IE8 needs Canvas support

Summary:IE may be the quickest browser to load pages, but this is not a 100m dash; seems like someone has forgotten to tell Microsoft that there is another 300m of JavaScript to go until this race is over.

IE8 is due to hit the internet at 3am tomorrow morning (Australian time), but Microsoft's newest browser will remain a laggard as the other popular browsers continue to increase their functionality.

Last week Microsoft released a whitepaper claiming that IE8 was quicker in loading 25 popular sites than its competitors. At the time, I noted that none of these sites were particularly heavy in their JavaScript usage, and of course, a load time does not reflect the rendering ability of a browser.

If you want a browser with awesome page load times and zero rendering, I suggest you use Lynx (or even cURL if you're truly hardcore).

Today comes news that Google has launched a site to showcase Chrome's JavaScript capabilities called Chrome Experiments. On this site are 17 demonstrations of JavaScript which is typically mixed with Flash and/or HTML5 elements, particularly Canvas. A glimpse at the following table shows how the current IE8 beta stacks up against its rivals:

Legend:
 Fail (usually epic)
 Some errors
 Pass
IE8Firefox 3.1bChrome 2.0.169.1Safari 4Opera 10 alpha
Boombox     
Pixamix     
Chromedrones     
BallDroppings     
Shop     
Video & Picture Puzzle     
Homeostasis     
Ball Pool     
Canopy     
smalltalk     
Social Collider     
Twitch     
Browsermation     
Browser Talk[1]     
DOMTRIS     
Browser Ball     
Google Gravity     
Monster     
Colorscube     

[1]: Full test not conducted due to lack of microphone; however, IE failed to render the test properly.

In the vast majority of cases, Internet Explorer failed the demo because it does not support Canvas. I'm sure that if I were to install Mozilla's Canvas plug-in for IE the results would be better — but if Internet Explorer is to be a leading browser, it should come with Canvas support and not expect users to install plug-ins for HTML5 elements.

As more and more web applications like Bespin appear that need Canvas support, one could be forgiven for seeing the faint beginnings of a return to the bad old days of "Best viewed in xxx browser".

IE is simply eating a truckload of dust, and that is not interesting.

Microsoft is too smart and savvy to let something as terrible as that return to web pages, but IE8 is in danger of being forgotten before it has even left the starting blocks. All the hype is currently surrounding the open source browsers and Opera for one very good reason: they are pushing the envelope and bringing the web new functionality. IE is simply eating a truckload of dust, and that is not interesting.

IE may be the quickest browser to load pages, but this is not a 100m dash; seems like someone has forgotten to tell Microsoft that there is another 300m of JavaScript to go until this race is over.

A postscript note on general performance: as these were tests built for Chrome and constantly nagged me to install that browser, it's no surprise to learn that Chrome was the quickest at these. But second place was always a toss-up between Safari and, surprisingly, Opera. When the demo worked properly, Opera often "felt" as quick as Chrome — of course, this is all conjecture without any formal stats.

Third place in performance was typically Firefox, with IE always bringing up the rear.

Topics: Google, Browser, Open Source

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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