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The More Popular the Browser, the Slower It Is 367

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the software-always-gets-slower dept.
demishade writes "Peacekeeper, the browser benchmark from the makers of 3DMark, comes out of beta and shows an interesting (though perhaps not surprising) tidbit — the more popular a browser, the worse its performance. While it should not be surprising to anyone that IE slugs at the last place, the gap between Firefox and Chrome, is. Once IE's market share goes the way of the Dodo will web developers start cursing Firefox? How long until Google comes out with a JavaScript intensive application that will practically require Chrome to function?"
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The More Popular the Browser, the Slower It Is

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  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:00AM (#27951201) Homepage

    Chrome was designed with JavaScript performance as a top goal. So why are we surprised it performs well?

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:06AM (#27951307) Journal

    My Firefox does 11 times more work than Chrome. The plugins I run are worth the minor tradeoffs in performance - because it's still speedy.

    The value of NOT opening my robe to Google? Priceless!

  • Are you serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:06AM (#27951313) Homepage Journal
    If you look at it from a popular/performance perspective, you are going to find that, generally, the newer software is better performing, because that is a selling point above the competition. It will also be the least popular because it is newer.
  • by Jamamala (983884) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:08AM (#27951335)
    this really is a case of correlation not implying causation. Otherwise firefox's market share would have decreased from v2 to 3, and will decrease again when 3.5 is released.
    Sure, it's a "fact", but I'll bet that in 5 years time this won't be the case. This "tidbit" does not allow us to make sensible predictions about the future of browsers.
  • Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:10AM (#27951359)

    I keep seeing reviews of how fast a browser is/isn't. Am I the only one that really doesn't care? All Browsers render faster than I can read the page anyway. I care about the way the browser looks/feels/renders/features. Am I missing something?

  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:12AM (#27951387)

    Javascript performance still doesn't matter for most users, and power users largely have Javascript disabled or blocked. Maybe Google needs to release a killer app that relies on Javascript and has borderline performance on anything slower than Chrome.

    When we're just talking about loading web pages, no one is yet within shouting distance of FF with a good Adblock filter list.

    JS benchmarks seem somewhat pointless for now. 99% of what we do on the web happens instantly (if you have a low latency connection) on all browsers if we stop the ads from loading.

  • by BlitzTech (1386589) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:14AM (#27951417)
    It's so unfortunate that researchers these days don't realize that correlation can easily be a coincidence, and not a real relationship between two variables. It is especially unsuited in this case given the tiny number of data points and, oh, the convolution of these results with other factors like OS bundling (Windows/IE) and time on market (All 3, most significantly Chrome).

    A more interesting (and likely actually related) set of data would be browser performance vs. market growth rate. Where are those numbers?

    Also, web developers don't curse IE because it's slow. In fact, many pages are still static and don't feature nifty DHTML tricks, so the slowness of IE has no effect on the page at all. We web developers curse IE because it's not standards compliant and because making both the CSS and those nifty DHTML tricks WORK in IE is like eating barbed wire. Firefox has acceptable Javascript performance and is mostly standards compliant, and the existence of the Firebug plugin makes it invaluable as a web developer's test browser. I don't think web developers will curse a browser like Firefox for slow Javascript performance like we curse IE for violating all the standards.
  • by AbbeyRoad (198852) <p@2038bug.com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:17AM (#27951485) Homepage

    "How long until Google comes out with a JavaScript intensive application that will practically require Chrome to function?"

    Ans: never

    because 80-90% of the market will choose not to
    bother with that application because they don't
    know how to DAU-EN-LODE and install a different
    browser.

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:20AM (#27951519) Journal

    because 80-90% of the market will choose not to bother with that application because they don't know how to DAU-EN-LODE and install a different browser.

    In that case, Google will just email their browser install file to them, because 80-90% of those people will be more than happy to click on anything in an email.

  • by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:24AM (#27951573)

    Newer software is better performing? If only that were generally true. Newer software is almost always *more capable*, but better performance from any given upgrade is far from guaranteed, even in the world of FOSS.

  • Interesting Tell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:25AM (#27951593)
    This just in: People don't choose their browser based on Javascript performance alone.
  • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:31AM (#27951657) Homepage

    Sucky non-standards-compliant browsers...

    You just described IE.

    ...aren't popular

    But you lost me here.

  • by Twillerror (536681) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:35AM (#27951705) Homepage Journal

    I've heard a lot of talk about Javascript performance as intensive Dynamic HTML applications become mainstream.

    Most of the apps I seen really don't have that much Javascript when you compare it to the amount of code that is in your typical desktop app or server side application. And ultimately many of the functions are small.

    What I've noticed is instead their is a difference in the rendering engine itself. Javascript might be a single line to change the CSS of an element or change the visibility attribute, but then the browser takes forever to collapse the item...or the CPU spikes when some huge element of a big page disappears and the whole page has to move over/up/down.

    Are we really talking about how fast the DHTML engine responds or is Javascript really that stinky slow that changing the element underlying take a while. I'm not sure I care if calculating primes in JS could made faster. Isn't most of Javascript just mapping down to a C++ library below it?

  • by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:37AM (#27951743)

    (Speaking of which, isn't it a bit disingenous to compare Safari 4 BETA to the current version of Firefox? Why not compare the Firefox beta then? Smells of yeller-bellied journalism to me.)

    It could be that most of their Safari visitors are using the beta, while most of their Firefox visitors are using a release version. Since they're trying to correlate a browser's market share with its performance, it would make some sense to choose the most common version of each contender.

    Disclaimer: I am not saying this is the case, just offering it as a possible explanation.

  • So what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lucag (24231) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:41AM (#27951783) Homepage

    The linked article seems to be quite devoid of propercontent ... after a test of some browsers on just one computer (and, I guess, just one OS) they deem that there is an inverse correlation between popularity among the people visiting their site and performance.
    Not quite what I would call an accurate and scientific approach!
    This being said, there might be a grain of truth in the very fact that the more popular the browser the more "corner cases" are exercised (and thus have to be implemented). By corner cases, I do not mean what the standard dictates, but what you find (ab)used on way too many pages.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:44AM (#27951821) Homepage Journal

    Only thing slow today seems to be google. Is there some sort of Level 3 outage or something? I know Google News was down earlier in the Northeast but now it seems google video, youtube and search are affected as well.

    Anyway... can we stop saying stupid crap like "Once IE's market share goes the way of the Dodo"?

    Just because something is declining now that there is a serious competitor in the market place doesn't mean that the decline will go on at the same rate or indefinitely. Look at webserver trends [netcraft.com].

    Every time I hear stuff like that I just picture those little dogs that bark at big dogs.

  • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:44AM (#27951833) Homepage Journal

    "Sucky non-standards-compliant browsers aren't popular"

    No, those are the ones that are popular. What people don't like are browsers that adhere strictly to the standard when the web is full of pages that don't.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:47AM (#27951885) Homepage
    Also, popularity tends to impede progress. The more people are using a software or hardware product, the more you have to lose by breaking compatibility with old version or doing something zany. Meanwhile, more obscure products have a greater need to do something a little zany in order to carve out their niche.
  • by TibbonZero (571809) <Tibbon.gmail@com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:49AM (#27951913) Homepage Journal
    That doesn't explain why Firefox is so slow compared to Camino, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc. If you were Microsoft and had a browser, you'd try to ship it with your OS too. Last I checked all popular linux distros ship with a browser (generally Firefox being the default) and OS X ships with Safari.

    The problem historically hasn't been that Microsoft ships IE, but that its very difficult, if not nearly impossible to separate it from the OS completely.

    Additionally, this isn't the 'problem' that the article talks about, its talking about it being slow. Tighter integration with the OS should make it faster, not slower. You're mixing up the real problems at hand here.
  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:00PM (#27952079) Homepage Journal

    Anyway... can we stop saying stupid crap like "Once IE's market share goes the way of the Dodo"?

    Like it or not, IE is going the way of the Dodo. It's not market trends that are determining that, it's the fact that IE is an absolutely craptastic browser that the market has taken a dim view on. If anything, it has held up fairly well in the trends despite a growing disdain for its existence.

    When every analyst in the market (short of those on the Microsoft payroll) is allied against you, you're not going to maintain a leading spot forever.

    My personal expectation is that IE market share decline will accelerate over the next year rather than slow. i.e. The hockey stick effect tends to work both ways.

  • If I needed speed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:01PM (#27952091)

    I'd use a desktop application.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:11PM (#27952215) Homepage Journal

    I basically only use IE as a preview tool when I'm developing websites so I'm not biased towards IE.

    Dodos are extinct, as long as IE is installed by default in Windows, IE will not be extinct for a long time. Want to see what extinction of a web browser looks like? [wikipedia.org]

    When every analyst in the market (short of those on the Microsoft payroll) is allied against you, you're not going to maintain a leading spot forever.

    Analysts don't determine what browser people use, they just try and predict it. If analysts are controlling the browser market it is through FUD and self fulfilling prophecy.

    My personal expectation is that IE market share decline will accelerate over the next year rather than slow. i.e. The hockey stick effect tends to work both ways.

    That's my point. There is no guarantee what is going to happen. It could get worse it could get better it could stay the same. Saying it with certainty just makes people look stupid.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:37PM (#27952591) Homepage Journal

    Dodos are extinct, as long as IE is installed by default in Windows, IE will not be extinct for a long time.

    Netscape 4 was pre-installed on computers long after people stopped using it. Just because it's available doesn't mean it isn't effectively extinct. There's also the question of whether Microsoft will conceded defeat if their market share drops too low. It's perfectly possible that Triton will stop shipping with Windows. At least as an end-user browser. (It may be maintained as a legacy ActiveX control.)

    Analysts don't determine what browser people use, they just try and predict it. If analysts are controlling the browser market it is through FUD and self fulfilling prophecy.

    What is the purpose of prediction if it doesn't create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Analysts direct companies toward the solutions that make the most sense in the future market. Companies pay quite a bit of money to have an analyst tell them these things so they can be as competitive as possible. Most of it is absolute B.S. IMHO, and often gets companies into a lot of trouble. But that does not negate the very real effects these analyses have.

    That's my point. There is no guarantee what is going to happen. It could get worse it could get better it could stay the same.

    Everything is a probability. I can say with a high degree of confidence that I will be going to work tomorrow. Yet in reality, I could get a cold. Or a family emergency could develop. Or there could be a snow day in May tomorrow.

    That last one has about the same probability as any of the current versions of Internet Explorer recovering market share.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sancho (17056) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:44PM (#27952697) Homepage

    Microsoft won't stop shipping a browser with Windows. More likely (as the summary to that article suggests) they'll change the rendering engine to something that's not under their control (albeit almost certainly with their own tweaks.)

    It really makes sense, at this point. There's really no good reason to reinvent the wheel every few years as they've been doing since IE6. It just serves to cause headache to web developers, it costs a lot of money, and it isn't really gaining them anything. If they switched to Webkit, they could cut most of the IE team, begin building a positive relationship with web developers, and *gasp* contribute back to the community by sending patches upstream. I'm sure they could figure out a way to write that off of their taxes.

  • Bullshit. These are experimental options. They're NOT turned on for a reason. Specially, HTTP pipelines really fraks with some of the less sophisticated web servers on the market. They get confused and don't deliver the right set of responses. Firefox has the feature for testing and developer evaluation, but it's not ready yet.

    That being said, the vast majority of the sites you visit won't have problems. But you have to know enough to understand what those are and whether it is worth it to you to enable this feature.

    For those interested in the technical side, HTTP pipelining is a feature that makes use of the asynchronous nature of TCP/IP sockets. Rather than doing the usual HTTP/1.1 request/response, request/response cycle of HTTP/1.1, pipelining batch-sends all the requests, then batch receives all the responses. In effect, it looks like request/request/request/request, response/response/response/response. Very effective at reducing delays from network latency, but potentially very confusing for the server.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:14PM (#27953091) Homepage Journal

    People stopped using NN because it started to suck. It would crash on me multiple times a day.

    There's also the question of whether Microsoft will conceded defeat if their market share drops too low.

    There's also the question that the Mozilla foundation could disband in 2011 if their market share doesn't significantly increase and Google doesn't feel the money it's paying, that accounts for the majority of Mozilla's revenue, is worth it. Especially now that they have their own independent browser offering.

    Analysts are notroriously wrong a large portion of the time You can also find plenty of examples on this site bashing stories where analysts decided a microsoft product was better/faster/cheaper/more secure than an open source solution. Don't be a hypocrite and rely on analyst opinion only when it aligns with your views.

    It's one thing to speculate, it's another thing to come across like a FUD campaign that rivals the big boys. Or optimistic vs dellussional.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo AT world3 DOT net> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:19PM (#27953145) Homepage

    That's an oversimplification. Different add-ons perform differently. Seems obvious but apparently a lot of people don't realise it.

    AdBlock+, for example, makes the browser faster in many cases by removing crap that would otherwise slow it down. FlashBlock is the same. Sure, they add some tiny delay as they scan the loaded page, but it's nothing compared to the delay produced by having to download and render the stuff remove.

    Other add-ons have barely any effect at all since they can be turned off most of the time (e.g. Rikaichan, a godsend for anyone learning Japanese or Chinese, or CSS editors etc) or have a very minimal impact to the initial loading time as they just add a few items to a menu or a taskbar icon.

    The parent clearly has no idea - he thinks NoScript is using lots of memory. All NoScript does is provide a handy icon to change the built-in Javascript preferences. How much does one icon and a bit of chrome slow your system down?

  • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lars T. (470328) <Lars...Traeger@@@googlemail...com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:25PM (#27953213) Journal

    The value of NOT opening my robe to Google? Priceless!

    I think I speak for us all when I say nobody wants you to open your robe to them.

    Even if, we'd have to GFI.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:37PM (#27953315) Homepage Journal

    Bo-o-o-o-gus.

    This "study" didn't measure browser speed at all. It compared only the speeds of the javascripts that the browsers use. TFA says so fairly clearly.

    If you're making heavy use of sites that are mostly javascript, this is a useful study. For the rest of us, it's yet another case of measuring a tiny corner of what is claimed, and then asserting that this measures the whole thing.

    Using similar reasoning, we can imagine an oceanographer measuring the parts of the ocean along the beaches where most people are found, and concluding that the oceans average about 2 meters deep. (There's gotta be a good auto analogy here, too.)

    As someone else has pointed out, most "power users" of browsers mostly disable java and javascript (and Active-X and any other misfeature that lets strangers run code on their machines). They may use NoScript with FF and enable JS for selected sites. Or they may simply copy the links to another browser such as opera or safari when they want to use JS. So to them, firefox and mozilla may well be the fastest browsers, since they permit easy selective disabling of all scripting features.

    And we should also note that the time to render most web pages is mostly the download time. If due to network delays it takes 23 seconds to download a page, and browser X renders it in .001 sec while browser Y renders it in .01 sec, there's no practical meaning to a claim that Y renders 10 times faster than X. If the page takes 23.001 sec to render in X, and 23.01 sec in Y, few people will be able to reliably tell you which is faster.

    If this were announced as a comparison of various JS interpret speeds, I'd take it seriously. But claiming that it's about browser speed pretty well discredits the authors (and the editor who wrote the summary).

  • Right.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:58PM (#27954601) Journal

    Right.

    1. How do you explain that IE8 is the youngest of the non-beta's and the slowest.

    2. Why is it then that IE has more problems with standards? Does it check so much for broken html/css/javascript it can't even deal with standard compliant code? Oh and then explain how a trailing , in javascript FAILS under IE but not firefox.

    3. So, IE8 has more features then firefox...

    Something tells me you don't know what the hell you are talking about. Did you ever actually use any other browser then the one that came with your Dell?

  • Re:No surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:00PM (#27954633) Homepage Journal

    People stopped using NN because it started to suck. It would crash on me multiple times a day.

    And people have stopped using Internet Explorer because it has started to suck. It's the vector for a number of viruses and it does a poor job rendering many websites. What's your point?

    If people stop using IE completely, it will be extinct regardless of whether or not Microsoft ships it.

    Analysts are notroriously wrong a large portion of the time

    Doesn't matter. They still determine the course of much of the market. Those analyses combined with the existing market forces to move toward webapps with greater sophistication leaves Microsoft's Trident engine poorly positioned to compete. Its market share will continue to dwindle. The probability of anything else happening are extremely poor; barring major corrective action by Microsoft.

    There's also the question that the Mozilla foundation could disband in 2011 if their market share doesn't significantly increase and Google doesn't feel the money it's paying, that accounts for the majority of Mozilla's revenue, is worth it. Especially now that they have their own independent browser offering.

    Disbanding Mozilla would appear to be a low probability at this time. Google stopping payments is a medium risk, which is why Mozilla is looking for alternative income sources.

    Microsoft having to do something about Trident in the future is an extremely high probability. They have already indicated that shipping an alternative engine is an option they are considering. Based on their previous behavior, Microsoft isn't likely to continue to push a dead product. They will move on and find other ways to fight the market.

    It's one thing to speculate, it's another thing to come across like a FUD campaign that rivals the big boys. Or optimistic vs dellussional.

    I agree. Stop being so optimistic about IE's chances and spreading FUD that IE is still a viable platform. Everything in the market suggests that Microsoft's chances are nil at this point. To think otherwise is either hopelessly optimistic and/or delusional.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:07PM (#27954783)

    Why does everyone think that Javascript is the only measure of speed? If your Javascript engine is ridiculously fast, but your browser UI architecture is too heavy-weight and stuff can't fly around as fast as the Javascript can request it to, then speeding up you JS engine isn't the thing you need to do.

    XUL is why Firefox sucks. I thought it was mostly just shitty on Linux because nobody at Mozilla cares about Linux anymore, but I've been using it on Win32 some and it's unstable and slowish (but mostly just unstable) there too.

    Chrome is crazy fast, but I think the JS engine is not the only reason.

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