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A small test I just did with Opera suggests that a background image from a hidden element will actually download but not if it’s the parent that’s hidden. So that part seems to have remained the same at least. I wouldn’t suspect many of the browser developers to have put in much effort into changing this behaviour since that blog was written…

Just click to show the element (this will give some indication) – using F5 won’t work unfortunately but when clearing the browser cache, a repetitive test will show that the request for the url is not made in the “network” tab of dev tools.