Browser Shootout – Part III

August 3rd, 2009

Quickly on from Part I and Part II, here is part three of the great browser shootout. The browsers we are looking at are:

All the tests are done on a fully updated Windows 7 RC on a IBM ThinkPad R52.

The first tests I do is to start up the browsers and check the time till they are fully open and I am able to view a site. All the browsers were set to a blank home page so that this would not affect the load time. After they are open, I check the memory usage.

Then I load one by one the following sites:

For gmail and hotmail, I don’t measure the time to load the login page, but rather the time from login to the time I can see the inbox. In the case of hotmail, this is not the inbox but the main “activities” screen.

All the times taken before this are in seconds and you may take +/- 1 second error.

Following this I run the Acid2 and Acid3 tests. Considering that all the browsers here are Acid2 compliant, only the Acid3 has any meaning. Acid tests are a measure of the browsers ability to support HTML and CSS standards as defined by the W3C. Acid3 requires support for JavaScript as well.

Then I loaded up four different JavaScript test sites. At this point I again checked the memory usage. For Chrome and Internet Explorer 8, I will give the total usage of all the processes in memory.

The JavaScript tests were then run:

The JavaScript test from the V8 Browser comparison is a numerical score – higher the better; the other JS comparisons are in milliseconds – lower the better. The mootools test is actually a test to compare different JavaScript libraries, Mootools own as well as JQuery, Prototype, YUI and Dojo. This test acts as an indicator of real-world usage, since many sites use one of these libraries to run their JS. Note: IE8 failed the Dojo test completely.

Without further ado, here are the results of the tests.


Of course, IE8 handily wins this one. The slow time of Opera may be due to the fact that it is still in beta.


This is a logarithmic scale, otherwise it would be difficult to show the usage. IE8 is a huge memory hog, using 824MB when loaded, nearly 4 times the usage of the next highest which is Safari 4. Chrome easily wins this with a usage of only 127MB at max.


Most sites load pretty much the same on each browser, except on IE8 which consistently takes more time than the other four. Even hotmail, Microsoft’s own, is fastest in Firefox! Gmail also loads fastest in Firefox, but only by one second, well within the margin of error. Overall, Firefox comes in handily in first place, followed by Chrome and Safari 4 almost neck and neck. But these three browsers are easily the fastest and the difference in times to load these sites is so negligible in real usage, you can’t tell the difference.

The Acid3 test is very close. Opera, Safari and Chrome all do the 100/100. Firefox gets 93, but IE8 gets only 20! Although there is a problem with Chrome where you may see a “Linktest Failed” for a few seconds even after everything is complete until the page clears up to meet the reference.


The v8 suite is Google home-grown to torture test the JavaScript engines of the browsers, but considering the lead that Chrome has over the other browsers, one wonders if it is actually designed to highlight Chrome, considering the other JS tests don’t show such increases.


Again this graph is a logarithmic scale. All the times are in milliseconds. Here you find that IE8 is visibly the slowest in all tests, while Firefox, Chrome and Safari all are bunched together. If you go in for specifics, except for the SunSpider test (won by Chrome by a short head) and the Prototype test (won by Opera surprisingly), Safari 4 wins all the JS tests – whew!

So that’s the end of the tests. Finally, it comes out that all the browsers are pretty much equal when it comes to performance, except IE8. But even IE8 is head and shoulders above IE7 and IE6, so you should upgrade to this even if you are not willing to move to any alternative browser.

Which browser do I use? Primarily, Firefox because of the extensions I use – but I often use Chrome and Safari. I’m personally not a fan of Opera but that’s just me – it’s a very nice browser. Of course, there are still some sites which are nothing but IE compatible – so I still haven’t gotten the icon out of my quick launch.

Do drop me a line with any questions or queries.

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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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Browser Shootout – Part I

July 15th, 2009

Recently, Mozilla released the latest version of their highly successful browser – Firefox 3.5. In the last few months we’ve also had releases of Internet Explorer 8 from Microsoft, Chrome from Google and Safari 4 from Apple. And coming soon is the latest version of OperaOpera 10.

Before we get into the tests themselves, I thought I’d start with a brief history of the browser world and describe how each of these browsers got here.

In the beginning, Sir Tim Berners-Lee said “Let there be the world wide web” and there was. Actually, the beginnings of the web are a bit more complicated, but his basic idea was to have a collection of interlinked sets of data (pages, images, documents etc) using a simple protocol. This idea was used by Lee to create the world’s first web browser (also called WorldWideWeb and later renamed to NeXus). In 1993, the NCSA Mosaic web browser was created which soon spawned the then ubiquitous Netscape Navigator web browser. Oh how I miss the good old days of the big ‘N’!

Microsoft, which initially seemed to have lost the game, responded by bundling it’s Internet Explorer browser with it’s Windows operating systems. This shut Netscape out of the picture almost completely, and IE went on to reach a near 100% ownership of the browser market.

But again, Microsoft lost it’s way, and with the advent of new technologies and what with worms and viruses and trojans (Oh My!), which made use of the tight integration between the browser to spread, people were looking for alternatives.

Mozilla, which was a spin-off non-profit organization of Netscape, then created the Firefox Browser, which was fast, standards-compliant and extendable.

In the background, we had a Norwegian company, Opera Software, which also was building browsers. Unfortunately, it’s desktop browsers never became a hit, but it’s browsers for mobile phones and other internet access devices are very popular.

When Apple launched it’s Mac OS X, it also created the Safari browser. Originally, Safari ran only on Mac OS, but later was ported to Windows with Safari 3. The latest iteration is touted to be the world’s fastest browser (currently, of course!).

And search king Google, was also not resting on it’s laurels. Even though it gave a bunch of money to Firefox, it felt that it needed to do more in the browser market and released Chrome.

Internet Explorer 7, which by now had become the internet’s favourite whipping boy for not following standards and being buggy, was soon overhauled by Microsoft last year and they promised a new standards compliant browser – Internet Explorer 8.

So now, we have five different browsers each with a different history and different features all competing for the prize of the best and biggest browser on the web. In Q2 2009, the market share of these browsers was:


As you can see, IE still has the lead with nearly 66 percent of the market share, according to NetApps. But there are rumours that IE market share has dropped quite drastically in the last month, but the numbers are yet to be analyzed.

Coming up next… Browser features!

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