Browser wars 08 – IE8 vs FF3.1 vs Chrome

Last few weeks has seen new versions of all the major browsers. My work revolves around a browser, So I decided to take all of them for a run and check how they compete against each other. The big news coming out was from Google. Now the initial surprise has worn off, it’s time to ask the big questions about Google’s new browser: is it any good? And how does it compare to its rivals? Google knows how important the browser market is and how hot the competition is, so everybody was expecting a solid product.

I decided to download Firefox 3.1 beta becasue it includes the new TraceMonkey Javascript engine, Since chrome claims to have the fastest javascript engine out there, it was only fair to test it against the new Tracemonkey Engine. IE8 also has some exicting new innovative features, which have been discussed below. Opera and Safari have their fan following. So we Get, Set, Go….

IE8

Microsoft has been under great pressure to release a better browser after firefox showed the world, the browser could be better. IE7 made some noise, but it was essentially a catchup with current technologies. IE8 s Microsoft’s chance to innovate, and it has. IE8 includes Accelerators .Accelerators are plugins that essentially bring the power of web services to the context menu so, for example, if you right-click on a link you can choose to blog it, email it, translate it and so on. It’s context-sensitive, so some content will give you the ability to define text with Encarta or map an address with Live Maps. For some reason for me the Accelerators only show up after the page has been fully loaded, which is not good, since a lot of web pages continue downloading data even after the visual site has been loaded. Also its disappointing to see only Microsoft products as accelerators options. Perhaps more will show up as the browser makes its presence felt, but we will have to just wait and see.

The next new feature is the InPrivateBrowsing. This is something that is quiet cool. You can switch your browser to a private mode, after which it will stop saving cookies and browser cache. From the IE8 homepage ” Now you can shop for that special gift with confidence knowing your family won’t accidentally find out.” Pretty sure its going to be used for lot more than shopping for special gift ;)
Note : Safari had had this for quiet some time.
There are a few more features like web slices, which are an extension of rss feeds with images and videos and compatibility mode, which fixes sites that don’t show up correct. Nothing to be too exited about I guess. IE8 broke my companies hosting website, It works in the compatibility mode and it does not work on Linux. So grrrr….
Website designers are not going to like the browser if it continues to break websites, its already a pain to make the site compatible in all the browsers available in the market.

For testing javasccript performance I used the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark. It gave IE8 a not impressive 7919.4ms +/- 2.8%
It is sad to see such a bad performance from the company that virtually gave the internet ajax and worked on javascript for years before any other browser.

Detailed result

I give IE8 a 6 out of 10 for mediocre performance

Next up Firefox 3.1

Firefox 3.1

I use firefox for browsing and my work, and I have to admit it has been my favorite browser for quiet some time. Firefox still has a list of addons other browsers envy. IE7/8 have a few but there are nothing compared to the number and functionality of the addons firefox offers. Theme support is another plus. Right now only firefox and opera support themes. Firefox adds the new ctrl+tab with previews, it looks very much like the vista or compiz alt+tab. Pretty sleek. There was an extension already available to do this, adding this by default is a great idea.  The spell check feature is a lifesaver for me. Password management in the information bar is great, nobody likes popup’s.

The auto-complete feature in the address bar is great, but after using it for months, it tends to slow the browser down. I believe it uses the sqllite database.
I have to agree the google chrome address bar is giving a very strong competition to firefox. Firefox and almost every other browser has a separate search text box next to the address bar. Chrome’s address bar acts as both an address bar and a search bar. I tend to like that more.
With Firefox 3.1 the developers have concentrated on improving the performance of 3.0 rather than adding shiny new features,and it shows. The browser is drastically faster, takes up much less memory, tab switching is snap, blazing javascript performance.
Firefox needs to implement each tab in separate memory space, like google chrome does. The tab management of google is much better than firefox or for any other browser for that matter.
Firefox also needs the Private browsing feature pronto. Both IE8 and Chrome have it.
The new tab page needs to be beefed up. Something like google chrome or opera is a excellent idea.
Firefox 3 still does not pass the ACID3 tests, not like other browsers do, but firefox being a open source project should take up the initiative and make websites better, safer and compatible.
Firefox needs to concentrate more on Linux. Firefox runs far better on my vista then ubuntu. There are some big fixes promised for when 3.1 is released, I hope they make it in time for the release.

Even with the above mentioned problems, firefox still wins hands down. The SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark gave firefox 3.1 an impressive 3411.4ms +/- 4.1%

Detailed Resuls

Firefox get a 8.5 out of 10 from me.

Google Chrome

Google was expected to bring a new browser. It has supported firefox till now, but it dropped a bomsheel when it released an inhouse browser. Google chrome takes the goodies from other browsers and implements it with a google touch. The tab location is pretty unique. It saves some screen space, but double clicking the tab bar( or title bar) does not open a new tab, since it has to follow the operating system rules and restore or maximize the browser. The bookmarks bar is very innovative, and this might be the first time I will be using the bookmarks bar, I always thought the bar wasted lot of screen space, but google has really impressed me.  The page that opens when you open a new tab is also brilliant, its similar to what opera has. IE8 also has something similar, but its not implemented well.
The browser itself is very fast. Thanks to the Apple webkit and Mozilla Geeko engine, the websites are both fast and compatible. Brilliant move there google! Use and improve the best out there, instead of wasting time implementing your own engines and breaking compatibility of thousands of websites.
JavaScript rich pages like gmail , google docs open up like they are offline apps. The ability to delete history for a particular day and the inclusion of google gears by default is a welcome feature.
The tab switching and tab arrange feature is really implemented very well. The biggest feature Chrome is the tab management, each tab uses its own memory space, so if one tab crashes, the browser is stable and the non responsive tab can be easily closed.


The download manager is also good, but can be improved on
Now the bad points. Although the browser is open-source, the browser does not run on linux yet.
The bookmarks needs to be imporved, I was unable to find any bookmark manager, I am not referring to adding/deleting bookmarks, there should be some way to manage the bookmarks.

The EULA is not something that you would expect from google, the ‘do no evil’ company. The EULA states

“””By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”””

Well thats means everything you view, submit on a webpage is googles property. Google has a similar EULA for orkut, but who gives a shit about orkut, this is a browser!. Google now says its a copy paste mistake and it will be corrected in all its products asap.
Another annoyance I have is chrome is no RSS FEEDS! What was google thinking? Rss feeds are de facto for live information on the web. I hope it shows up in later versions.
Ads! everybody hates them, but then google is in the ad business. Will google ever allow us to block ads from websites. With firefox I can even block the google text ads. I don’t think this is a feature Chrome will ever have.
No extensions, addons, themes. Firefox and most open source projects have mastered the art of involving the community and they have responded with some excellent addons. Will google provide something similar? Will it restrict the content, like apple? Will it allow third party sites to distribute addons? We will have to wait and see.
The textboxes should have spellcheck like firefox.
I have noticed if you disconnect and reconnect your internet, the pages that  are open become unresponsive. I cannot confirm that bug as of yet though.

Although its a little harsh to criticize google, since this is a their first browser and its beta. But google like Microsoft employs the best minds out there and a lot is expected from these companies.
Google has a new javascript engine called V8. I have to say its pretty fast, I was very anxious to run the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark on chrome and see how it performed.

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark gave chrome an amazing 2057.0ms +/- 8.5%
which makes it the fastest browser for javascript rich apps out there.

Detailed Results

Chrome gets a 7.9 out of 10 for its awesomeness
Add extensions, themes and a few small features here and there and google chrome might even beat firefox.

I will update this post with Opera and safari reviews soon.

4 Comments


  1. Web browsers are free. So why is there such an emphasis on who has what market share?

    Is any money made from this product?

    I know that Microsoft got a lot of legal heat for bundling IE with Windows and then for making it an integral part of the Windows OS. But what law did they break by attempting to monopolize a market that generates no income?


  2. mozilla’s 2007 earnings was 66 million USD. Not bad for a company making open source free browsers. Just because its free for users, does not mean it cannot make money.
    Also its not about money for free open source products, its being the technically best and excelling in what you do. Firefox is simply a much better browser that any listed in the article


  3. Internet Explorer 8 seems to be better than any previous version of IE. IE8 is very stable and rarely crashes or cause blue screens.
    ““““


  4. We’ve been anxiously awaiting Google’s web browser’s extensions for quite a while. In a day I have played with 6 plugins and am plesantly surprised with it. Mozilla Firefox has recently been buggy and the plugins are necessary.

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