webpack Performance: The Comprehensive Guide


For beginners, webpack building performance is sometimes annoying. However, this will not stop webpack from becoming the best web building tool in the world. Once you master the following skills, you can soon boost the building performance and save your team a lot of time.

For one thing before kickoff, webpack.js.org is now the official site for webpack. I browsed the documentation and soon found out that this one is much better than the old doc. Though it is not yet finished, it deserves half an hour reading.

Overall config for webpack

Here is the overall configuration for webpack.

  • entry is for setting up source code file.
  • output is for setting up output cdn, destination and filename.
  • loader is the config for loaders to compile files from certain format to the format which can be recognized by the browser.
  • plugins: via plugin, developer can utilize more webpack apis.
  • resolve is the guide for webpack to search files before real compilation

Architecture Design For webpack Config

As gulp fans, many developers highly rely on the work flow of gulp. So they tend to use gulp as the core to control the building flow, and only use webpack to pack js files. Based on this habbit, they usually use webpack-stream which I think, is a bad idea at most cases.

Since they usually use gulp.watch at developing mode, once they modify a file, the whole gulp building process will rerun which takes time. Of course, you can write some building logic to prevent some building process from being invoked, however, it is far from good.

I used to test this idea using a big project with, it takes 13 seconds for incremental build under developing mode.

Based on my experience, webpack is more than just a packing tool, as the community grows and the number of plugins and loaders flourishes, it becomes a solid competitor agains gulp and grunt.

I intend to use webpack as the core of the whold building tool for the project. gulp or grunt is used only for some tasks which webpack is still not good at, like multiple sprites. For flow control, you can use package.json to manage.

  • & is for serial
  • && is for parallel
  • export is used in Mac or Linux for injecting environment variable
  • set is used in Windows for injecting environment variable

Comprehensive Guide of webpack Performance for Big-scale Project

I use a react project of 10 js files as an example. I run the test in a machine with 2 CPU cores and 8G ram. For a very basic configuration (without file uglification), it takes 26seconds.

Let me summarize the tips first.

  1. Externalize big libraries
  2. Pre-build files
  3. Reduce searching time
  4. Cache
  5. Parallel working

Externalize big libraries

Put the big libraries like react, zepto in script tag directly, and use external config to tell webpack, it is fine to use the external link as the source, don't build it. It saves 8 seconds.

Pre-build files

In this case, we are trying to pre-build some files before we really start the main building flow.

  1. DllPlugin and DllReferencePlugin First, we create a new config file, webpack.dll.js in which we use DllPlugin. Please see the following pic, we use DllPlugin to pre-build react, react-dom, redux, react-redux, redux-thunk and loadash.merge as a new vendor called lib.js. At the same time, a dependencies file ./tool/manifest.json is created for next-step usage.

In main webpack config, we now use DllReferencePlugn to reference the dependencies.

  1. noParse Once you have some files which are in ES5 format, you don't have to parse it.
  1. PrefetchPlugin This plugin maybe strange to most developers. I do not completely master it either. For this plugin, it cost extra analysis since it varies from project to project.

Firstly, stats-webpack-plugin is used for generating a work flow file, stats.json.

Secondly, enter this site http://webpack.github.io/analyse/ and upload stats.json. If you concern about code security, you can checkout this project to your local machine and do the analysis work in local environment.

Thirdly, click hint and locate long module build chains part. If this part exists, you can prefetch part of the long building chain like the following:

Due to conflict of external and dll, I don't use external config this time. However it also saves much time. Reduce from 26 seconds to 16.8 seconds.

## Reduce searching time

Before webpack compiles files, it needs to locate each file. Searching files is also a time-consuming job. Please cut it when necessary.

  1. loader exclude Some times, loader can skip some folders to avoid unnecessary searching. For example, babel-loader can skip node_modules.
  1. resolve.alias You can also directly tell webpack where the library is via resolve.alias.
  1. resolve.unsafeCache If the libraries are stable, you can use resolve.unsafeCache to save the file location in webpack so that next time, webpack does not need to search again. Set it as true. Once the a library changes its location, please disable it and make webpack search agagin.
  2. Be careful when you use resolve.root, resolve.modulesDirectory and resolve.fallback When you encounters these three config, please be careful. If you set the wrong searching path or if you set to many, it increases down the compilation time.

After these optimization, it further reduce the building time from 18 seconds to 15 seconds.


We can make a big progress using cache. For example, babel-loader has a cache option. As JavaScript takes up the majority of compilation time when we enable it, it nearly reduces half of the compilation time, from 15 seconds to 8 seconds.

Parallel Working

In this section, I introduce a famous parallel packing tool, happypack for webpack.

For js, please just directly copy the options from loader config.

For css, you can use it only in developing mode since it does not support extract-text-webpack-plugin.

3 more seconds are decreased.


So far, we have reduce the total compilation time from 26 seconds to 5 seconds, a remarkable result.

What about the compilation time after uglification?

If we use the basic config with webpack.optimize.UglifyJsPlugin, it takes 66 seconds to finish the whole process. However, if we use webpack-uglify-parallel, another parallel uglification tool and combine suitable optimazation tips introduced above, it takes only 19.5 seconds.




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