuming that every item above is the same size as a tombstone and adjust our scroll position accordingly. As elements are scrolled into the runway, we adjust our scroll position, effectively deferring the layout work to when it is actually needed.


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