Web Browser Speed Update

Just over 6 months ago I ran a series of tests on the 5 leading internet browsers.  For those just joining us, here are the results from February 2010.

Browser results

And here is my summary from then:

These tests show IE failing miserably at every test, it came in dead last every time.  Meanwhile, Google’s Chrome browser led the pack every time.  Opera’s beta browser slightly edged out Safari although the difference as not that great.  Firefox was some distance behind these but still in the running.

Today I ran a subset of those tests on the up to date versions of the same browsers.  I used the same hardware and IE’s results should act as a control group.

These new results follow.

To me, the amazing thing is the overall improvement amongst all the browsers (IE has a new beta coming soon, it will be interesting to see if they get on the speed bandwagon.)  Chrome still leads the bunch with each version faster than the previous.  Opera furthers its edge over Safari (Safari was the only browser to suffer a regression.)  Firefox moves solidly into the pack, breaking even with Safari and leaving IE to continue lagging.

It will be interesting to see if these speed increases can continue over the next 6 months and if IE 9 is the one that can put the brakes on MS’s browser share slide.  This is far and away the healthiest I have ever seen the browser market.


Browser Test, Redux

With MS ready to give EU users a choice in internet browsers, I thought I would take a look at the world’s five most used browsers. I downloaded and installed versions of each and ran them through a series of tests.  (These tests can also be accessed from my portal page at the bottom of the “tech reference” section.)

The tests were run on a Dell Inspiron 1420 laptop with a 2 GHz core 2 duo with 2 GB of RAM running on 32 bit Windows 7.

Without further ado, here are the results:

Browser results

These tests show IE failing miserably at every test, it came in dead last every time.  Meanwhile, Google’s Chrome browser led the pack every time.  Opera’s beta browser slightly edged out Safari although the difference as not that great.  Firefox was some distance behind these but still in the running.

If performance is your most important feature in a web browser, the choice is clear.  If performance is important to you, but not all encompassing, then you have some good choices in internet browsers.  These tests illustrate that the browser wars are alive and well and are good for consumers of web content.

Are there other tests that I could run?  Let me know in the comments.

Now, why doesn’t WordPress support tables?

Advice for Safari Developers

When I say advice for Safari developers I mean Apple employees not web developers targeting Safari.  As regular readers know, I’ve been somewhat tough on Safari since its release for Windows (see here and here for examples.)

With the release of version 4, Safari seems like much more of an option for Window’s users.  It seems that Apple may even be trying to gain some market share (which depending on who you ask is around 8% right now).

Since I’ve moved my bookmarks into the cloud, I am more open to exploring the pluses and minuses of alternative browsers.  After years using Firefox I recently used IE 8 for a month or so and now I am on to Safari.  I have it set as my default browser on both my laptop and desktop.

With the exceptions of cold start up time and a few rendering issues, Safari works for me.  Still even though it is adequate, there are a few issues that make me unlikely to use it beyond the week trial that I have planned…I thought I would write these up.  I don’t think these issues are just that I am used to something else, but I believe these are real usability issues.

1) On all other Windows browsers if you type C N N into the address bar and hit control+enter, the browser adds http://www. to the beginning and .com to the end thus taking you to cnn.com in this example.  Safari does not do this.  And it isn’t that you need to substitute command for control as it is with most other Apple keyboard shortcuts, no this feature is missing in action.  [edit: it would seem that this feature has actually been implemented.  Lack of feedback when pressing a link can easily replace this issue.  In any other browser when you click on a link it will briefly change color to indicate that an action has been detected, Safari lacks this visual clue.]

2) This might be personal preference, but I hate the close tab button being on the left side of the tab.  This is contrary to every other browser out there.  Firefox and IE make up about 90% of the browser market, so wherever they agree becomes a de facto standard.  The other browsers should either conform or state the reasons that made them break the de facto standard.   There may be good reasons to do it some other way, but they should be stated so the user knows they did not do it just to be different.

3) Apple and iPhone users should stop stating that Safari Mobile gives you the full internet.  This is so patently false that it destroys whatever credibility they have.  One might ask, how I know this to be true and the reason is simple.  If Safari Mobile gave the full web, then there would be no reason for iPhone only web sites, the very fact that so many major websites make a special version just for iPhone proves conclusively that Safari Mobile does not give the full web experience.  It would seem that the iPhone has done more to splinter the web than anything since Explorer 3/4.

4) Finally, the search box needs to be customizable…sure Apple makes bank off Google, but at the expense of the user–why can’t I search live.com or Amazon or Wikipedia from that box?  (If I am missing something, please let me know.)

Some things I like about Safari 4 (come on, you didn’t think this post was just to rip on Apple, did you?) are the UI, the speed, and the find in page feature.  The UI looks good, it is very usable.  To me it, along with Explorer 8, has the most usable interface available.  Once opened, Safari seems very fast.  It will occasionally hiccough with DNS and stall out when a link is pressed, but I chalk this up to the fact that it is a beta, assumably Apple is working on this issue.  I like the way the find on page feature works and it is very clear and doesn’t leave you searching for where the text is highlighted, Explorer should learn this feature from Safari.

I’ve only been using Safari for a couple of days and when my experiment is over, I will switch back to Firefox and/or Explorer…but still it is nice to see some competition in the browser market.

What do you think?  Is Safari the better browser for your needs?  Why or why not?

Apple releases Safari 4 beta…

its biggest selling point seems to be that it does not suck half as much as the previous version.  In fact, in my personal tests I found that it sucked 4.2 times less than Safari 3.

They seem to have borrowed heavily from IE 7 and Google’s Chrome.  From the UI to the tabs to the menu’s–it seems more like a mash up of these two popular browsers.

The Win version uses a native Windows UI, that is a big improvement (my private testing shows the UI sucks 2.6 times less than the previous version.)  They also dumped the Mac style font rendering, another improvement…there is an entire generation of Mac users who are pissed at Apple for allowing their rendering to sit side by side with Windows.  (It is hard to say you are superior when everyone who has checked it out says it sucks.)

The new graphics heavy stuff is eye candy for the sake of eye candy…poorly implemented.  How do I launch a page from Top Sites with the keyboard?  One would have thought they would have figured that out before adding 3d effects.

Overall this is a huge gain in usability…the fugly font rendering is gone, the ugly grey UI is gone…  Unfortunately, Apple’s copying of features was not enough, it still sits in 4th place in the browser world.  Yes even though it sucks 4.2 times less than the previous version, it still sucks (just much less so).

[Please refrain from flaming me…much of this post is in jest.]

Please Apple, gives itunes a makeover too.

Edit: Kidding aside, once they get Safari stable it will be competitive with IE, Chrome, and/or Firefox.  Now that IE, Chrome, and Safari use the same basic interface, firefox looks out dated.  I hear (read rumor) that IE8 has hit RTM.  It is really good to see the browser market competitive again.