The Browser Wars…. Not Over?

Introduction

The browser wars have been long and arduous. When Netscape started up in 1994 as, for the most part, the only game in town, others were sure to follow. The years following were exciting to say the least. Microsoft, Apple, Google and many others all decided they wanted to get into the contest, even though it was clear from early on that there really wasn’t any money to be made from browsers.

The dominant browsers are all consistent in one thing… their trajectory….

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I must admit that I thought the wars were over. With the descent of Internet Explorer (IE) and the rise of Firefox, ne Chrome, it seemed a done deal. Until I decided to look at performance.

At risk of sounding like a clickbait post on Facebook, I couldn’t believe what happened next….

I was looking at my newsfeed on InoReader (GREAT aggregator, free and easy) and I saw an article about the ACID3 test. Acid 3 is a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) test that is the de facto standard for determining if a browser is adhering to the standard. The thing is, every major browser is consistently hitting 100/100 every release…. Everyone passes. This is good because it means that we, as users, get a great, standardized experience. But it is also tough to rate test takers when everyone passes the tests.

Additionally, when a test is the de facto standard, it is easy for devs to code to the standard. This is similar to the arguments here in Washington about the WASL, which has resulted in a number of curriculum which simply teach to the test.

SO, this got me thinking about other comparative tests which focus on performance. As a Chrome user who also uses IE for testing and development, I was curious how the two browsers compare in performance.

JavaScript

SunSpider is a standardized, extremely respected Javascript performance testing tool on the web. It uses a number of different approaches to determine how efficient the underlying javascript engine within a browser is.

To my surprise, IE kills it. By a lot. You can see the comparison here. The bottom line is simply that IE is about 1.5x faster than Chrome almost across the board. Given the popularity of JavaScript on the web, this is a significant savings.

Winner: Internet Explorer… By a lot.

HTML5

HTML5 is the most recent standard for markup, which is the code that results in the web pages you see.

One of the tests I trust is at html5Test.com. It tests all the nooks and crannies of HTML5 on a given browser.

Chrome did extremely well here, scoring 512 out of a possible 555 points, with the majority of “dings” against it being minor issues in primarily “corner cases”.

IE, on the other hand, fared extremely poorly, especially in audio and video support, with a score of 369/555.

Winner: Chrome… by a lot.

Summary

So, what does this tell us?

The major take away is that, for performance and standards, we have a pretty close race here. Of course, we aren’t taking into consideration usability, features, etc, but in my opinion, once IE got tabbed browsing, everything I need is in both browsers and is a wash.

Certainly, start up time, in my experience, is MUCH slower in IE. That said, I rarely close my browser during the day, so that cost is minimal.

On the other hand, I am pretty deep in the Google ecosystem, so having the Chrome browser tie in my browsing history, bookmarks and searches into every device I use is pretty sweet.

I feel that, if things continue this way, the winner will be Chrome. While IE is faster with JavaScript, which is a tried and true staple of the current web, Chrome is doing much better with the newer HTML5 technology and, if it maintains it’s dominance, it will continue it’s rise.

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