The Web Browser Grand Prix, Part 5
If it seems like it was only weeks ago when we were compelled to test the then-new Mozilla Firefox 4 against the reigning Web Browser Grand Prix champion Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 in Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final, that's because it was only a few weeks ago.
In an attempt to curb the siphoning of its user base to Google, Mozilla decided to keep pace with the frenetic development cycle of Chrome. Firefox 5 is now a reality. But will Mozilla also keep up with innovation like Google? Furthermore, will a higher integer finally allow Mozilla to overtake arch-rival Microsoft in our performance metrics? Can former speed-kings Chrome and Opera reclaim the dual domination of our WBGP crown, as they did in 2010?
- 3/28/2011 Microsoft claims that IE9 is the most power efficient Web browser.
- 4/14/2011 Safari is updated to version 5.05
- 5/18/2011 Opera is updated to version 11.11
- 6/14/2011 Google upgrades Chrome to version 12
- 6/21/2011 Mozilla releases Firefox 5
- 6/28/2011 Opera is updated to version 11.50
The release of Firefox 5 was met with harsh criticism for its apparent lack of anything new. It has been said that Firefox 5 should have been called Firefox 4.1 or 4.2. Or even 4.02.
There is also a growing concern over whether the new rapid release schedule jives with IT departments. Firefox became a viable choice for many companies during the version 2 and 3 days. Mozilla also offers the preferred development platform for most Web designers. Basically, Firefox gained the reputation of being the most stable choice. By mimicking Chrome's development cycle, Mozilla may have shot itself in the foot.
Microsoft took a shot right across the bow of Google and Mozilla by announcing that WebGL is “harmful,” and that IE10 would not be utilizing the specification. Several experts came out in support of Microsoft's assertion, though it should be noted that Redmond may have a dog in this fight with DirectX.
Attacking Mozilla even further, the Internet Explorer development team sent the Firefox development team a cupcake to celebrate the release of Firefox 5. Mozilla also received cakes from Microsoft for the release of Firefox 3 and 4. Full cakes. Obviously, this is in response to the criticism that Firefox 5 is nothing more than a minor update to Firefox 4. The included note read: "Congratulations on shipping! Love, The IE Team". "Congratulations on shipping" might have been in reference to the frequent delays that plagued Firefox 4, which was eventually made available more than six months late. Now that's a classy way to rag on somebody.
Not missing a single opportunity to slam its competition, Microsoft also capitalized on the other major criticism of Firefox 5 when an IE developer boasted Microsoft's commitment to IT.
Mozilla shot back with a blog post addressing the IT issue, although in a very non-concrete way:
"We are exploring solutions that balance these needs..."
Not to be outdone, an Opera employee also had this to say in regard to rapid release schedule:
“Despite the version number (11.50), we've packed a lot of new features into it. While other browsers rush to release whole new version numbers with small tweaks, I think we've kept traditional versioning, while simply releasing a little faster.”
Obviously, this comes at an unfortunate time for Mozilla, but one cannot help but wonder if this comment was meant for Google. Opera and Google have gotten into it pretty heavily in the past, and, for a time (before IE9), Chrome and Opera swapped places on a semi-monthly basis in the performance charts.
Now that we're all caught up, let's take a look at the WBGP5 contenders.
I don't think so - proper page loads and battery life are important considerations.
I agree that Mozilla did not do a right thing in copying Chrome's release cycle, but at least they're trying - for example, they're trying hard in bringing down memory usage by increasing the garbage collection frequency(check this out in the Aurora and Nightly builds).
WBGP is basically a test of speed, and Chrome may have won in that, but Firefox is not far behind. I can wait for two or three seconds for my page to load. You can easily bring down the page load times by using addons like AdBlock Plus.
Even with the faster release cycle, this article clearly states that Firefox is still the most stable browser. Many people say that they've had numerous crashes, but its something wrong with their drivers or OS - I have not had a single crash since FF 4.0 beta 5 (or 7?), when they introduced hardware acceleration for the first time.
Firefox remains the most customizable browser, while Opera has the most number of features out-of-the-box.
So overall, according to me Firefox>=Opera>Chrome>IE 9> Safari.