Firefox 3.1 raises the browser bar ... again

Firefox 3.1 raises the browser bar ... again

Summary: Competition is a good thing, and the way that Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome have re-invigorated browser development will mean good a better web experience all round.

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TOPICS: Browser, Google
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Competition is a good thing, and the way that Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome have re-invigorated browser development will mean good a better web experience all round.

Let's be honest, Internet Explorer never really offered Firefox much of a challenge. Internet Explorer has only really managed to remain relevant through being included with every copy of Windows. Much the same can be said of Safari on the Mac (it's nice to see that the WebKit rendering engine has a new home in Chrome). When Google released Chrome, Firefox could finally pick on a kid that was the same size.

[poll id=378]

Yesterday Mozilla announced that Firefox 3.1 Beta 1 was available for download. This brings with it a whole new raft of features and improvements:

  • Web standards improvements in the Gecko layout engine
  • Added support for CSS 2.1 and CSS 3 properties
  • A new tab-switching shortcut that shows previews of the tab you’re switching to
  • Improved control over the Smart Location Bar using special characters to restrict your search
  • Support for new web technologies such as the <video> and <audio> elements, the W3C Geolocation API, JavaScript query selectors, web worker threads, SVG transforms and offline applications.

The new tab-switching feature is really neat (press CTRL+TAB to get a view of all the open tabs), and the special character support for the Awesome Bar makes life a lot easier (for example, you can restrict the search to your history by typing ^, or search only bookmarks using *, or tagged pages with +, if you want to match only text in the URL type @, and for title and tags only use #). Immediately we get usability gains without chrome overload or bloat. Nice.

But the real changes in Firefox 3.1 are under the hood.

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I decided to see how far Firefox had come along by making it jump through a few hoops.

Note: For these tests I used the nightly build of Firefox 3.1 - Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.9.1b2pre) Gecko/20081014 Minefield/3.1b2pre for those interested.

Three tests:

  • ACID 3 web standard test
  • SunSpider JavaScript benchmark
  • V8 JavaScript benchmark

ACID 3

In this test Firefox has taken a strong lead over Chrome:

ACID 3 test

ACID 3 test available here.

SunSpider JavaScript benchmark

Here Mozilla developers have managed to dramatically improve the JavaScript processing time in Firefox 3.1, again taking the lead over Chrome:

SunSpider JavaScript benchmark

SunSpider JavaScript benchmark available here.

V8 JavaScript benchmark

When it comes to Google's V8 JavaScript benchmark, Chrome still holds a commanding lead over Firefox 3.1:

V8 JavaScript benchmark

V8 JavaScript benchmark available here.

Closing thoughts ...

I never thought I'd ever say this again (having lived through the browser wars of the late 90s), but I'm so glad that the browser wars have re-ignited and that developers are concentrating on performance, standards and stability rather than "here today, gone tomorrow" gimmicks. In normal day-to-day use I'm using Firefox more and more, and actually enjoying it, but I have to admit that I also like Chrome because the browser feels snappier under heavy load (not to mention a lot more robust). Firefox and Chrome make Internet Explorer (even IE8, currently in beta) both look and feel like a lumbering dinosaur waiting to be made extinct.

Thoughts?

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Topics: Browser, Google

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156 comments
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  • Great to see the web getting better after the years of stagnation.

    MS really did not want the web to get better, since it is a standard freely implementable by all. They wanted it to be tired and old and out of date, so that people would jump to MS proprietary technology for advanced features and better performance. And, that game is not working very well for MS in its current incarnation: Silverlight.
    DonnieBoy
    • Those benchmarks really mean nothing

      Way to skewer the graphs by comparing everything to IE7 instead of IE8 B2. If you're going to be comparing Beta releases, at least be consistent.

      Edit: Sorry, didn't mean this to be a reply to your comment!
      Resplendent
      • What's wrong with the benchmarks?

        [Quote] "[i]Way to skewer the graphs by comparing everything to IE7 instead of IE8 B2. If you're going to be comparing Beta releases, at least be consistent.[/i]"

        In the 3 benchmark graphs I see that Chrome, IE7, IE8 beta2, Firefox 3, and Firefox 3.1b2 pre are all shown. It seems to me that the current versions as well as the beta versions are all represented. I could see a cause for concern if, for instance, IE6 was compared but not Firefox 2.
        mystic100
        • Depends...

          Just look at how much better chrome is than the competition in google's home-made benchmarks.
          And if one isn't careful, one can optimize for the benchmark rather that actual use.
          CarlitosLx
      • IE8 beta is irrelavant for me...

        I'm using a MacBook Pro so IE7, IE8 beta aren't even options that I care about considering.

        FF3.0 with Noscript, Adblock, and Flashblock gives me the web surfing experience and responsiveness that I want. (mostly because all the junk is filtered out)
        dinosaur_z
    • How is Silverlight

      not working well?
      It works great for those that actually try it, and the adoption rates are pretty good.
      Well, they are actually outstanding, but around here that is only OK when talking about MS...
      mdemuth
      • Locutus

        [i]It works great for those that actually try it, and the adoption rates are pretty good. Well, they are actually outstanding, but around here that is only OK when talking about MS... [/i]

        Yes, it's working great for Microsoft (the only company to "actually try it.") For the rest of us, it's not working at all.

        Example: how does it do on Solaris? How about QNX and VRTX?

        Bottom line: it's just a Microsoft Windows extension. Not really interesting to the majority of computers out there that don't run MS platform software.
        anonymous
        • Who gives a *beep* about Solaris, QNX or VRTX in the first place?

          Just watch how SilverLight sweeps the field.
          LBiege
          • Ah, the arrogance of ignorance

            [i]Who gives a *beep* about Solaris, QNX or VRTX in the first place?[/i]

            Hate to shatter your illusions, child, but they have a much larger installed base (and annual unit volume) than all of Microsoft's SKUs combined.

            Microsoft is a very big frog that has a small (if rich) puddle to itself. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn't prepared to pay Microsoft prices for inexpensive appliances, which means that they won't be using MSilverlight.
            anonymous
          • Got it wrong from get-go

            SilverLight is used as the presentation layer of a typical n-tier app where your so called "rest of world" has no business of. Barely anyone (if at all) runs a presentation layer on a Solaris or whatever niche-X platforms you put out there. Try figure out what SilverLight is actually doing b4 bashing it.

            Talking about ignorance.
            LBiege
          • The rest of the world

            [i]SilverLight is used as the presentation layer of a typical n-tier app where your so called "rest of world" has no business of.[/i]

            You mean like telephones and mobile video appliances, e-books, and so on?

            [i]Talking about ignorance. [/i]

            And demonstrating it, too.

            Here's a hint, kid: my employer ships more processors every month than Intel does -- and we're not the biggest in our sector by quite a bit. We just charge less than Intel does, and our customers aren't about to pay ten times as much for the operating system and the memory it needs as they do for the rest of the system combined.

            Microsoft isn't even in the running, and a lot of our products do both graphics and tcp/ip.
            anonymous
          • The other way around (nt)

            ..
            LBiege
          • Ehh...

            Yea... cause I know a lot of my friends are running Solaris on their desktops. Not. So your telling me Solaris has more desktop market share then Windows? Not buying it. Servers maybe. But what are you doing running a browser on a server for daily use anyway? I think this article really only applies to desktop systems. As for as Silverlight is concerned, I feel it is as over hyped as Flash. I think everyone would continue living just fine if both were removed from the web alltogether and traditional pages took their place. Do we really need all that crap and extra ways for hackers to take advantage of unsuspecting users?
            ShadowGIATL
          • "So your telling me Solaris has more desktop market share then Windows?"

            Nope, he didn't say that. Learn to read.
            bmerc
          • Bmerc response.

            Bmerc, if he isnt talking about them on a desktop end users machine then why bring them up regarding a desktop end users software? Learn to logic.
            ariesghost
          • I think...

            I've encountered exactly one Web site that I know of, that required Silverlight. It installed as a plugin on Firefox (just checked the Add-ons), and the website just worked. I have no idea whether Silverlight works on Macs, Linux or other OSes, as Java does.
            gypkap@...
        • How about AS400

          As long as we are talking about the 80's ;-)
          kuilboer
          • Actually....

            AS400 systems (now the i5 Series) remain very popular in hospitals and some government departments. They do one thing very well. Databases. Not to mention you can think IBM for sharing that processor with the PS3 and XBOX 360. Long live the AS400!!!

            (I'm not a repersentitive or employee of IBM, nor is this message intended to be taken as an advertisement for IBM.)
            ShadowGIATL
        • Mono & Moonlight

          There is Mono and Moonlight, open sourced solutions for your choice of platforms. Second Silverlight is not just on Windows, it is also on Mac OS X.

          http://mono-project.com/
          logic_earth
          • Doesn't solve the problem

            [i]There is Mono and Moonlight, open sourced solutions for your choice of platforms.[/i]

            As long as you buy it from Novell (and quit using it before the MS license expires), yes. Doesn't really help with embedded platforms that can't run Novell Enterprise Linux, though.

            [i]Second Silverlight is not just on Windows, it is also on Mac OS X.[/i]

            And that's helpful to those who are running Embedded OS/X, which is a fine thing. However, I'm having a hard time finding the specifications and pricing for that SKU. Perhaps you could point me to the Apple announcement of it?
            anonymous