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Web Browser Grand Prix VIII: Chrome 16, Firefox 9, And Mac OS X

Web Browser Grand Prix VIII: Chrome 16, Firefox 9, And Mac OS X
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Back in August, Mozilla took the WBGP crown with Firefox 7. Can Firefox 9 retain that title? And how are the top Web browsers doing in Mac OS X? We used a Hackintosh last time. This time, we're testing on the world's first Ultrabook, the MacBook Air.

Last August, we ran the Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP) in an entirely new venue. The title was Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion, and we used the same desktop test system we always use, but Hackintoshed. Despite the fact that an OS X browser took first place in nearly one-third of the tests, some of the more, er, enthusiastic Mac fans weren't very happy with our platform choice. They set down their Starbucks double venti caramel macchiatos to complain, “But Adam, that's not a real Macintosh, so of course OS X on a PC is going to suck compared to Windows” and “why didn't you run it on a MacBook with Parallels?” and (my all-time favorite) "it's not fair!"

The short answer is that we don't have a ton of Macs in our PC-centric labs. Nevertheless, we went out and bought a brand-new 11” MacBook Air specifically to satisfy the folks who want to see browsers tested on their native platforms. Welcome to Web Browser Grand Prix VIII, the Mac rematch!

But before we dig our heels into this Mac versus PC Web browser battle royale, let's get everyone caught up on the latest events and ensuing drama. More than two months have passed since we published Web Browser Grand Prix 7: Firefox 7, Chrome 14, Opera 11.51, and a lot has happened in the browser wars since then.

Recent Events

October 9th 2011: On this day, Chrome briefly became the world's second most popular Web browser (according to StatCounter).

October 11th 2011: Opera floats the idea of replacing the scrollbar with set length pages which can be turned, like e-books.

October 15th 2011: Google announces that Chrome has reached 200 million active users.

October 26th 2011: Google releases Chrome 15.

October 28th 2011: Mozilla and Microsoft team up to launch a special version of Firefox with Bing as the default search provider.

November 1st 2011: Opera releases an impressive WebGL demo code-named Odin, requiring a WebGL-capable browser.

November 3rd 2011: Chrome finishes October just shy of 25% overall Web browser market share (according to StatCounter).

November 7th 2011: Mozilla releases Firefox 8.

November 10th 2011: Mozilla celebrates the 7th anniversary of Firefox.

December 2nd 2011: Google Chrome overtakes Mozilla Firefox in market share to become the second most popular Web browser, behind Internet Explorer

December 6th 2011: Opera releases version 11.60

December 14th 2011: Google updates Chrome to version 16.

December 16th 2011: Windows Update now auto-updates Internet Explorer to the latest version. Meanwhile, Chrome 15 edges out IE8 as the most widely used Web browser version, although Microsoft claims IE9 holds that title (when only looking at Windows 7 installations).

December 16th 2011: Mozilla releases a developer preview of Apps project and hints at Firefox as a gaming platform.

December 20th 2011: Mozilla releases Firefox 9.

December 21st 2011: Mozilla renews its search bar deal with Google for another three years, at three times the cost of the previous arrangement. There has been speculation that the increase is due to a bidding war with Microsoft Bing.

January 4th 2012: Use of IE6 drops below 1% in the US, and Microsoft is thrilled. "IE6 has been the punch line of browser jokes for a while, and we’ve been as eager as anyone to see it go away," writes Roger Capriotti, director of Internet Explorer marketing.

Recent Drama

September 26th 2011: Google launches a prime time television commercial for Chrome featuring Angry Birds.

Google Chrome: Angry Birds

September 30th 2011: Microsoft Security Essentials mistakenly classifies Chrome and Firefox as malware.

October 11th 2011: Microsoft concocts a browser security test in which IE9 is “proven” to be more secure than both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Apple Safari and Opera were left out of the testing.

November 4th 2011: Alex Faaborg, the lead UI designer of Firefox announces that he is leaving Mozilla. He is the third high-profile employee to do so in 2011. Another Mozilla developer admits Firefox needs to support importing of Chrome bookmarks. Also calls Add-ons for the Windows version of Firefox “awful.”

November 15th 2011: Mozilla adopts three endangered Red Panda (Firefox) cubs and yet again sets up a live 24-hour feed of their pen on Firefox Live. This time the site contains a warning for users of competing Web browsers.

December 12th 2011: Google funds a Web browser security study in which Chrome is found to be the safest browser. Apple Safari and Opera were left out of the testing.

December 27th 2011: In response to the renewal of the Firefox/Google search bar deal, Chrome developer Peter Kastings says in an interview that “the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible.” Firefox product manager Asa Dotzler counters that “This is Google's business, they sell ads...”

Wow, what a couple of months! Mozilla seems to realize that Chrome is the real threat, as Google becomes the number two Web browser, and all of the top three continue with their antics. Meanwhile Apple remains silent on the browser front, and Opera has some really big changes in store for 2012.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    twztechman , January 6, 2012 3:58 AM
    Been using Firefox for years - it works best for me.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2012 5:42 AM
    Nobody else seems to have noticed that this article tries to rate browsers by speed differences that are far less than the blink of an eye. A browser is a tool - just use the ones you want and stop bothering people about their own choices. (I keep two or three loaded on my machine in case one of them has an issue with a particular webpage)
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    twztechman , January 6, 2012 3:58 AM
    Been using Firefox for years - it works best for me.
  • -1 Hide
    shiftmx112 , January 6, 2012 4:24 AM
    This makes it worth putting up with the constant updates on Aurora. :) 
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2012 4:30 AM
    The best part is I'm quite sure that this is using an out of the box build. Using a PGO compiled nighlty build, with about:config properly configured, and addons like Adblock/NoScript blocking things from ever loading Firefox is significantly faster than these benchmarks state.
  • 2 Hide
    frost_fenix , January 6, 2012 4:40 AM
    I have use firefox and chrome interchangeably for a few years now. I enjoy chromes streamlined design but have recently discovered the noscript addon for Firefox and have since favored Firefox. I have also found Firefox to be more compatable with school webpages and application pages. Still either firefox or chrome is better than IE.
  • 4 Hide
    pharoahhalfdead , January 6, 2012 4:44 AM
    Good point Stoof. I have IE9 and the newest FF, and with the FF add ons, it blows IE out of the water. The majority of IE pages like yahoo video links, boxingscene etc take 6 or more seconds to load, whereas FF is only a fraction of the time.

    I think add ons are much easier to find with FF, and there seems to be a wider variety. Then again I do realize this article wasn't about browsers with add ons.
  • 4 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , January 6, 2012 4:50 AM
    The only one thing I hate about firefox is that it takes a lot of time to launch.
  • 6 Hide
    adamovera , January 6, 2012 5:02 AM
    stoofThe best part is I'm quite sure that this is using an out of the box build. Using a PGO compiled nighlty build, with about:config properly configured, and addons like Adblock/NoScript blocking things from ever loading Firefox is significantly faster than these benchmarks state.

    Yes, we're using everything stock. There is no one-size-fits-all combination of plug-ins to standardize on, and every browser might not have the exact same plugins available. So that throws out a fair comparison between browsers - wouldn't work for the WBGP. Perhaps an article concentrating specifically on Firefox (or another Web browser) with and without various plug-ins would clear that up?
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2012 5:09 AM
    Please use Firefox's latest logo, the one with the shiny orb in Mozilla's press kit! The one they're using now is the old one. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/brand/identity/
  • -2 Hide
    nevertell , January 6, 2012 5:21 AM
    Chrome is the easiest to use if you've got lots of tabs open. Scrolling through them with mouse is a breeze and tab management is just excellent.
  • -9 Hide
    soccerdocks , January 6, 2012 5:28 AM
    frost_fenix. I enjoy chromes streamlined design but have recently discovered the noscript addon for Firefox and have since favored Firefox.


    Why do people seem to forget Chrome has this built in. All you have to do is go into the options menu and disable JavaScript.
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , January 6, 2012 5:32 AM
    Firefox!!! oh yeah. i use ff and the new one kinda feels snappier. the addons are awesome.
    i know i know, chrome is faster, has market share, ie 9/10 are coming up, blah blah. but ff can still fight. google's benevolent (read: to antitrust-pacifier) fund injection should help ff. besides, chrome is a sneakware bundled with numerous softwares. ff has scriptblockers that block statcounter. :D 
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2012 5:42 AM
    Nobody else seems to have noticed that this article tries to rate browsers by speed differences that are far less than the blink of an eye. A browser is a tool - just use the ones you want and stop bothering people about their own choices. (I keep two or three loaded on my machine in case one of them has an issue with a particular webpage)
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , January 6, 2012 6:04 AM
    Mozilla-fanPlease use Firefox's latest logo, the one with the shiny orb in Mozilla's press kit! The one they're using now is the old one. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/brand/identity/

    Thanks for the feedback, and good catch. I must have goofed and started making the graphics with an older file when I already had the newer one. Doh! It's all fixed now, and it should update momentarily.
  • -4 Hide
    arcus_doom , January 6, 2012 6:23 AM
    Google Chrome basically sucked after they removed the Side Tabs option.
  • 2 Hide
    arunloveshacking , January 6, 2012 6:24 AM
    Have you ever noticed that Firefox hangs up whenever you switch tabs while attaching a file? Or is it only for me?
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , January 6, 2012 6:30 AM
    Dear Adam, you might want to remove the html5.com test as it represents nothing but a checklist. In no way does it test the correct implementation or functioning of html5 features.
  • 2 Hide
    bodyknight , January 6, 2012 7:16 AM
    I haven't read the name Soyo in a review since a decade ago...
  • 1 Hide
    MCstrick , January 6, 2012 7:52 AM
    nevertellChrome is the easiest to use if you've got lots of tabs open. Scrolling through them with mouse is a breeze and tab management is just excellent.


    Firefox can do the same with tab mix plus. I couldn't live without scrolling though my tabs.
  • 2 Hide
    freggo , January 6, 2012 8:33 AM
    Firefox wins, yet Chrome is #1 in usage.
    Just like VHS vs Beta, NTSC vs PAL or Gasoline vs Electric... just because the public likes something does not mean it is the best solution.
  • 1 Hide
    mayne92 , January 6, 2012 10:00 AM
    Great review Adam...as usual! Awesome work. A good read with my morning coffee! :) 
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