Web Browser Grand Prix 5: Opera 11.50, Firefox 5, And Chrome 12

Three major released have landed since our last impromptu Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP4): Chrome 12, Firefox 5, and Opera 11.50. Can Chrome or Opera regain the WBGP championship? Will Mozilla Firefox ever overtake Microsoft's IE9 in the rankings?

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?

We've tightened up our suite of benchmarks for this article, cutting the fat that was Google's V8 JavaScript Benchmark and the redundant two-pixel variant of the GUIMark2 HTML5 Vector Charting test. We also fleshed it out by adding Facebook's JSGameBench, as well as battery life and reliability testing. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's get caught up on the latest developments in the continuing browser wars.


  • 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.

Smack Talk

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.

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  • adampower
    Wow, it seems like I upgrade my browsers every week.
  • somehow it seems that firefox is focussing more on benchmarks rather than actual real world usage.
  • opera keeps impressing me throughout the WBGP
    Now if just Google would release a 64-bit Chrome browser.
  • Tamz_msc
    First of all, this is the most thorough WBGP yet.
    somehow it seems that firefox is focussing more on benchmarks rather than actual real world usage.

    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.
  • cadder
    Will you guys please investigate the SECURITY of each browser? I would use the one that is most secure even if it is slowest.
  • Tamz_msc
    199194 said:
    Will you guys please investigate the SECURITY of each browser? I would use the one that is most secure even if it is slowest.

    That's easy: FF+AdBlock Plus+ NoScript+Ghostery+BrowserProtect
  • ChiefTexas_82
    IE 9 is a speed demon? I droped IE because it started running like ****. I blame loading too many side programs after years on the web. So I wanted to try Chrome or Firefox. Being a Google fan already, I tried Chrome. So far it leaves my old IE8 in the dust. Except for a certain bug, I would say it has been an improvement in almost every way.
  • ChiefTexas_82
    I don't like how Nvidia's GPU auto-detect doesn't work on chrome.
  • thartist
    Damn, Opera has it's flaws but it's nonetheless the one that does one thing best: browsing.
  • wheredahoodat
    I have personally along others have remained loyal to Firefox for years, but the latest moves have been are puzzling. Despite the benchmarks, they have not addressed bad cold start up problems (test on netbooks not on desktop rigs to find out), and the Firefox 4/5 new javascript engine has been a nightmare memory wise causing many to banish Firefox or remain with version 3.6 on older computers.

    Also instead of prioritizing the electrolysis project which would have made Firefox as snappy as Chrome, they are wasting their time on the Azure graphics project to replace a only few months old Cairo engine for marginal benefit because html 5 is still just the future, with no real significant penetration for the web.

    Mozilla can only push their base so far with their incompetence. Back then there was no real competition or alternative for a big market share, standard compliance browser. However there is now a real alternative with Chrome, and Firefox's gradual but definite market share hemorrhaging has shown that incompetence has consequences.
  • beavermml
    which one is the best in term of security out of box?
  • akorzan
    On the last page in the table and row "proper page loads," why is Opera in twice and no Safari?
    Surely, this is a typo.
  • Maziar
    Thanks for the review,I was waiting for this !
  • andy5174
    No doubt that Chrome is notably faster than Firefox so that I can feel the difference easily. However, Chrome lacks many useful features/add-ons offered by Firefox that I've been using for years. This is the main and only reason that Firefox is still my default browser.
  • obarthelemy
    I'm still uncomfortable with those kind of tests. Especially because they don't take into account out-of-the-box features and creature comforts. I have all 4 installed (no Safari), and I find use Opera most, because it does very good Mouse Gestures, tab management, and synch. Without any addons ! I find Addons a very mixed blessing: I had plenty of headaches with FFox's, what with compatibility issues when upgrading FFox, bug and slow/ban/non-existent support... I find that having all required functionnality included in the base browser is a big plus, more-so for non-techies.
  • How can you place Firefox in Memory Usage as strong. This thing is leaking all over the place. Should you review your methodology?
    PS I m an early adopter of FF since 2.0 but I consider switching due to this memory issue.
  • johnsmithhatesVLC
    Firefox is the only browser that can block all ads properly. It's also the most reliable at page loading as the WGP has proven. I really don't care about millisecond differences in page loads. Firefox is the best to me.
  • lucas1024
    Thanks for including the reliability test! I had almost convinced myself to switch to Chrome from FF5, because of the memory usage, but not anymore - I do like my pages to load every time and I routinely have 30-40 tabs open.
  • neiroatopelcc
    page 3 :
    64-bit Desktop Test System
    Operating System
    Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit)
  • adamovera
    cadderWill you guys please investigate the SECURITY of each browser? I would use the one that is most secure even if it is slowest.

    Would love to, but that is difficult to do. No security benchmarks exist. If one was created, I'm sure all the vendors would make their product pass. The idea of adding pwn2own data was floated, but the versions wouldn't match the rest of the WBGP - except once a year.
  • adamovera
    akorzanOn the last page in the table and row "proper page loads," why is Opera in twice and no Safari?Surely, this is a typo.

    Thanks, fixed it.
    neiroatopelccpage 3 :64-bit Desktop Test SystemOperating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit)

    Sorry, that's a typo. Fixed.
  • On memory usage, Opera has a Tab recycle bin, after closing a tab, it is held in memory, so you may open closed tabs from the recycle bin, it is a Feature well used amongst Opera Fans, but if you had clicked empty Tabs Recycle bins the memory usage after closing 40 tabs and second 5 min wait would have been very very different!

    Overall, Opera gives the very best Stable browsing experience along with FireFox, the rest are simply buggy as hell!
  • sirmaster
    johnsmithhatesVLCFirefox is the only browser that can block all ads properly. It's also the most reliable at page loading as the WGP has proven. I really don't care about millisecond differences in page loads. Firefox is the best to me.

    Chrome's adblock works just the same. Not sure what you mean by properly then. Both prevent the ads from being downloaded and shown.