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Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final

Conclusion

Now, let's break down how the competitors did per category:

Type of TestWinnerAlso StrongWeak
Performance Testing
Startup TimeInternet ExplorerOperaSafari
Page Load TimeSafariChromeOpera
JavaScriptFirefoxChromeSafari
DOMOpera
CSSOperaInternet ExplorerChrome
HTML5FirefoxInternet Explorer
HTML5 Hardware AccelerationInternet ExplorerFirefoxChrome, Opera, Safari
WebGLChromeFirefoxInternet Explorer, Opera, Safari
FlashInternet ExplorerSafari, OperaFirefox, Chrome
JavaOperaFirefox, ChromeSafari, Internet Explorer
SilverlightChromeInternet ExplorerSafari
Efficiency Testing
Memory Usage (Light Load)Internet ExplorerChrome
Memory Usage (Heavy Load)Firefox
Memory ManagementChromeInternet Explorer
Conformance Testing
JavaScriptInternet ExplorerOpera
DOMChrome, Opera, SafariFirefoxInternet Explorer
CSS3Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, SafariChrome
HTML5ChromeFirefoxInternet Explorer

If we look at the results by category, Internet Explorer 9 still has the edge. This makes Microsoft's browser the winner by category, as well as by the performance and total placing. There's simply no getting around it, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is still the champion.

Chrome 10.0.648.204

Once again, Google Chrome surprises us most. In WBGP3, we were interested in how far the browser had fallen in the rankings. This time, we're surprised at how far it surged ahead after just a “minor” update. Since Google has moved to a rapid release schedule with auto-updating and in-place upgrades, Chrome has essentially become a rolling release. This means that serious enhancements to any aspect of the browser, including performance, can be applied at anytime without notice or fanfare.

Firefox 4

The performance of Firefox 4 didn't really catch us off-guard. After all, we looked at the “leaked” copy of Firefox 4 right after our last story, which actually ended up being some version of RC2 in the QA process. Using the WBGP3 benchmark line-up, that near-final build placed a shaky third. It was solidly behind Opera 11.01, and barely ahead of Chrome 10.0.648.134. Again, this is why we don't compare pre-release builds to final products. Firefox 4 actually did much better using the final code with updated benchmarks, which take its full capabilities into account.

With that said, Firefox hasn't been a speed demon in a very long time. It's the rock-solid browser. During the 40-tab memory testing, we get see how reliably pages load. Firefox is the only Web browser that consistently loads every single element on every single page all at once, correctly. Each of the other browsers require at least one reload to fix a broken ad or or some other element. Also notice how few times Mozilla's browser is listed in the weak column. With version 4, Firefox is still the rock-solid browser. Which is what it needs to be with that kind of market share - the name of the game is stability over speed when you've got that many users.

Also keep in mind that, with Firefox 4, Mozilla built a brand new platform that is going to carry the company at least into next year. A look at the roadmap for Firefox 5, 6, and 7 shows that Firefox 6 is going to focus on speed. If there is an upcoming Firefox release for speed freaks to look forward to, it's probably 6.

What's Next?

Opera is due to launch 11.1 soon, and I'd bet we see Safari 6, complete with Webkit 2.0, around the time OS X 10.7 "Lion" launches. With Chrome on a six-week release cycle and Firefox now on a similarly rapid schedule, there will be no shortage of challengers to Microsoft's two consecutive Web Browser Grand Prix championships. But until then, IE9 is still the fastest thing browsing.

Follow the author on Twitter @adamovera.

  • reprotected
    Because people can't wait for half a second. I never had a single rendering problem with any of my browsers.
    Reply
  • LuckyDucky7
    Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too.
    Reply
  • @ericburnby

    you must enjoy all those ads, in real world the difference in speed is negligible, but i sure has hell appreciate a rock stable browser, which is not what IE is, now saying that i have to say IE9 is definitely light years ahead of it's predecessor

    have used all 3 browser and found FF to be the most stable by far
    Reply
  • @ StableBrowser,

    You must enjoy being an ignorant Fx fanboy. IE9 comes with adblocking features without needing any extensions.
    Reply
  • nd22
    IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?
    Reply
  • @luckyducky7

    "Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus.

    That pretty much sums it up. No amount of optimization will help you when it comes to loading web pages if you have a large amount of adframes and such to slow you down.

    So have your super-fast IE9: I bet the ads will appreciate loading quick too."

    Not if you use tracking protection.
    Reply
  • adamovera
    nd22IE9 is indeed fast, but my question relates to Safari, a browser created specifically for Mac, not for Windows. On Mac Safari is incredible fast, why Tom’s did not tested Safari on the platform which it was designed for?It is my hope that we'll be able to do that. Hopefully for the next major Safari release. If that's at the same time as Lion, then we might have to use the latest updated Snow Leopard for time reasons.
    Reply
  • jsowoc
    Re: Acid3
    This is why Firefox doesn't get 100:
    http://limi.net/articles/firefox-acid3/
    Reply
  • I loaded up IE today because the Chase website gives me problems with Chrome, and I was surprised by how fast IE9 is now. Loading pages seemingly as fast or faster then chrome. I even thought of switching it to my primary browser, but the lack of Ad-block support killed it. It is a necessary feature and every browser should have it or something like it these days.
    Reply
  • andy5174
    The latest Chrome is indeed pretty fast, but I just can't live without Tab Mix Plus which is only available to Firefox. Someone please write a similar add-on for Chrome!!!
    Reply