Browser Shootout – Part II

August 3rd, 2009

Following on, after a long break, from my browser shootout – Part I can be found here – I finally got around to doing the tests themselves.

Before I go on to the shootout, let’s look at some of the standout features of the browsers here.

All the browsers now work towards standards compliance, which means, hopefully, that if you write a page which is standards compliant, it will work the same in all browsers. All the browsers now have newly (re)designed JavaScript engines. This means that sites which are JS heavy, like Gmail or the new Yahoo Mail, are rendered much faster than earlier. 

Two browsers, Chrome and Internet Explorer 8, maintain separate processes for their tabs, which means if one tab crashes, the whole browser does not go down.

Chrome, Safari and Opera have a speed-dial feature (sometimes called top sites or recently browsed), where when you open the browser it shows you a set of thumbnails of the sites you visited most recently. Safari’s implementation is the best, because it updates the thumbnail even before you click on it, so you have a near real-time view of the site even without visiting it.

Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome all support HTML 5 in some measure, including new features like support for <audio> and <video> tags. Firefox has a lot of support for HTML 5 video which you can see on this page. Unfortunately, you must you FF3.5 to view it.

Opera has a nice feature where you can see the thumbnails of your open sites rather than just the plain tab-bar, but this can be added via an extension to Firefox as well. Safari’s tab implementation is a little wonky. Normally I would expect that clicking on a link which is marked “target=_blank” (which on non-tabbed browsers would open a new window), should open the link in a new tab, but in Safari it works the old way unless you Ctrl-click. No other browser does this.

And the standout feature still is Firefox’s extensions and themes. None of the other browsers have anything close to this. The range of extensions is simply mind-boggling. In fact, you would hardly need half-a-dozen other stand-alone applications, because there would mostly be an extension for it. From chat clients to weather updates, world clocks, HTML validators, FTP tools – you name it it must be there. Or you could create one yourself!

Of course, Chrome will be adding a lot of this stuff soon, but there is a lot of catching up to do.

The tests themselves are a mix of loading speeds, memory usage and JavaScript speeds. Read about them in Part III.

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