According to Wikipedia, “The term “browser wars” refers to the competition for dominance in the web browser marketplace. The term is used to denote two specific periods of time: the competition between market-dominating Netscape Navigator and its eventual defeat by Microsoft Internet Explorer during the late 1990s, and the competition from 2003 onwards between the dominating Internet Explorer and several other emerging browsers including Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera and, since mid-2008, Google Chrome.” I couldn’t agree more, so now it’s time to look again at browsers and their respective performance. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
For almost two months I’ve been using Windows 7 as my main operating system. I have installed IE 8, Firefox3.06, Firefox 3.2 beta, Opera, Safari, and a non working Google Chrome. I started with IE 8 and soon switched to Firefox 3.06 and more recently to 3.07 as my default browser. The reason was one of necessity. If I wanted to continue using Windows 7, which I did, FireFox was the browser that worked with the applications and programs I needed. Internet Explorer 8 compatability mode helped with some of the problems relating to page rendering but not with the operation of programs like WordPress.
So let’s set the stage for this comparison. I’m comparing in Windows XP, which still has the largest share of the OS market, and Windows 7 Beta, which I believe will be the second largest share holder in the not so distant future. Lately Betas are the big news. Windows 7, IE 8, FireFox 3.1 are all getting their fare share of Beta interest. This should give a good view of what the majority of current users are experiencing and also a glimpse of what’s to come.
Three different tests were used to measure the speed of rendering and page loading. WEBWait: allows me to measure differing pages with each OS and browser. For this test I used the www.pcpitstop.com address for each browser. Not included in the figures shown were other pages used to verify that the results are representative of each browser. As expected some pages loaded fast and some slow, but their comparative rate stayed consistent.
Webstandards: Uses the same page each time and contains several parts. This test is more about keeping standards and measuring rendering accuracy. It’s a pass or fail test but displays varying degrees of failure.Smiley face is pass, sad face is fail.
Scragz:This is a single page and is simply a load time test. Nothing complicated about it.
Feel free to use the links to test your own setup and include your results in your comments. There should be more than a few Vista/Internet Explorer 7 users that can post their results and complete our view of things.
I believe, between the three, I’m getting a good idea of how they compare. For each, I ran 5 tests, dropped the highest and lowest scores and averaged the 3 remaining.
|IE6||.47 sec.||2.78 sec.|
|Firefox 3.07||.60 sec,||2.86sec.|
|Chrome||.58 sec.||2.36 sec.|
|Opera||.79 sec.||2.38 sec.|
|Safari||.57 sec||3.80 sec.|
I used WindowsXP and IE 6 together as it represents the largest segment of the population right now. While market share is changing rapidly, this is the largest group as measured by PC Pitstop and just about everywhere else.
I compared Windows 7 and the Beta versions of FireFox and Windows 8 because I think these represent the most likely winners over the next year. A lot will depend on when Windows 7 is offered to the public as a finished product, but it looks like momentum is going to get it on top sooner rather than later.
|IE8 RC1||.52 sec.||3.53 sec.|
|Firefox3.12 beta2||.583 sec,||2.81 sec..|
|Opera||..74 sec.||2.20 sec.|
|Safari||.67 sec||2.33 sec.||sec.|
As expected there was a measurable difference between the scores in Windows 7 and Windows XP. I was hoping that Windows 7 would be the faster of the two just because I had enjoyed using it the last couple of months, but that wasn’t the case. Seperately, I ran even more tests to confirm that what I was seeing was accurate and not a fluke. I’m sure there will be the usual tweaks available to make IE 8 faster but right now Window XP and IE6 are the clear and consistant winners of this race.
One disappointing finding was that Google Chrome wouldn’t run at all on Window 7. It seems that the excitement and fast acceptance seen at the introduction of Chrome is slowing, not much progress made since it’s initial release. I’m still seeing the same problems now that I saw at the beginning even in combination with Windows XP.
One other obvious finding was that Firefox was the only browser to pass the Web Standards Acid test. Certainly the main function of a browser is to render the page correctly before worring about speed. I’m sure this contributes to the growing popularity of Firefox.
The one thing that came from this comparison is that after a couple of months use, I ended up with Windows 7 and Firefox as being my favorite combination. It’s the combination that worked the best for me and was the most problem free. The fractional bits of seconds difference between some of the load times might be nice for bragging rights but over days and weeks of use we all gravitate towards what works best. Windows XP and IE6 might still be the fastest, but the features of Windows 7 and the reliability of FireFox make it the winner in my book
Next year should see some interesting changes, I can’t wait.