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

Test Analysis

Finishes

Each category of testing has four columns: Winner, Strong, Average, and Weak. The Winner is obviously the browser that achieves the highest scores in that category. The Strong column is for browsers exhibiting superior performance, but not achieving a first-place victory. Average is for browsers that perform adequately or in-line with a majority of their competitors. A Weak finish is assigned to browsers that perform poorly, or substantially lower than their competitors.

Brackets

In order to reflect how each category of testing affects the average end-user Web browsing experience, we need to create brackets (or levels of importance) to place the different categories of testing into.

EssentialCSS, DOM, JavaScript, Reliability, Standards Conformance
ImportantFlash, HTML5, Memory Efficiency, Page Load Time, Responsiveness, Security, Startup Time
NonessentialJava, Silverlight
UnimportantHTML5 Hardware Acceleration, WebGL

The Essential bracket contains those categories of testing that are indispensable to rendering the vast majority of Web pages online today. The Important bracket is for categories not quite essential to browsing the Web, yet still affect the user experience to a great degree. The Nonessential bracket contains the popular plug-ins Java and Silverlight. While these plug-in technologies are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Flash, certain applications like corporate intranet apps and Netflix simply will not work without them. Finally, the Unimportant bracket is for emerging technologies, such as HTML5 Hardware Acceleration and WebGL, which still don't really exist outside of testing/demo sites.

Points

Now that the brackets are all sorted out, we can apply a numerical point system to the finishes of each bracket.

WinnerStrongAverageWeak
Essential2.521.5-2
Important21.51-1.5
Nonessential1.510.5-1
Unimportant10.50-0.5

As you can see, we decided to apply negative point values to the Weak finishes and start the Average performances at zero for the Unimportant bracket. The Winner has also been de-emphasized over Strong finishes, with just a small tie-breaking bonus going to Winner.

OS X 10.8 Analysis Table

WinnerStrongAverageWeak
Essential
CSSFirefoxChrome, SafariOpera
DOMFirefoxChrome, SafariOpera
JavaScriptChromeSafariFirefox, Opera
ReliabilityOperaFirefox, SafariChrome
Standards ConformanceChromeFirefox, Opera, Safari
Important
FlashFirefox, Opera, SafariChrome
HTML5SafariChromeFirefox, Opera
Memory EfficiencyChromeFirefox, Opera, Safari
Page Load TimeChromeFirefox, Opera, Safari
ResponsivenessOperaFirefox, SafariChrome
SecurityChromeSafariFirefoxOpera
Startup TimeChromeSafariFirefoxOpera
Nonessential
JavaChrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari
SilverlightChrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari
Unimportant
HTML5 Hardware AccelerationSafariChromeFirefox, Opera
WebGLFirefoxChromeOpera, Safari

Now, let's see how the Windows 7 Web browsers compare to each other.

Windows 7 Analysis Table

WinnerStrongAverageWeak
Essential
CSSFirefoxChrome, IEOpera
DOMChromeFirefox, IEOpera
JavaScriptChromeFirefox, OperaIE
ReliabilityOperaChrome, Firefox, IE
Standards ConformanceChromeFirefox, OperaIE
Important
FlashFirefox, IE, OperaChrome
HTML5IEChrome, FirefoxOpera
Memory EfficiencyChromeIE, FirefoxOpera
Page Load TimeIEChrome, Firefox, Opera
ResponsivenessOperaFirefoxChromeIE
SecurityChromeFirefox, IEOpera
Startup TimeChromeOperaFirefox, IE
Nonessential
JavaChrome, Firefox, IE, Opera
SilverlightFirefoxChrome, IE, Opera
Unimportant
HTML5 Hardware AccelerationFirefoxIEChromeOpera
WebGLFirefoxChromeIE, Opera

And the winners are...

  • glurg
    chrome ftw
    Reply
  • Eggrenade
    It would be nice if I could view the additional charts with only one click, and not in a separate window.
    Reply
  • lahawzel
    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!)
    Reply
  • bennaye
    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.
    Reply
  • Would like to see this again after IE10 is released.
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    How about 64-bit Internet Explorer 9 vs Waterfox 15.0?
    Reply
  • adamovera
    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!
    Reply
  • adamovera
    AdamsTaiwanWould like to see this again after IE10 is released.Absolutely, a Windows 8-based WBGP is already in the cards for October.
    Reply
  • adamovera
    JOSHSKORNHow about 64-bit Internet Explorer 9 vs Waterfox 15.0?When we have more stable 64-bit browsers, I'll definitely do a 64-bit WBGP - including versus their 32-bit counterparts.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply