Browser comparison at CyberNet

Ryan at CyberNet News published the results of his Windows browsers comparison, which includes both beta and stable versions of the four biggies: Internet Explorer (versions 7 and 8 Beta), Firefox (versions and 3 Beta 4), Opera (versions 9.26 and 9.5.9841 beta (“Kestrel”)) and Safari (version 3.1).

He tested Javascript performance, page loading speed, and memory usage. The results found good to excellent performance both for the stable Opera 9.26 version and especially for the 9.5 beta, but the competition is fierce from Safari and the Firefox beta.

For javascript, the Opera 9.5 beta came in second after Safari 3.1 and 9.24 was fourth behind the Firefox 3 beta. The last to cross the finish line–and long after the others were home in bed–were the Internet Explorer versions.

For the first page-loading speed test, done on the official Google blog, Opera 9.5 was the winner, beating out Safari 3.1 in second place and again 9.26 was fourth behind the Firefox beta. In the second speed test done on the Yahoo! Search blog, Opera 9.5 and 9.26 were respectively second and third behind the winner Safari. IE7 managed to finish 7th in front of Firefox 2 in the first speed test, but IE8 was last in both.

As for memory use, the surprise winner was the Firefox beta, using globally between 21.3MB and 124.7MB according to how many pages were open and for how long. The Opera versions were “middle of the pack”, let’s say. The Stable version of Opera was indeed better than the stable version of Firefox, but the beta version of Opera was behind the Firefox beta in all but startup memory use. Looking more closely at startup memory, the IE versions were, of course, the winners there, and the loser was Safari; surprising considering its excellent results elsewhere. The IE versions were however the worst for in-use memory usage (with multiple sites open).

The results of Ryan’s tests seem to suggest that there is indeed a new player in town, and his name is Safari (despite a rather rough start). The difference in Javascript performance and page loading speed are pretty insignificant between Safari 3.1 and Kestrel (not to mention the significant improvements for the Firefox beta), but the Opera development teams are definitely going to need to start thinking of Safari as serious competition in the Windows environment (I’m sure they already are).

Yes, to summarize, the Windows browser performance wars are now a three-way battle between Safari, Opera and Firefox. Internet Explorer seems to be KO for the moment, its only advantage being its ubiquitousness.

It would be interesting to revisit these results once the various betas are all officially released. Indeed, testing beta performance is a bit like tasting a cake while it’s still in the oven. In particular, I think one should not jump to conclusions concerning IE8’s poor performance in Ryan’s tests, as it is the least mature of the betas. But what is sure is that the folks at Microsoft need a lot of Gatorade if they expect to catch up with the others concerning performance.

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