The hunt for the Fastest Browser on Earth


Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer fight it out  mix _ logo

The Browser Wars are heating up again. First there was the funeral party for Internet Explorer 6 (let’s hope it stays buried), then we had the EU mandate for the Browser Ballot, a feature which has lead to the corrosion of the IE’s install base, Firefox overtook Internet Explorer 7, and recently, we saw the release of Opera 10.50 – the self-proclaimed Fastest Browser on Earth… As we were putting up the finishing touches on this article Microsoft released a sneak peek of Internet Explorer 9; and not a moment too soon as you will learn soon.

Opera has long been playing the role of best supporting actor in the browser theater for the past 14 years. The past few years have seen relative upstarts – Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome – steal market share and mind share from this browser of yore. Popularity notwithstanding, Opera has always been the melting pot for new ideas and features, to which Turbo, and Unite are some of the latest additions. Opera’s newest weapon – its brand new JavaScript compiling engine called “Carakan” (pronounced ‘Jarakan’) is claimed to sprint seven times faster than its previous “Futhark” engine. This definitely makes the browser faster than its predecessors, but how does it compare to its competitors?

When Opera proclaims something as bold as “Earth’s Fastest Browser”, we had to take a closer look and check the validity of this claim. Its competition is surely not sitting idle: Google Chrome’s V8 engine is constantly being improved, as it evident from the performance gains in each dev release; Mozilla is polishing their SpiderMonkey engine with each new version, and en route to creating a new JavaScript engine, and Safari is tweaking its SquirrelFish engine – all trying their best to squeeze every drop from their JavaScript engines. With that in mind, we felt that the browsers needed to go against each other and show us what they’ve really got.

This article then is purely about which one of our favourite browsers is the Fastest. We haven’t covered all the browsers under the sun but certainly all the usual suspects.

To that end, we will take a look at our favourite browsers’ performance across two parts. The first part will take you through the tests we will throw at these browsers, describing in detail our reasoning for picking these tests and what to make of their results. In the second part, we shall produce the comparison data and benchmark details with the conclusion crowning the performance winner.

So before spilling out the names of the gladiators, let’s checkout the proving-ground and the gauntlet each competitor will run through. Here’s the list of tests that each of the browser took (spoiler alert – some failed these tests):

Acid 3 Test
This one needs little introduction. Our good-old Acid test is a standard tool for testing a browser’s standards-compliance and any browser test is incomplete without it.

Dromaeo Test
Once warmed up, we let the browsers battle it out using the Dromaeo tests. This set of tests gives us a detailed break-up of nearly all aspects of JavaScript interpreting, rendering, and CSS rendering performance. The great thing about Dromaeo is that, despite being a Mozilla project, it includes all the tests of the Apple WebKit (SunSpider) and Chrome’s (V8) JavaScript tests, besides the Dromaeo tests (Mozilla’s own test suite) itself.
Furthermore, it has the CSS Selector test that uses some JavaScript libraries for DOM (Document Object Model) queries and gives us a CSS performance chart. We performed all tests to ensure that the results have as little bias as possible. This is a pretty extensive test, with a very detailed result sheet. While we won’t delve into its depths in this discussion, we shall put the links of the detailed comparison data to whet the appetite of the uber-geeks among us.
A note on Internet Explorer 8 here: we could not include Internet Explorer 8 into this test as the browser behaved very erratically. We could not save its test sessions, it failed to complete the entire test on many runs; reporting script alerts often. IE8 did not play nice with Dromaeo and was thus kept out of this round. Considering that these tests used commonly used functions, this ia quite a failure on the browsers part.

PeaceKeeper Test
Peacekeeper is a web browser benchmarking service from FutureMark. It takes into account the PC hardware configuration. PeaceKeeper simulates a realistic web surfing workload: JavaScript usage and implementation of the most visited categories of websites such as social networking sites, online video sharing sites, and so on. It also performs an intensive and complex graphics rendering test with the use of the new HTML5 (canvas) implementation for the major browsers.

JSNES Speed Test
Lastly, we ran our good-ol’ Contra in a JavaScript NES emulator to give our champs a real workout and recorded their frame-rate. Ben Firshman has come up with this cool new emulator for the Nintendo Entertainment System inspired by Matt Westcott’s JSSpeccy which runs on the dual-power of JavaScript and HTML5’s Canvas element. While describing a browser’s performance on his page, Ben mentioned the performance of Google Chrome to be best, with Safari close behind. Firefox’s somewhat playable framerate was also noted; but he completely skipped any comment on Opera. We didn’t forget though. Every one of the browsers were stress tested using this tool.

We ran all the tests on the same test machine, under the same test conditions.

Now let’s take at our champs, while they are warming up for the big battle:

Web browser Alias Versions
Microsoft Internet Explorer IE 8.0.7600.16385
Apple Safari 4 Safari 4.0.4 (531.21.10)
Opera 10.50 Opera 10.50 Build 3296
Google Chrome Stable Chrome 4.0.249.89
Google Chrome Developer* Chrome [Dev] 5.0.342.1
Mozilla Firefox Firefox 3.6
Mozilla Firefox Nightly* Minefield 3.7a3pre

NOTE:

I’ve also thrown Internet Explorer 9’s platform preview into this mix but as Microsoft’s licensing restricts us, we cannot publish the benchmarking data. We will suggest how it did across these tests though. We will refer to this preview build as IE9 for the rest of this article.

The test-bed we selected had to strike a delicate balance: it needed to be common enough such that it reflects the “average” computer used to browse and yet it needed to have enough juice to run these applications. We went with a value notebook with the following specs: Intel Core Duo T2300 processor at 1.67GHz on an Intel G945 mainboard, with 1x2GB 667MHz DDR2 Transcend memory and an on-board GMA950 display adapter. Windows 7 was our operating system.

The Browser Wars are heating up again. First there was the funeral party for Internet Explorer 6 (let’s hope it stays buried), then we had the EU mandate for the Browser Ballot, a feature which has lead to the corrosion of the IE’s install base, Firefox overtook Internet Explorer 7, and recently, we saw the release of Opera 10.50 – the self-proclaimed Fastest Browser on Earth… As we were putting up the finishing touches on this article Microsoft released a sneak peek of Internet Explorer 9; and not a moment too soon as you will learn soon.

Opera has long been playing the role of best supporting actor in the browser theater for the past 14 years. The past few years have seen relative upstarts – Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome – steal market share and mind share from this browser of yore. Popularity notwithstanding, Opera has always been the melting pot for new ideas and features, to which Turbo, and Unite are some of the latest additions. Opera’s newest weapon – its brand new JavaScript compiling engine called “Carakan” (pronounced ‘Jarakan’) is claimed to sprint seven times faster than its previous “Futhark” engine. This definitely makes the browser faster than its predecessors, but how does it compare to its competitors?

When Opera proclaims something as bold as “Earth’s Fastest Browser”, we had to take a closer look and check the validity of this claim. Its competition is surely not sitting idle: Google Chrome’s V8 engine is constantly being improved, as it evident from the performance gains in each dev release; Mozilla is polishing their SpiderMonkey engine with each new version, and en route to creating a new JavaScript engine, and Safari is tweaking its SquirrelFish engine – all trying their best to squeeze every drop from their JavaScript engines. With that in mind, we felt that the browsers needed to go against each other and show us what they’ve really got.

This article then is purely about which one of our favourite browsers is the Fastest. We haven’t covered all the browsers under the sun but certainly all the usual suspects.

To that end, we will take a look at our favourite browsers’ performance across two parts. The first part will take you through the tests we will throw at these browsers, describing in detail our reasoning for picking these tests and what to make of their results. In the second part, we shall produce the comparison data and benchmark details with the conclusion crowning the performance winner.

So before spilling out the names of the gladiators, let’s checkout the proving-ground and the gauntlet each competitor will run through. Here’s the list of tests that each of the browser took (spoiler alert – some failed these tests):

Acid 3 Test
This one needs little introduction. Our good-old Acid test is a standard tool for testing a browser’s standards-compliance and any browser test is incomplete without it.

Dromaeo Test
Once warmed up, we let the browsers battle it out using the Dromaeo tests. This set of tests gives us a detailed break-up of nearly all aspects of JavaScript interpreting, rendering, and CSS rendering performance. The great thing about Dromaeo is that, despite being a Mozilla project, it includes all the tests of the Apple WebKit (SunSpider) and Chrome’s (V8) JavaScript tests, besides the Dromaeo tests (Mozilla’s own test suite) itself.
Furthermore, it has the CSS Selector test that uses some JavaScript libraries for DOM (Document Object Model) queries and gives us a CSS performance chart. We performed all tests to ensure that the results have as little bias as possible. This is a pretty extensive test, with a very detailed result sheet. While we won’t delve into its depths in this discussion, we shall put the links of the detailed comparison data to whet the appetite of the uber-geeks among us.
A note on Internet Explorer 8 here: we could not include Internet Explorer 8 into this test as the browser behaved very erratically. We could not save its test sessions, it failed to complete the entire test on many runs; reporting script alerts often. IE8 did not play nice with Dromaeo and was thus kept out of this round. Considering that these tests used commonly used functions, this ia quite a failure on the browsers part.

PeaceKeeper Test
Peacekeeper is a web browser benchmarking service from FutureMark. It takes into account the PC hardware configuration. PeaceKeeper simulates a realistic web surfing workload: JavaScript usage and implementation of the most visited categories of websites such as social networking sites, online video sharing sites, and so on. It also performs an intensive and complex graphics rendering test with the use of the new HTML5 (canvas) implementation for the major browsers.

JSNES Speed Test
Lastly, we ran our good-ol’ Contra in a JavaScript NES emulator to give our champs a real workout and recorded their frame-rate. Ben Firshman has come up with this cool new emulator for the Nintendo Entertainment System inspired by Matt Westcott’s JSSpeccy which runs on the dual-power of JavaScript and HTML5’s Canvas element. While describing a browser’s performance on his page, Ben mentioned the performance of Google Chrome to be best, with Safari close behind. Firefox’s somewhat playable framerate was also noted; but he completely skipped any comment on Opera. We didn’t forget though. Every one of the browsers were stress tested using this tool.

We ran all the tests on the same test machine, under the same test conditions.

Now let’s take at our champs, while they are warming up for the big battle:

Web browser Alias Versions
Microsoft IE IE 8.0.7600.16385
Apple Safari 4 Safari 4.0.4 (531.21.10)
Opera 10.50 Opera 10.50 Build 3296
Google Chrome Stable Chrome 4.0.249.89
Google Chrome Developer* Chrome [Dev] 5.0.342.1
Mozilla Firefox Firefox 3.6
Mozilla Firefox Nightly* Minefield 3.7a3pre

Acid 3 Test Results:

Opera scored a flat 100 out of 100. So what? Both of the Chrome brothers caught up and even Safari managed to score the same. Firefox maintained its legacy with 94, Minefield though bettered its stable sibling with a score of 96. Oh yes, Internet Explorer 8 – shameful at a meager 20 out of 100, even less than the score of Mozilla Firebird, a pre-v1 build of Firefox which is over 5 years old! IE9 brings with it a ray of hope though, it did much better than IE8 but still far from its competition.

       
IE Safari Opera Chrome
     
Chrome [Dev] Firefox Minefield

 

An aside …

A point to note before we move on: If we had taken a note of performance against resource utilization, the result might vary significantly. Google Chrome is a behemoth in terms of runtime footprint, and even Safari doesn’t play well at this. Opera 10.50 is a more balanced proposition here:

it comes with moderate processor and memory usage (comparable to Firefox) but gave good results (comparable to Chrome). Internet Explorer 8 may be the most resource-friendly browser of them all – but we’ve all seen how it performs. As it stands, Internet Explorer 8 is the best tool to download another browser…

We didn’t count exactly how many times a browser crashed during our tests – but surely, stability makes for an interesting aspect too. Being just a preview build, Minefield & Chrome [Dev] didn’t crash as many times that we felt the need to remove them from a test (Minefield only crashed whenever we ran the JSNES test). On the contrary, despite being a stable release, Opera 10.50 crashed a few times; more than a stable release ought to. Rigorous usage of Internet Explorer 8, Safari and Chrome ended up in an odd crashed session or two, but Firefox didn’t crash even once throughout the test period. Nice!

So the winner is…

Frankly, we would be hard-pressed to choose between Google Chrome and Opera 10.50 at this point. While Chrome’s performance, user experience and even interface is a lot more futuristic than its competitors, Opera gives us a clue to how much improvement is possible in a browser’s speed through native code generation. Opera 10.50’s claim for being the “fastest” is not very far from the truth. If you go by numbers though, Chrome won – whether the stable version or the developer version, Google Chrome beats its competitors more often than not, and is the fastest browser out there, as of now. If there is one concrete conclusion to take away from this test, it’s that Internet Explorer 8 performs the worst of the lot, but that dead horse has been flogged enough.

We also ran some “real-world” tests on these browsers. Essentially, we ran sites heavy on JavaScript such as Google Wave, Threadsy, and so on. Except for Internet Explorer 8, now even Opera 10.50 can treat them well. But we noted that the site-browser interaction was not very uniform and consistent across these browsers. Minor and unusual, or unexpected behaviour was noted more than once. But usability and compatibility was not the focus of this test, it was only speed. So we thought it best to let this space open for you to test and comment on. Post your thoughts and share your personal user experience with a browser. After all, a browser is a very personal experience.

….   But considering the level of customization + JavaScript HTML5 support + Themes + Add Ons + Web Development Support, my persoanal Choice is Mozilla Firefox, but again that is my personal choice considering my impression, knowledge and experice with Web Development, and I believe this may not the same among every computer user on the planet.

Someone requested browser usage statistics, I’d like to say that I am no company or an organization who can give you authentice and accurate results for that question. I did searched internet myself and I thouight this is a nice place to view statistics : http://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php but again I could be wrong dear 🙂

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Published by

Aarsh Talati

Software Developer

35 thoughts on “The hunt for the Fastest Browser on Earth”

    1. Yea, IE 9 runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7… But obviously, Google Chrome is the fastest browser ever as i have tried every browser..!!

      Like

    2. yeah the ‘development’ never ends..
      even IE 8 has some issues… wait for official release of IE 9 !! and then you will be waiting for IE 10…
      just as you were waiting eagerly for Windows 7 after the Windows Vista. 😉

      Like

    1. You might be right, but I certainly like firefox more than any other browser, may be because I can fully customize it, and I doubt if that is equally good in Google Chrome, too.

      + 1 , only speed is not the only issue ! the real fun of using any browser depends on available add-ons !

      Like

    2. Chrome is best, used all of them, Firefox always has so many problems! soo – its chrome for me, every now and then I try a new model, and I always go back to chrome….

      Like

  1. i’m using firefox 4 beta i loved it speed is amazing! and yaa firefox is world #1 software(using more users) firefox have speed,add-ons,themes, i loved it if you dont have plz download it than u too say i love it!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Web Browser Debate
  3. I wish you had a clear readable list like:

    1. …. 98%
    2. — 60%
    3.

    or with stars.

    etc, that a dumm men like me to understand who is the best. After reading a long article i still didn’t understand who is first and who is following.

    Like

    1. I am not an expert but I think that depends solely on you.
      Why should you follow others’ choice ?
      Please follow your own self !

      +1, every browser has its own interpretation of the standards being decided. So, all that I am trying to say in this post is, Chrome / Maxthon / FF … all browser are not same … AND ALSO SHOULD NOT BE THE SAME …. each browser has something special just figure out the best for you and make it your default. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve used firefox for some years now – and it’s great, I love the add-ons, plug ins etc. But lately it hasn’t been working that well on my notebook, it’s slow, keeps on saying ‘firefox stopped working’, java doesn’t run properly… Dont know why…

    So now I run Chrome – though I like Firefox more… It’s very fast – but you cant really personalize it.

    Like

    1. ^ did you considered re-installing the firefox ?

      Which version of ff were you using ? I just love firefox 14.0 did you get a chance to try it ?

      Exactly, well I have been Adam’s neighbor for years, and I still use Desktop/Laptops. I neither have smart-phone to experience. But so far I have been loving firefox just because, we can make it exactly how we want it. And I do not think that Google Chrome allows that level of customization.

      Like

    1. Then YOU would feel over joyed with Chrome! Most people like to stay with what they know.. I switched to chrome about 18 mos ago. So, being retired from computing and accounting, I can say, I used to be a DOS only person!

      Like

    2. One should never impose anything to other as far as matter of personal choice is concerned, I guess. Feel free for declaring “you love Chrome and hate Firefox” but *should not* for making others doing so.

      Like

  5. regarding js, the firefox 10 nightlys are second. opera is third, chrome is first. Some of the results overlap (crhome is slow on some things.). IE9 comes in last.

    Like

  6. Talking about a difference in experience, I’d been a long time Mozilla Firefox user but grew weary of frequent crashing. Chrome hasn’t crashed nearly as much but is constantly giving me pop ups to ‘kill’ or ‘wait’ for websites of all kinds which makes for a painfully slow performance. I recently reloaded a fresh copy of xp hoping I would remove clutter that may be affecting my browsing experience. Unfortunately, it only proved to me clutter wasn’t the issue at all. With the broadband connection I have I ought to be getting better performance than I’m now experiencing. I’m now looking to try out Opera 10.5. Hopefully, I will see improvement.

    Like

    1. Strange enough, the same happens in Google chrome on my one of the 3 machines. But it hangs up my entire computer. I observed in ‘Task Manager’ some ‘Showcase Flash’ just screws up my chrome, 😦 none of this seems to be happening with Mozilla Firefox 14.0 and billions of free add-ons !

      *** I figured out what the problem was, I have a Lenovo laptop with 2 external monitors and PS/2 Mouse and keyboard, I was using the PS/2 to USB converter and that somehow my entire machine ! Now I use the USB mouse and k/b, but my neighbors – Adam and Eve, did not liked this 😉

      Diana & Dude, so just like my revised comment says, there is mostly something wrong with just our machines that screws up our experience. I think firefox, chrome, Opera, Maxthon and IE, are all reputed browsers from a inc, they are smarter.

      So the next time (or still) we stuck up, try to reset / refresh your OS … mostly it is outdated OS, add-ons, computer trying to do too much. From a website developer perspective, I prefer to use Google Chrome, but I’m a bit old fashioned and skeptical about my privacy, so prefer Firefox.

      Like

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    • I’d say Chrome is more popular. But there are no limits to what I hear from people using Google Chrome and other ‘products’ from them … questioning for their privacy.
    • I’ve also seen people switching to vanilla ‘Chromium’ browser
    • Personally, I’ve not seen the same confidence in Google Chrome about privacy as what Mozilla Firefox offers

    Like

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    Liked by 1 person

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