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Web Browser Grand Prix: Firefox 15, Safari 6, OS X Mountain Lion

Web Browser Grand Prix: Firefox 15, Safari 6, OS X Mountain Lion
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Today we're breaking out the Hackintosh for our first-ever Web Browser Grand Prix on Apple OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). How will Chrome 21, Firefox 15, Opera 12.02, and Safari 6 stack up against each other, and to IE9 and the rest of the Windows 7 browsers?

But before we find out, let's get everyone caught up on the latest happenings in the world of Web browsers.

Recent News And Events

07/17/12: MSFT Faces EU Probe Over Browser Ballot Compliance
07/25/12: Apple releases Safari 6 along with OS X 10.8 'Mountain Lion'
07/25/12: RockSalt Could Pave Way to Safe Native Apps in Browsers
07/26/12: Did Apple Just Kill Safari for Windows?
07/28/12: Firefox Add-ons Reach 3 Billion Downloads
07/31/12: Google releases Chrome 21
08/02/12: Mountain Lion: Three Million Downloads in Four Days
08/02/12: Opera updates to 12.01
08/06/12: Microsoft Finally Intros Its Own WebRTC Proposal
08/09/12: Microsoft Sticks to 'Do Not Track' Plans for IE in Windows 8
08/15/12: Mozilla's Firefox OS Ported to Raspberry Pi
08/16/12: Google Increases Rewards for Bug Catchers...Again
08/20/12: Break Google's Chrome, Get Up to $2 Million
08/20/12: Mozilla Rechallenges Google in Browser Speed Race
08/23/12: Google Introduces Octane Browser Benchmark
08/28/12: Mozilla releases Firefox 15
08/29/12: Mozilla Ports Full FPS Engine to WebGL; Playable Demo
08/27/12: Google Patents WYSIWYG Printing for Web Apps
09/02/12: Google's Chrome Browser is Now 4 Years Old

And Then There Were Four...

While the latest version of Safari for Windows (v5.1.7) is available for download on the Apple support pages, links to any mention of a Windows version have been completely removed from the Safari product pages on Apple's website. Notably, Apple no longer attempts to bundle Safari with the iTunes and QuickTime downloads either. And although Apple refuses to comment on Safari for Windows, the writing is on the wall.

I want to take a moment to relate our experience with Apple Safari, which unfortunately, never saw the light of day.

Web Browser Grand Prix 0: Safari's Finest Hour

In the months of preliminary testing and benchmark gathering, which eventually coalesced into the first Web Browser Grand Prix, Safari was the front-runner. Before Chrome 4 and Opera 10 came along, Safari dominated the Windows landscape in terms of performance. In fact, Safari 3 becoming available for Windows was the real catalyst for the browser speed wars we've seen over the past few years, and not the debut of Google Chrome, as most people seem to think.

Mere weeks before the first Web Browser Grand Prix published, Safari had a lock on the (then) purely speed-based test suite. It was looking like a landslide. In the end, though, it all came down to unfortunate timing for Apple, as Chrome 4 and Opera 10 emerged just before we began testing. In my mind, Safari 4 is the Champion of the Web Browser Grand Prix that never was.

If you're one of the few Windows users who loved Safari, our sincere regards. Even if you only liked the browser in order to hate on it, the loss of one of the five major players is a loss for all. The more competition between Web browsers, the better. The more browsers, the more fractured the market. The more fractured the market, the better and more important standards become. And when you have open, universally-recognized standards, new players can compete more readily, and any company looking to impose vendor lock-in on the Web will have a much harder time doing so.

Let us observe a quick non-denominational moment of silence in honor of Safari for Windows...

OK, that was enough. Let's ditch this funeral and hit the track!

Display 57 Comments.
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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    Eggrenade , September 7, 2012 4:58 AM
    It would be nice if I could view the additional charts with only one click, and not in a separate window.
  • 16 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 5:50 AM
    JOSHSKORNHow about 64-bit Internet Explorer 9 vs Waterfox 15.0?

    When we have more [official] stable 64-bit browsers, I'll definitely do a 64-bit WBGP - including versus their 32-bit counterparts.
  • 14 Hide
    nitrium , September 7, 2012 7:19 AM
    So OSX is really just a LOT slower than Win7 generally for web browsing on the identical hardware. Is that right?
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    Eggrenade , September 7, 2012 4:58 AM
    It would be nice if I could view the additional charts with only one click, and not in a separate window.
  • 7 Hide
    lahawzel , September 7, 2012 4:59 AM
    It's nice to see Chrome performing so well, but I'm still waiting on the Chrome equivalents of all the plugins I use in FF before I think about switching. The web just doesn't feel the same without them.

    (The nice popular ones like ABP, Lazarus, Greasemonkey all have equivalents; some lesser-used plugins like Rikaichan also have ports by now. Only a matter of time!)
  • 5 Hide
    bennaye , September 7, 2012 5:03 AM
    chrome is absolutely deserving of the award. say what you will about the frequent patch releases touted as upgrades, chrome is a very good browser, as shown by this month's article. even on OSX there is only a small margin separating chrome and safari. but the one qualm i do have with chrome is the lack of add-ons compared to firefox. and i a lot of people share this concern. the add-ons do make the experience that much better.

    as always, a great read.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2012 5:15 AM
    Would like to see this again after IE10 is released.
  • 11 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , September 7, 2012 5:42 AM
    How about 64-bit Internet Explorer 9 vs Waterfox 15.0?
  • 5 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 5:47 AM
    bennayechrome is absolutely deserving of the award. say what you will about the frequent patch releases touted as upgrades, chrome is a very good browser, as shown by this month's article. even on OSX there is only a small margin separating chrome and safari. but the one qualm i do have with chrome is the lack of add-ons compared to firefox. and i a lot of people share this concern. the add-ons do make the experience that much better.as always, a great read.

    All versions of Chrome hold up incredibly well cross-platform, if you look back at the two Linux WBGPs, it won there, too. Thanks for reading!
  • 12 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 5:49 AM
    AdamsTaiwanWould like to see this again after IE10 is released.

    Absolutely, a Windows 8-based WBGP is already in the cards for October.
  • 16 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 5:50 AM
    JOSHSKORNHow about 64-bit Internet Explorer 9 vs Waterfox 15.0?

    When we have more [official] stable 64-bit browsers, I'll definitely do a 64-bit WBGP - including versus their 32-bit counterparts.
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2012 6:22 AM
    I wish Tom's would fiddle around with the settings of these browsers for these tests. In every System Builder Marathon you overclock the builds, why not try and crank the most speed while ensuring better memory management out of the browser as well?

    Testing these browsers at stock doesn't reveal even an eighth of the picture.
  • 14 Hide
    nitrium , September 7, 2012 7:19 AM
    So OSX is really just a LOT slower than Win7 generally for web browsing on the identical hardware. Is that right?
  • 4 Hide
    shahrooz , September 7, 2012 7:20 AM
    it would be nice to have unreleased(Beta/Aurora/etc) versions of the browsers in benchmarks and scoring but only stable releases in the crowning so it will be fair. many users opt for beta releases of browsers including myself, I use Firefox nightly(18.0a1)

    btw great work adamovera keep it up man
  • 13 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 7:29 AM
    boopyI wish Tom's would fiddle around with the settings of these browsers for these tests. In every System Builder Marathon you overclock the builds, why not try and crank the most speed while ensuring better memory management out of the browser as well?Testing these browsers at stock doesn't reveal even an eighth of the picture.

    Interesting idea, so basically a tweaked-out edition of the WBGP, where we use all the tools available to each browser for performance gains... That could work, but I gotta warn you that the next three WBGPs are already decided, so it would probably be real late in the year, or even next year before I could get to it.
  • 14 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 7:43 AM
    nitriumSo OSX is really just a LOT slower than Win7 generally for web browsing on the identical hardware. Is that right?

    Nearly every performance benchmark there is points in that direction. This probably has a lot to do with how much time developers spend optimizing for Windows - after all, Windows holds 90+% of the desktop user base. However, it is interesting that the rift between Windows and OS X is far greater than between Windows and Linux for the core stuff like JS, CSS, DOM, page loads, etc. Plug-ins are another story, they're always much better on Windows than the other two platforms.
  • 11 Hide
    merikafyeah , September 7, 2012 7:44 AM
    All things considered, IE9 does pretty well for a browser that's not even in the double-digits.
  • 7 Hide
    adamovera , September 7, 2012 7:58 AM
    shahroozit would be nice to have unreleased(Beta/Aurora/etc) versions of the browsers in benchmarks and scoring but only stable releases in the crowning so it will be fair. many users opt for beta releases of browsers including myself, I use Firefox nightly(18.0a1)btw great work adamovera keep it up man

    The big problem with including the dev channel browsers is the amount of time it takes to produce the article (testing/charts/writing/editing/translating), combined with the tendency of the dev channel to constantly update. Before testing is even completed it's certain that something will update. TBH, the stable channels of Chrome and Firefox are a handful as it is. For example, for this article I had to test 8 browsers (4 on each OS), but I ended up testing 18+ due to OS X, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Flash, and Java updates. Sorry, but I'm just not sure it's even doable in this format. Thanks for reading!
  • 1 Hide
    shahrooz , September 7, 2012 9:16 AM
    adamoveraThe big problem with including the dev channel browsers is the amount of time it takes to produce the article (testing/charts/writing/editing/translating), combined with the tendency of the dev channel to constantly update. Before testing is even completed it's certain that something will update. TBH, the stable channels of Chrome and Firefox are a handful as it is. For example, for this article I had to test 8 browsers (4 on each OS), but I ended up testing 18+ due to OS X, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Flash, and Java updates. Sorry, but I'm just not sure it's even doable in this format. Thanks for reading!

    well I wanted to include it in my comment myself but I forgot I wanted to say if the timing allows :) 
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2012 9:31 AM
    Meaningless tests designed to generate clicks. All browsers are mature enough at this point in terms of performance. Even the lowly IE is OK. What matters is who is the browser working for, the user, or the mothership? And that's where FF is king. It's about treacherous, gimmicky commercial software made to push standards lock-in and data mining your information, versus free open source software that serves YOUR needs. And it's not only about the code being open either (Chrome). Get savvy on this stuff. Performance metrics are for FPS nerd teenagers.
  • 2 Hide
    JoeMomma , September 7, 2012 10:42 AM
    Call me Old Skool but for me functionality and ease of use far outweigh speed.
    My computer is fast enough that it does not really mater what browser I choose.
    In my case, ease of use means that I can see what is going on.
    I decry the trend towards dumbing down the UI on every program I use.
    (I also refuse to call software 'Apps', to me an app is a mini-program on a phone.)
    I always turn on all menus, buttons and labels in WaterFox.

    BTW: Good point.
    Why don't you include WaterFox in your testing?
    It is the 64 bit version of FireFox and I am sure that in your speed tests it may do a little better.
  • 0 Hide
    azathoth , September 7, 2012 10:47 AM
    Internet Explorer is starting to look pretty good in terms of speed.
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