BrowserWars II

March 09, 2009 by in The Pit Blog


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 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.

Browser WEBWait Skrags WebStandards
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.

Browser WEBWait Skrags WebStandards
IE8 RC1 .52 sec. 3.53 sec. :(
Firefox3.12 beta2 .583 sec, 2.81 sec.. :)
Chrome :( :( :(
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.


Web Standards Project


Market Data

Browser Stats


Global Stats


87 Responses to BrowserWars II

  1. Adrienne Stears says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your posts. Dont have much to add, cheers!

  2. Joe White says:

    I’ve never been a fan of IE since it was in it’s early days all those years ago – when it was competing with netscape.

    I use Firefox now as I find it to be the fastest browswer and the most usful with all of the plugins etc you can use for it. And, many people wonder why I don’t use chrome; well, I don’t want to give Google more of my information to sell, now do I?

  3. Leonard Blaska, Jr. says:

    I use a browser noone seems to compare to the rest. I use SLIMBROWSER. I’ve tried IE Firefox Opera and i like slimbrowser over them.

  4. Gil Wall says:

    I like Google’s Chrome browser. I prefer Chrome because if it’s design, ease of use, look and free of clutter. I find Chrome to be the quickest to load and service search request faster too. Of the three browsers, Firefox is the big memory hog. Close to twice the memory size of IE8 and Chrome. Never had a problem with overall proformance, but their are sites that do not format correctly and to some this can denture some from using Chrome.

  5. Bruce says:

    Avant Browser is Internet Explorer. It isn’t a “stand alone” browser.

    It displays pages just as badly as IE has all the same flaws and exploits as IE. The main difference would be they added skins and a few extensions to IE. But in the end all it is, is IE with new window dressing.

  6. Jim says:

    I Wonder why Avant browser is not mentioned since it has been dubbed by PC Magazine as the fastest browser on earth !!! I tried explaining to Fred Langa ( Whom has lost his mind ) that he also never mentioned this browser and I think its because they get no kickback for mentioning it although it is the best !!! Avant Browser and Avast Antivirus are the best and I have been virus free for 8 years !!! You be the judge !!!

  7. I’m with you on the Win-7 Firefox Beta combo. I too have been really impressed with Windows 7 Beta, but had to take it off my main ‘Puter because it didn’t work well with the Acrobat 9 I needed for my taxes last month. My secondary machine is on loan to a sister right now, but as soon as it gets home, Widows 7 is going on it immediately, and Firefox 3.1.3 Beta will remain my default browser. Thanks for the comparison,I love it when my instincts are confirmed !

  8. JT Westring says:

    Priority wise, I down load graphs for stocks and investments. Firefox will not download the graphs I need and therefore is not even a choice. Downloading ActiveX necessary for the graphics will not load with Firefox.

  9. Michael McNerney says:

    The main problem I’ve had with IE 8 is that I’m unable to upload my assignments onto Blackboard at the On-line university I’m attending, I tried Firefox 3.0 as a workaround and it too had issues with Blackboard. I finally reloaded to IE7 and Firefox 2.0 and this is the only way I’m able to stay current with my courses. I’ve asked Tech support but they don’t have any answers about compatability from either browser just yet. I enjoyed reading your article and forward thinking regarding the future usabilty of both IE and Firefox. I enjoy Firefox and still use XP. But I am becoming more and more interested in buying a Mac and it seems to be a bit more stable than some of the flame mail about WinVista.

  10. Scott says:

    Great Article and given the responses the title is fitting.

  11. Marian says:

    This analysis is in-depth and easy to follow. Thanks for breaking it down this way.

  12. Sharon Cheek says:

    Great article and extensive research.

  13. Mary Lynn Kraft says:

    Good article, Steve. My friend uses Firefox and I’ve been interested in the comparison between it and IE. You’ve helped me gain a bit of understanding on the issue.

  14. Cheryl says:

    Very interesting article indeed. Thanks.

  15. Karen says:

    Good to know that I am already using the “winner” browser as relates to this comparison.

  16. John Fraser says:

    Interesting results. I use XP, Firefox 3.0.7, IE 8 Beta, and Safari 3.2.2. Safari and Firefox render similarly with Safari presenting a softer appearance. My computer is a 2.4Ghz P4, 2Gb RAM, Nvidia 7300, and broadband internet. I’m used to sites taking several seconds to load and display, let alone tenths of a second.

    Dick Estel claims Firefox doesn’t display his site correctly. It is not W3C Standards compliant. Firefox does control some elements differently such as margins, padding, and horizontal rules, but it is preferred by veteran Expression Web drafters. I have viewed the page through Firefox, IE, and Safari. Firefox renders the iconic links with a greater margin and easily fixed using CSS. Cheers, John

  17. Egbert says:

    Strangly there is no mentioning of IE7 with XP, wich after SP3 seems logical. Also I miss anote with IE8, if Microsoft Silverlight is integrated with it or not. Might make a difference.

    I used Windows Vista Home Premium with IE8 and Silverlight and tried all other mentioned browsers. Since after six months the horror of Vista drove me to a complete reinstall of Win XP Pro and IE7, I feel much better. Although I use a IE shell browser called Slimbrowser, because it’s functionality is much better than IE7 alone.

    One question seems to be important in the ‘browser wars’: Do we want complete and sealtight safety and protection, or do we want speed and comfort. I for one do not believe it’s both possible at the time, if ever. Maybe we shouldn’t demand more speed, but learn more patience.

  18. Muddrum says:

    Well I have been using windows since 1994 and I’m runnig XP x64 and Ubuntu x64, I have never really liked any of the IE’s. I have been a dual booter for about 4 or 5 years and really like Ubuntu, Firefox runs great on each OS. I have tried Chrome, but it will just not run on 64 bit OS.
    PS: To the writer, if you and most of us out here like Firefox and think its a better product, then why does PC Pit Stop force us to use IE or in my case Firefox with IE Tab plug-in???
    Could you let me know?
    Thanks Muddrum

  19. Gutter says:

    I like your reviews but I hope you remembered you have to use the IE 8 that came with windows 7. It says in the install not to use the upgrade version since it doesn’t work.

  20. Bruce says:

    Too amusing, really it is.

    Dick Estel posts a site created with Microsoft Front page and then complains when a browser other then IE doesn’t display it the way IE does lol.

    Dick, you should really not use horrible software like Front Page if you expect to have a site that is web standard compliant.

  21. Perry says:

    I am Running Vista 64 and Windows 7 64. I am using 4 browsers for differant things, Firefox for when I really cant have a crash or take a chance of trouble. Google Chrome for some of my favoriate sites that has no trouble with Chrome because of the speed and tab screen. I rairly use Safari because of the way you need to navagate (but it has no trouble loading pages correctly. And last but not least IE. IE has always been my fav but the fancy they make it the more headaches. The IE beta was really bad for me big time freezes (this is why I switched to Firefox for important things). IE on Windows is really bad it doesent render tons of sites, it cant open a lot of media links (like Chrome) I have reported all of the IE errors to Microsoft time and time again. I tell them the more fancy the more headaches. I never liked other browsers and only used IE until 6 or 8 mounth’s ago because of the headaches. PS. I keep telling Microsoft if you want to make IE better add a Download Manager to it instead of things that people will hardly use.

  22. Dave says:

    Not sure about shogun’s results. I have been working with Wildblue satellite tech support on my connection and have been keeping pretty detailed measurements on the different browsers and test site speeds. I have been using Numions stopwatch to measure different browsers to different sites. It became quite obvious that Chrome beat the others hands down, Firefox was next, IE and last was Opera which surprised me because Opera loads so fast. Operating system is XP.

  23. Gary says:

    It is a shame to have not waited for RC1 to come out, the beta does not have everything running at full speed, and IE8 still needs some work although it is better. But maybe it is time to move up to a standard of 64 bit, with the large speeds we deal with. I would actually use Safari except for the fact that it downloads to a seperate folder and then you have to go open it much perfer the Automation of IE auto execute.

  24. William says:

    Chrome and Firefox are probably the two best browsers, use Chrome if speed is what you want, from my experience, it starts up faster, loads pages faster, and has a more user-friendly interface. Use Firefox if you want complete control with lots of addons.

  25. JOHNNY69 says:

    I’m sorry guy’s and gal’s, but I still like things that have that “Stable” word attached to them.
    Simply put XP Pro (SP2), Google Chrome. iGoogle and it’s gadgets. I have a high end HP Elitebook (Business Notebook) that prices out at around 2 Grand with the docking Ultra High Capacity 12-Cell LiO battery pack. Takes me out to 25.2 hours on battery alone.
    Fast T9400 Intel Processor (2.54 GHz), 800 MHz Memory, 1066 FSB, 6.0 L2 Cache. 10/100/100 Ethernet, Draft-N for WiFi, Blu-Ray Optical Drive with a 250 GB, 7200 RPM SATA II Hard Drive. FireWire, E-SATA and HDMI Ports with 4-USB Ports.
    My Browser(That works great!) Chrome w/IE 7 for occasional WebSite conflicts. Tried IE 8. Bad move ….. it Puked badly. I don’t understand why people still use Vista. I think it’s a grily platform. Slow and very memory hungry for what it does. Google desktop will give you the same sidebar and customizable too! Windows 7 already has a Service Pack, and it isn’t even out of Beta. I say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!
    Some people love Microsoft, and some hate it. I just get awful tired of updates that lead to problems. Enough said!

  26. I have been trying Windows 7. I loaded Chrome right away, and it has worked very well. I wonder why it did not work for the reviewer?

    In any case, it is working on my old system.

  27. Kerry says:

    It’s interesting to see all the different (sometimes conflicting) ideas about which browser is fastest or ‘best’. I think it depends on: what you’re using it FOR (i.e. web development, web surfing, etc.), and HOW you’re using it (i.e. how do you have it configured/customized, what plugins, etc.).

    Personally, for everyday web surfing, I really like Maxthon(ver. 1.6.3): it’s extremely customizable, and has LOTS of features that I find usefull, even if it might be a fraction of a second slower than some other browser. Just my opinion.

    I’ve been using it for years, and have never had any problem with ‘standards’ or compatibility. (As far as I know, anyway.)

  28. Andy Statham says:

    Some browsers are going to perform differently for different people due to other software installed. Chrome, for example, has problems if Symantec Endpoint is installed. Interesting that Firefox is the only one that complies to web standards. Is that 100% compliance? One must ask why no one else complies to them. Could it be the web standards that need to change?

  29. Dick Estel says:

    It’s interesting that you found that Firefox does a good job rendering pages correctly. I liked Firefox when I first tried it, but I switched to Opera because Firefox does NOT render my pages correctly. Every other browser does them fine, but Firefox adds a ton of space around the elements in tables (you can see what I mean with
    I also find Opera to be noticeably faster than IE6. I moved away from IE because it seems slower than most other browsers.

  30. Ernie Mink says:

    I will make this simple: Internet Explorer and Windows will ALWAYS dominate and for good reasons: They do everything and leave no corner unturned, plus are more secure. Apple lost when Windows was released and never has regained even close to the status that Microsoft has. That is good, because there is absolutely NO reason to use anything else, including a crappy iPod. The Zune is much better!

  31. Rogers says:

    I have been using Maxthon for several years because of it’s tabs and tab control. I used it’s predecesor, MyIE for years for the same reason. Maxthon is a superb browser.

  32. James Hodson says:

    Firefox 3.07 along with the IE Tab Add-on work well for me. IE 7 rarely needs to rear its ugly head (though I’m sure its mother loves it).

  33. I have mozilla 3.7 on a PC and Laptop with Vista—it crashes regularly and I have to restore it repeatedly.
    Chrome so far has been blissful :)

  34. Ken in Phoenix says:

    I appreciate the work that went into the article but I have to ask; How could you possible compare browsers in competition when, according to the courts, Microsoft has a monopoly on browsers. All those others so-called browsers and the poor deluded folks who claim to use that must all be horribly mistaken.

    However, if Microsoft did not have a monopoly and there were indeed so many choices out there, your descriptions and comparisons would be most helpful to someone just starting to look around.

    Thank you!

  35. Dave Fries says:

    It’s nice to see the percentages of Internet users using various browsers. It’s wrong to think just because IE has the greatest percentage that it is the browser to target. The fact is that the majority of IE users know little or nothing of the ins and outs of the web. Nor do they care. They just use what is supplied by the OS on their computer.

    The Web run on standards. Without these standards we wouldn’t enjoy the Internet as it exist today. How then, can any one say a browser that does not comply with the standards is the browser to target just because so many people use it. I guess I have to “accept” the many viruses and other baddies that target Windows just because… I think not!

    If you are a developer, it is your responsibility to 1) make your pages compliant with the W3C standards, 2) test on every browser and OS you have access to, and 3) if necessary, seek out “work-arounds” that stay within the standards. Stay away from “features” that may look good on one browser are not a part of the standards and thus will cause problems on other browsers.

    We can no longer assume that just because IE still holds the majority of the browser market that it is the only browser to target or program for. Hand held devices are becoming more and more popular today and are going to be even more so in the future. Not to mention the gadget that may be released tomorrow that will knock your socks off, be a must have for everyone and not use IE.

    Stick with the standards and the transition to tomorrow will be a smooth one. Program for IE and expect head aches.

  36. I will like to know how i can get windows 7 to download from which site.

  37. Mina says:

    Chrome would’ve had higher results if you used the Iron version. Its not made by Google, but it strips out all the extras that Google put into it. I chose to test out Chrome using the portable version of Iron. In my opinion, it makes a good substitute for IE. The only issue I have with it is that it doesn’t save Sessions like Firefox and Opera does. I like the fact it looks so “clean” and doesn’t carry the same typical appearance that most browsers do. You’ll find Iron here…

    But for everything, I do prefer Firefox. I don’t see any evidence that its slow, so I’m not sure what add-ons people are using. If you need IE for anything, just install IE Tab onto Firefox. It makes a faster IE experience without depriving yourself of Firefox’s accessibility and quickness. If you like a lot of speed despite the add-ons, then I suggest going for the portable version.

    I still like Opera and use it every once in a great while. It does have a few rendering issues. Nothing too big to annoy me, though. My favourite part about Opera is that it won’t let you look up passwords that you’ve saved. Firefox does let you look up passwords. I don’t know if Chrome/Iron has this option or not.

    I agree with what others are saying; you need to focus more on a wide variety of browsers, not just the majority and middlelings and minority. There are a lot of browsers to choose from.

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