Posts Tagged ‘Google Chrome’

Monday, March 22nd 2010

Giving Chrome a Chance

I have had Google Chrome installed basically since the day it was released. But I have never had a serious go at using it.

The other day I decided to give it a try. So I re-installed it to get a blank new profile and then imported my Firefox bookmarks, history, search engines and passwords.

Screenshot of Google Chrome

Here are a few things I noticed:

  • Speed. Chrome feels very responsive. Especially I notice that Google Reader runs extremely smoothly. No lag at all when I hit n to jump to the next news item.
  • Design. I have always liked the Chrome design and layout, with the tabs right at the top, maximizing space for web pages.
  • Imported passwords? Chrome claimed to import my passwords from Firefox but they are nowhere to be found. Perhaps because I use a master password in Firefox, and hence the password data is encrypted.
  • Searching. Using Chrome’s location bar (omnibox) to search using the installed search engines is not as simple and intuitive as using Firefox’s search box. The idea is that I should be able to type goo and hit tab to select the Google search engine. But if Chrome has ranked something else higher than google.com – in my case Google Reader – tab won’t select the search engine. This brings me on to my next point.
  • Tab. The tab button doesn’t move the cursor from the location bar to the list of matching web pages. Instead it jumps to content in the current web page. Of course, I’m meant to press the down arrow to get to the list, but Firefox lets me use Tab which is much easier to reach while typing.
  • Location bar matches. Just like Dave Dash noticed, Google Chrome isn’t at all as good as Firefox when it comes to finding what I want in the location bar. The last two days I have typed recent many times to get to Recent forum activity at Dpreview.com. It still brings up a Google search for recent as the top choice and Flickr’s recent activity page as the second choice – a page I haven’t visited even once using Chrome. Chrome’s location bar needs to get better at reading my mind.
  • In-page searching. There is no way of making Chrome search a web page as soon as I start typing in text. This is one of my favourite features of Firefox.

Those things were enough to make me want to go back to Firefox. Two days in Chrome is still longer than I’ve ever managed before 😉

Monday, December 14th 2009

Firefox 3.5 most used browser this week

This week, Firefox will most likely become the most used web browser version in the world, according to Statcounter.

Browser market share graph from Statcounter

According to Net Applications though, Firefox 3.5 has a while to go before being king.

I wish Google would share their browser data. They did, way back, didn’t they?

Wednesday, October 14th 2009

DN.se drops support for IE6

Another of the main Swedish news sites, Dagens Nyheter, is dropping support for IE6. This isn’t a day too early. Back in February, Aftonbladet did the same thing.

Visitors using IE6 are shown a pretty box at the top of the page, suggesting the visitor upgrades to IE8 or installs Firefox, Chrome or Safari. As usual, poor Opera are left out of the fun.

Opera is still among the supported browsers though:

  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Firefox 3 and up
  • Safari 4 and up
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

We should do something similar at ekuriren.se. Heard my boss thinking aloud about perhaps suggesting Firefox, but then I believe IE6 is already as low as one or two percent!

Tuesday, September 29th 2009

The Big Problem with Google Chrome Frame

Google recently announced Chrome Frame, a plug-in for Internet Explorer which lets web sites use the rendering engine from Google Chrome instead of IE’s default rendering engine, Trident.

Before I understood how this was meant to work, i thought Wow! Google are going to rid the web of Internet Explorer! My happiness soon came to a screeching halt though.

If we ignore all the difficulties of making Chrome’s rendering engine (Webkit) play nicely with the Internet Explorer interface, there is one fundamental problem that stops Chrome Frame from becoming the web saviour that everyone was hoping for.

The problem that Chrome Frame aims to fix – the large user base of Internet Explorer coupled with its stone-age rendering engine – exists mainly due to lack of knowledge.

People who keep using Internet Explorer do so largely because they don’t know about the alternatives, or what a huge problem IE is for web developers.

The number of IE users who have made a conscious decision to stick with IE, but still are knowledgeable enough to understand the benefits of a modern rendering engine, can probably be counted on a few thousand left hands.

So, along comes Chrome Frame. But, the essential factor knowledge is just as lacking now as it has been before. Chrome Frame still requires IE users to knowingly install it, which I really can’t see happening.

Google Wave Logo

However, Google may have another card up their sleve. A card known by the name Google Wave.

Google Wave is, drasticly simplified, a replacement for e-mail. It is an online tool for communication and sharing. Now this sounds like something we’ve all heard a million times before. It isn’t.

Anyway, Google have given up on trying to get Wave working properly in Internet Explorer. Wave relies heavily on modern standards, and IE is just too far behind. Instead, Google Wave will ask IE users to install the plug-in Chrome Frame. Or another browser.

If Google Wave catches on properly it may well give IE users a healthy nudge in the direction of better browsers and/or Chrome Frame. And having seen the demo of Wave, I think it may very well become the next big thing.

However, having followed the browser market for ten years or so, I’ve seen how slowly it shifts. I doubt Chrome Frame and/or Wave will introduce any dramatic changes.

Thursday, September 24th 2009

One Year in Europe

This, my friends, is development:

Graph showing browser market share in Europe over the last twelve months, from September 2008 to September 2009.

Graph showing browser market share in Europe over the last twelve months, from September 2008 to September 2009.

In one year …

  • Internet Explorer 7 has gone from 37.6% to 20.3%.
  • Internet Explorer 6 has more than halved, from 18.4% to 8.4%.
  • Internet Explorer has lost a total of 10 percent market share to more modern browsers.
  • Half of all Firefox users have upgraded to the latest version, 3.5*. At 20.7% – three months after release – it is already the most used browser version in Europe, and looks likely to reign supreme until 3.6 is released in a few months.
  • Firefox 2 has decreased from 9.4% to 1.6%.
  • All in all, somewhere around 60% of Internet users in Europe have moved to a newer browser.

*) This chart beautifully illustrates the efficiency of Firefox’s automatic update system compared to that of Internet Explorer (Windows Update). Firefox 3.5 has got further in three months than IE8 has in 6!! It wouldn’t surprise me if the Firefox 3.5 update is the fastest ever in the history of software, measured in number of users per time.

If we take a step back and look at the global numbers, things aren’t quite as rosy. But everything is still moving in the right direction:

Graph showing browser market share world wide over the last twelve months, from September 2008 to September 2009.

Graph showing browser market share world wide over the last twelve months, from September 2008 to September 2009.

  • Internet Explorer (6+7+8) has gone from 67.2% to 58.4%.
  • Firefox has gone from 25.8% to 31.3%.
  • Internet Explorer 7 peaked at 41.9% in December and has since lost 17 percentage points, mainly to IE8.
  • Internet Explorer 6 has lost a heap of users, down from 28.0% to 17.1%.
  • During the last year, more than 50% of Internet users have upgraded their browsers.

Obviously, all these numbers are all according to Statcounter only. NetApplications numbers tend to show Firefox at slightly numbers. The trends are essentially the same, and the Statcounter graph tool is so much nicer to use.

Monday, March 30th 2009

Beta Browser Battle 2: Page-load times

This is part two of my comparison of the latest browsers. (Part one is here.) This time I compared page-loading times, just as Betanews recently did.

The browsers I’m comparing are …

  • Firefox 3.1 beta 3
  • Safari 4 beta
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Opera 10 alpha
  • Chrome 2 beta

I compared the browsers on five different sites / web pages:

Results

Let’s just get straight to the results. I’ll go through my methods later.

Graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta

In the graph above, the average page-load times for all five web pages have been added together, as have the 95% confidence intervals. All in all, this graph is based on 500 page loads.

Chrome and Firefox are tied for first place – their confidence intervals overlap. Safari and Internet Explorer are tied for third, and Opera is fifth.

Method

For each combination of browser and web site I did a total of 20 page-loads. I measured one web page at a time, working my way through the five browsers.

Since network traffic and page weight can vary over time, I did them in two sets of ten measurements. First I did ten measurements with the browsers in one order: A, B, C, D and E. Then I did ten measurements in the opposite order, starting with browser E. I also rotated the five browsers between A, B, C, D and E for the five different web pages.

Before timing the page-loads, I shift+reloaded (or the equivalent ctrl+reload in IE) the web page ten times to saturate any network cache and to get the browser warmed up. I did this for each browser, before each set of ten measurements. (Ten reloads might sound excessive, but I started off doing only three, which turned out to be too little to reach the shortest load times.)

Between each page-load I cleared all browser data (cookies, cache, etc.). Except for Facebook, where I kept cookies and secure sessions to be able to time the Facebook home page when logged in.

To time the page-loads I used this Javascript page-load timer. As the Microsoft white-paper on testing browsers says, this could introduce an observer effect. But I think we can assume that the Javascript that is being executed is pretty simple and shouldn’t affect the times noticeably.

This test showed that Google Chrome 2 beta is not 100% stable. It hung twice (in 100 page loads) and produced load times of over 30 seconds. I decided to remove these values and replace them with new ones.

Results in detail

In these graphs, each bar shows the average of 20 page-loads. The error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Chart or graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta on youtube.com.

For youtube.com, Firefox and Chrome are tied for first. Safari and Internet Explorer are tied for third. Opera is last.

Chart or graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta on the Facebook home page.

The Facebook home page loads fastest in Firefox and Chrome, whose confidence intervals only just overlap. The other three browsers are significantly separated.

Perhaps it is the fairly Javascript-heavy nature of Facebook that makes it load so slowly in IE8?

Chart or graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta on msn.com.

Msn.com: Chrome and Internet Explorer are tied for first. Firefox and Safari are tied for third. Opera is last, again.

Chart or graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta on a Wikipedia article.

I decided to test the browsers on a long Wikipedia article with lots of images. I looked up Munich, which turned out to be a good candidate.

Chrome and Firefox are tied for first place. Safari is third, Opera fourth and IE fifth.

Chart or graph showing page-load times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Safari 4 beta, Internet Explorer 8, Opera 10 alpha and Chrome 2 beta on ebay.com.

Finally, ebay.com: Chrome, IE and Firefox are all tied for first place. Safari is tied with Firefox but slower than Chrome and IE. Opera is last.

Conclusions

Chrome sucks web pages off the Internet like an Electrolux. So does Firefox. In this test I haven’t managed to separate them significantly. As we all can see, Chrome has a lower average sum than Firefox, and perhaps with more data it would be possible to separate them statistically.

Opera is the slowest of the lot, which surprises me. Opera was also slowest in the start-up test. Perhaps though we should cut it some slack – it’s labelled alpha after all. Performance might improve when it reaches beta and final status. Opera also has a turbo feature in the works, but that is kind of cheating since it will lower image quality by tougher compression.

Obviously, this test could be made better in mainly two ways. I could test on more web sites, and I could do more page loads for each web site. But this test was, all in all, 500 timed page-loads and 500 non-timed page-loads. It took me more than a day to complete.

It’s also worth noting that this test is pretty much consistent with Betanews’ page load test, where Chrome 2 beta wins and Firefox 3.1 beta 3 is second.

This test was done with clean browser cache. I’m considering doing the same test but without clearing cache and cookies for each page load. After all, that’s how most page loads are done in the real world. A user who visits any of these five sites will most likely have been there many, many times before. I just need to figure out a good set-up for such a test.

Wednesday, March 25th 2009

Beta Browser Battle: Start-up Times

A few days ago I compared the four different releases of Firefox for start-up time (cold and warm) and page loading time. It got quite a lot of attention so today I decided to compare the five latest preview releases from the big five:

  • Firefox 3.1 beta 3
  • Safari 4 beta
  • Internet Explorer 8 (since there is no IE9 beta)
  • Opera 10 alpha
  • Chrome 2 beta

This time I did things a little more scientifically, following Justin’s suggestion in the comments. I made a batch file for each browser to print the exact time, then launch the browser, opening a page with a script showing the exact time again. The time difference equals the launching time.

It should be noted that this method requires me to opt out of Chrome’s default “new tab” page, with suggested sites. If this affects the results in any real way is unknown, but personally I doubt it. The new tab page in Chrome loads very quickly.

Cold start-ups (directly after booting your computer) are the ones that can feel like an eternity some times. For that reason I think it is more important to have a fast cold start-up than a relatively speaking fast warm one (which generally are about 5-10 times faster anyway). So let’s start with cold start-ups.

I did ten measurements for each browser. A fairly big sample size which gives tiny 99% confidence intervals, which are visible in the graph below.

Graph showing cold start-up times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Chrome 2 beta, Safari 4 beta, Opera 10 alpha and Internet Explorer 8.

IE8 is the winner here (2.40 secs), slightly faster than Chrome (2.66 secs). All browsers are, with a 99% probability, significantly different (none are tied). However, this comparison was done on my Windows (XP) computer so IE8 has an unfair advantage – who knows how large part of Internet Explorer is pre-loaded with the operating system? That makes Chrome’s performance all the more impressive.

Safari is marginally faster than Firefox (4.98 vs 5.19 secs). Surprisingly, Opera (7.14 secs) is roughly two seconds slower than Firefox and Safari. I actually thought it would be at least as fast.

Now let’s have a look at warm start-up times. I launched the browsers four times before starting the timing. Then I did 15 measurements for each browser.

Graph showing warm start-up times for Firefox 3.1 beta 3, Chrome 2 beta, Safari 4 beta, Opera 10 alpha and Internet Explorer 8.

Here, Chrome is in a league of its own with an average of 0.247 secs. Firefox and Opera are tied. They took on average 0.530 and 0.531 secs respectively, and their confidence intervals overlap. IE8 averaged 0.575 seconds and Safari came in last with 0.617 seconds.

Conclusion

Chrome impresses the most, even if IE8 launches slightly faster after reboot. Firefox and Safari are pretty similar, while Opera clearly is the slowest for cold start-ups.

These results really explain (and justify) Chrome’s good reputation for speed.

I’m curious if the differences are as large when it comes to page-loading. I’m planning on doing such a comparison too, I just need to work out a good solid method. So stay tuned if you like this kind of stuff.

Saturday, March 21st 2009

Once More: Firefox 3 is Not Bloated

Just in from the insane-browser-prophecies department:

Despite the fact it’s not really ready for human consumption, Chrome has won. Firefox is already dead. The only way the situation can be altered is for Mozilla to slam on the brakes, lean out of the window of the truck, apologize for going the wrong way, and turn around. But that’s unimaginable.

Kier Thomas

*Snicker*

Well, that will only be true if all Firefox users migrate to Chrome. Why would they do that? Chrome does not provide any advantages that seem significant enough for a long-time Firefox user to switch.

If you consider how many Firefox users that have special extensions installed the above scenario seems even more unlikely. Even if Chrome did have equivalents for all the Firefox extensions, it doesn’t provide enough benefits to motivate the hassle of swapping out Firefox.

And what has Mozilla to apologise for? Ripping up Microsoft’s monopoly? Opening the doors for standards based coding?

Kier and others are making out that Firefox has become bloated and slow. So I decided to do a quick comparison of the different releases of Firefox on my four year old AMD 3200+ Windows XP PC.

I installed Firefox 1.0.8, Firefox 1.5.0.12, Firefox 2.0.0.20 and Firefox 3.0.7.

Installation files for Firefox 1, 1.5, 2 and 3.

I set up a clean profile for each version and set them to open a blank page by default. Then I made sure to close all other programs and launched each version of Firefox five times in a row, timing the launches with a stopwatch. (From hitting Enter to seeing the big white browser window.) And then I repeated the whole process so I got ten values for each browser.

I tested my reaction time which was 0.23 seconds on average and subtracted this from all the measured times.

So here is a visual comparison of the launch time for the different versions of Firefox since 1.0 (averages of ten measurements):

Start-up times for Firefox 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0 on a Windows XP AMD 3200+ system.

Firefox 1 took just over 0.5 seconds on average. Firefox 3 takes 0.6 seconds. That’s a difference of 0.1 seconds on a four year old system. On a newer system the difference will be even smaller.

I also tested the cold launch times, by rebooting windows between each startup. These are averages of five start-ups:

Cold launch times for Firefox 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0

Here the pattern is the opposite. Firefox 2 launches faster than 1.5 which launches faster than 1.0. Firefox 3 launches slightly slower than version 2 but is still a few seconds better than version 1 and 1.5.

I also tested average page loading times for DN.se, a fairly heavy page with plenty of Flash and images.

Average page load times for Firefox 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0

Again I did five measurements for each version. Then I repeated the procedure, just to make sure no version was being helped by network caching. (I also loaded the page a few times before starting the test to make sure no browser was disadvantaged by being first.)

Between each page load I cleared all history, browser cache and cookies. So these values should be pretty representative for cold page load times for pages with plenty of images and Flash.

Conclusion

So, Firefox 3 takes roughly 20 percent longer to launch than Firefox 1 for warm starts, which equals at most one or a few tenths of a second. For cold starts (first start after booting your computer) Firefox 3 launches about 30 percent faster than Firefox 1. Also, each page load in Firefox 3 is probably saving you several seconds compared to Firefox 1.

We already know that Firefox’s memory consumption has gone down a whole lot and Javascript speed was improved by a factor of 3 or 4 for version 3.

Bloated?

So could someone explain to me how Firefox 3 is bloated? Is Firefox bloated because it lets you find visited pages easily from the location bar? Is it bloated because it has an industry leading automatic update system? Because it lets you rearrange tabs as you like, because it passes the Acid2 test or because it can remember your tabs from session to session?

Yes, Firefox has added many features since version 1.0. But it just hasn’t gotten bloated in the sense of unnecessary features that get in the user’s way.

Quite the opposite is true in fact. The Firefox developers have thoughtfully added many capabilities to Firefox without forcing mums and grannies to jump through hoops when they want to go on-line. At the same time they have made it load web pages much faster, and cold starts are much quicker. Warm starts are marginally slower.

Saturday, March 7th 2009

Safari and Chrome are JavaScript Speedfreaks

I decided to have a go at comparing JavaScript execution speed in some upcoming browsers. Actually, that’s just almost true. The version of Chrome that I tested was 1.0 which obviously is a final release. There is no newer alpha or beta release from them at the moment. (As far as I can see.)

The tested browsers are (all on Windows XP):

  • Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1
  • Firefox 3.1 beta 2 (which will become 3.5)
  • Safari 4 beta
  • Opera 10 alpha
  • Chrome 1.0.154.48

I tested the browsers with two different benchmark suites. Google’s V8 and Apple’s SunSpider.

So, lets get straight to the results:

Graph showing results for pre-release versions of Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome for the Google V8 JavaScript Benchmark.

As you can see, I have normalized all the results for both tests so that the winner of each test gets exactly 100. This is to make a comparison possible between the two benchmarks.

I ran all benchmarks three times in each browser to get more reliable averages.

Graph showing results for pre-release versions of Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome for the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark.

Safari and Chrome are as tied as can be. They both get a total score of 193. Opera and Internet Explorer are both a lot slower than the two winners, with 38 and 24 respectively.

The interesting thing is that Firefox does so well with SunSpider (93), and so poorly with V8 (12). What is the big difference between these benchmarks? Not that I’d understand it if someone explained it to me …

Obviously there’s still room for improvement to Firefox’s JavaScript engine (currently known as TraceMonkey).

Friday, February 20th 2009

Good stuff

Aftonbladet, the largest online news site in Sweden, is reminding IE6 users to upgrade to something better:

Screenshot of Aftonbladet.se IE6 warning note.

This couldn’t have happened too soon. Apparently, this is a campaign that started in Norway.

Thursday, October 2nd 2008

IDG.se, Try Sticking to the Facts

I read this article over at IDG.se. (Google translation) I was so annoyed by the factual errors and speculation I felt I had to write something.

The article tries to give the current standings in the browser wars. But like many other articles on IDG.se it is full of holes and guesswork.

Here’s what got me annoyed (translated from Swedish):

There are studies that, although financed by Microsoft, show that Firefox is more often subject so security issues than Internet Explorer because Firefox is released in new versions more often.

First – basic rules of journalism. If a study is paid for by a player in the game then it most likely gives a skewed view of reality. (If Internet Explorer really were safer, Microsoft wouldn’t have to pay someone to come to that conclusion.)

Second – basic rules of software development. That argument is so obviously flawed and backwards I can’t see how anyone could possibly buy it let alone publish it.

… since Google now has a browser of their own they aren’t investing as much in Mozilla when it comes to browsers.

Umm, didn’t Google just renew their deal with Mozilla? This time for three years instead of two.

The biggest advantage for Internet Explorer 8 is its market share, which is at around 75 percent.

Let me say umm again. IE7 and IE6 currently have roughly 35 percent each. If IE8 is going to be deployed or downloaded as slowly as IE7 then it will take many years before it has 75 percent market share.

On a side note: Microsoft really should push their new browsers harder via auto-update systems for the benefit of the web.

Apple’s web browser Safari is usually said to be the third largest, but it isn’t really in the same competition as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.

That is mainly because Apple isn’t doing as much to create solutions for running applications in the web browser as the competitors.

Wassatagain? Safari 4 will let the user create icons in the operating system as shortcuts for web apps. Are they saying Internet Explorer is doing this too? That would be news to me. (Although I’m not really a big fan of this feature myself, it feels like a step back.)

And what about the Acid3 test? Safari 4 will pass it with flying colours, before any other browser. That’s a big deal for app developers if I’ve understood things correctly.

Furthermore, the Javascript engine in IE8 is embarrassingly slow compared to the competition.

Mozilla’s representatives also claim that the finished version of Tracemonkey, the company’s Javascript platform, will blow Google out of the water.

Another typically journalistic exaggeration. Mozilla may have said Tracemonkey will be faster, but they have never said that it will be that much faster. They will still be in the same league.

All in all, a pretty typical article from IDG.