The preload value of the <link> element's rel attribute lets you declare fetch requests in the HTML's <head>, specifying resources that your page will need very soon, which you want to start loading early in the page lifecycle, before browsers' main rendering machinery kicks in. This ensures they are available earlier and are less likely to block the page's render, improving performance. Even though the name contains the term load, it doesn't load and execute the script but only schedules it to be downloaded and cached with a higher priority.

The basics

You most commonly use <link> to load a CSS file to style your page with:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="styles/main.css" />

Here however, we will use a rel value of preload, which turns <link> into a preloader for any resource we want. You will also need to specify:

  • The path to the resource in the href attribute.
  • The type of resource in the as attribute.

A simple example might look like this (see our JS and CSS example source, and also live):

  <meta charset="utf-8" />
  <title>JS and CSS preload example</title>

  <link rel="preload" href="style.css" as="style" />
  <link rel="preload" href="main.js" as="script" />

  <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css" />

  <h1>bouncing balls</h1>

  <script src="main.js" defer></script>

Here we preload our CSS and JavaScript files so they will be available as soon as they are required for the rendering of the page later on. This example is trivial, as the browser probably discovers the <link rel="stylesheet"> and <script> elements in the same chunk of HTML as the preloads, but the benefits can be seen much more clearly the later resources are discovered and the larger they are. For example:

  • Resources that are pointed to from inside CSS, like fonts or images.
  • Resources that JavaScript can request, like imported scripts.

preload has other advantages too. Using as to specify the type of content to be preloaded allows the browser to:

  • Store in the cache for future requests, reusing the resource if appropriate.
  • Apply the correct content security policy to the resource.
  • Set the correct Accept request headers for it.

What types of content can be preloaded?

Many content types can be preloaded. The possible as attribute values are:

  • fetch: Resource to be accessed by a fetch or XHR request, such as an ArrayBuffer, WebAssembly binary, or JSON file.
  • font: Font file.
  • image: Image file.
  • script: JavaScript file.
  • style: CSS stylesheet.
  • track: WebVTT file.

Note: font and fetch preloading requires the crossorigin attribute to be set; see CORS-enabled fetches below.

Note: There's more detail about these values and the web features they expect to be consumed by in the HTML spec — see Link type "preload". Also note that the full list of values the as attribute can take is governed by the Fetch spec — see request destinations.

Including a MIME type

<link> elements can accept a type attribute, which contains the MIME type of the resource the element points to. This is especially useful when preloading resources — the browser will use the type attribute value to work out if it supports that resource, and will only download it if so, ignoring it if not.

  <meta charset="utf-8" />
  <title>Image preload example</title>

  <link rel="preload" href="flower.avif" as="image" type="image/avif" />
    <source src="flower.avif" type="image/avif" />
    <source src="flower.webp" type="image/webp" />
    <img src="flower.jpg" />

The code in the example above causes the image/avif image to be preloaded only in supporting browsers — and for users who have image/avif support in their browsers, causes the image/avif image to actually be used (since it's the first <source> specified). That makes the image download hopefully smaller for users who have image/avif support in their browsers.

Note that for users whose browsers have both image/avif and image/webp support, if in that code a <link rel="preload" href="flower.webp" as="image" type="image/webp"> element were also specified, then both the image/avif and image/webp images would be preloaded — even though only one of them would actually be used.

Therefore, specifying preloading for multiple types of the same resource is discouraged. Instead, the best practice is to specify preloading only for the type the majority of your users are likely to actually use. That's why the code in the example above doesn't specify preloading for the image/webp image.

However, the lack of preloading doesn't prevent the image/webp image from actually being used by those who need it: for users whose browsers don't have image/avif support but do have image/webp support, the code in the example above does still cause the image/avif image to be used — but it does so without also causing it to also be preloaded unnecessarily for the majority of other users.

CORS-enabled fetches

When preloading resources that are fetched with CORS enabled (e.g. fetch(), XMLHttpRequest or fonts), special care needs to be taken to setting the crossorigin attribute on your <link> element. The attribute needs to be set to match the resource's CORS and credentials mode, even when the fetch is not cross-origin.

As mentioned above, one interesting case where this applies is font files. Because of various reasons, these have to be fetched using anonymous-mode CORS (see Font fetching requirements).

Let's use this case as an example. You can see the full example source code on GitHub (also see it live):

  <meta charset="utf-8" />
  <title>Web font example</title>

    crossorigin />
    crossorigin />

  <link href="style.css" rel="stylesheet" />

Not only are we providing the MIME type hints in the type attributes, but we are also providing the crossorigin attribute to make sure the preload's CORS mode matches the eventual font resource request.

Including media

One nice feature of <link> elements is their ability to accept media attributes. These can accept media types or full-blown media queries, allowing you to do responsive preloading!

Let's look at an example (see it on GitHub — source code, live example):

  <meta charset="utf-8" />
  <title>Responsive preload example</title>

    media="(max-width: 600px)" />
    media="(min-width: 601px)" />

  <link rel="stylesheet" href="main.css" />
    <h1>My site</h1>

    const mediaQueryList = window.matchMedia("(max-width: 600px)");
    const header = document.querySelector("header");

    if (mediaQueryList.matches) { = "url(bg-image-narrow.png)";
    } else { = "url(bg-image-wide.png)";

We include media attributes on our <link> elements so that a narrow image is preloaded if the user has a narrow viewport, and a wider image is loaded if they have a wide viewport. We use Window.matchMedia / MediaQueryList to do this (see Testing media queries for more).

This makes it much more likely that the font will be available for the page render, cutting down on FOUT (flash of unstyled text).

This doesn't have to be limited to images, or even files of the same type — think big! You could perhaps preload and display a simple SVG diagram if the user is on a narrow screen where bandwidth and CPU is potentially more limited, or preload a complex chunk of JavaScript then use it to render an interactive 3D model if the user's resources are more plentiful.

Scripting and preloads

Note: Use <link rel="modulepreload"> instead if you are working with JavaScript modules.

Another nice thing about these preloads is that you can execute them with script. For example, here we create a HTMLLinkElement instance, then attach it to the DOM:

const preloadLink = document.createElement("link");
preloadLink.href = "myscript.js";
preloadLink.rel = "preload"; = "script";

This means that the browser will preload the myscript.js file, but not actually use it yet. To use it, you could do this:

const preloadedScript = document.createElement("script");
preloadedScript.src = "myscript.js";

This is useful when you want to preload a script, but then defer execution until exactly when you need it.


HTML Standard
# link-type-preload

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also