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Big Bad Browser Debate

Posted by Paige on July 25, 2009 in Technology |

worldpluggedYesterday I noticed that Firefox had finally released the latest and greatest, 3.5.1. As I went to download it I noticed they were touting an extreme improvement in speed, over 2x faster than version 3. That started me down a whole road of thoughts.

Frequently I have students who want to challenge my technical knowledge and one of the few ways they try is with the web browser. Honestly up until yesterday I had never really sat down and analyzed the browsers and their actual speeds. I have used all the major browsers: IE (all versions), Firefox (all versions), Opera 8 & 9 (mini & full), Chrome, and Safari (only 3 & 4). My current browser is Firefox, which I have been using for some time. So now that Firefox is claiming this huge speed increase I thought I would see for myself. I found two sites that have speed tests and went at it.

These tests were done on my computer running Windows 7 RC1. Please note that these tests are not scientific in any way shape or form, I ran them simply for my own amusement and so that I could be better informed as to the products I use. Obviously, because you have a different system, your results will vary from mine.

I tested Safari 4 Safari, ChromeGoogle Chrome, Firefox 3.5 FireFox, Opera 9.64 Opera, and IE 8 Internet Explorer on July 24 & 25. Here are my results:

The first test site I went to was SunSpider. I ran the test several times over the two days, on all browsers, with similar results each time (the numbers below represent the best of each, they are not averaged).

Firefox 3.5:     Total:     2728.4ms +/- 11.6%

IE 8:                Total:    24853.6ms +/- 21.4%

Safari 4:          Total:    1795.0ms +/- 19.7%

Chrome:          Total:    3541.2ms +/- 32.0%

Opera:             Total:     12468.2ms +/- 23.5%

Please don’t ask me what the numbers mean (anyone who wants to help with that by all means). What you need to know about the numbers is the SMALLER the better. I have to say I was pretty shocked at the results. I have been reading that IE is a “dog”, but what about those Firefox numbers? Well, I wasn’t satisfied so I found another site, with a different test:

Web Browser Javascript Benchmark. Again, running the test over 2 days. This time I followed the sites directions and ran the test 10 times on each browser and took the average. Here are my results on July 25, 2009:

Firefox 3.5:      540 ms

IE8:                   1356.1 ms

Safari 4:          401 ms

Chrome:          778 ms

Opera:             762 ms

Again, don’t worry so much about what the number stands for, just know that the lower the number the better.

I am actually pretty suprised by my findings. Espcially since Safari 4 felt slower than all of them, and IE 8 felt faster.

Unfortunately there are other factors to consider when choosing a browser besides speed. I would love to switch to a faster browser, like Opera, but I am tied to the add-ons that I can only have with Firefox. That makes a switch for me unlikely. The issue of security is also a major one when considering a browser. I have read that IE is has security holes, and Firefox is a much safer browser.

So what’s the bottom line: While I might not be switching browsers anytime soon, at least I can hold my own in a browser debate. I can confidently say that I have tested them out and know which browser works the best for my machine. Most people simply use the default browser (IE or Safari) and think nothing more about it. I encourage you to take 30 min (or less) and perform your tests. Then next time a student (or colleague) wants to debate the merits of your browser, you’ll be ready. Remember, knowledge is power!


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