Firefox 3.5 vs Internet Explorer 8

July 22nd, 2009 | Tech Tips

Recently Mozilla has released their newest and fastest browser yet, Firefox 3.5. Around the same time Microsoft released IE 8. Which browser is faster, and why should I care?

Before we start talking about the results of the browser test, first we must discuss the importance of browser speed. In order for you to view the internet there are several factors that play into that webpage showing up on your computer screen. In it’s simplest form, a website is hosted on a web server (files on a computer with internet access through port 80 or 443 [ssl]), then the IP address to this computer (where the server lives) is stored on a DNS (domain name server, like a phone book). When you type in a URL (web address / domain name), your internet connection has DNS addresses registered, that it looks up what address that domain name lives at, and connects to that computer through the appropriate IP address. Now data (html) is returned from this computer to your computer, and you now have the web page on your computer. So that’s the watered down version, to help make sense of this issue. Each connection between your computer, the DNS and the webserver are all limited by the speed of the internet connection (DSL, Cable, Dial-up – all of these connections can have different speeds). You can make these connections faster by paying more money and your ISP (internet service provider) will increase your bandwidth (Mbps – mega bits per second – how fast data travels). But your faster connection may not necessarily allow you to view your webpage any faster. How come? That would be annoying if you paid more money to view a webpage faster, and it still takes a while to load.

The final stage that was left out in displaying a website is your internet browser. An internet browser in it’s simplest form is a software application that reads the data (html) sent from the webserver and interprets it according to set rules and displays the information in a visible format. This is where browser speed comes into play. How fast can a browser interpret the data received and display it, determines the browser’s performance. Granted your computer hardware can affect the speed of the browser (more RAM, faster CPU, larger chache, ect), but for this comparison the test was run on the same computer under the same circumstances with the same internet connection (16Mbps according to http://speakeasy.net/speedtest/).

The test was conducted using the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark (http://www2.webkit.org/perf/sunspider-0.9/sunspider.html). This bench mark does a comparison of tests testing the performance of JavaScript interpretation for a certain browser. JavaScript is a client-side scripting language used in most website code to allow for more user interaction to a web page.

The Results

Firefox 3.5 is 1.78x faster than IE 8!

That’s a significant difference.  In today’s microwave society whow wants to wait around almost twice as long as is necessary.  However there are some limitations to Firefox over IE.  They are called ActiveX controls.  ActiveX controls are small applications built into Microsoft that allow web devlopers to access local system resources when you visit a webpage.  How brilliant, let’s give a way for a website to interact with a user more personally, hey we could even steal your information and install viruses and spyware on your system for you so you don’t have to go through the hassle of doing it yourself. IE explorer because it is built into the core of Microsoft Windows poses security threats by potentially opening up holes for unwanted guests to have their way with your computer. Firefox however, can’t run ActiveX controls. So what happens when you visit a site that requires ActiveX and you’re using Firefox, well you get forced to go use IE, because you won’t be able to use the website in Firefox.

Final note: Most websites today if they are credible, are developed by developers who take into account the security of the end user (you), and develop websites that will work with any browser (Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome, ect.). So go download Firefox 3.5 right now, and start browsing the internet faster and more secure. No, I’m not paid or nor am I endorsed by Mozilla, Firefox is free and fast. http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/upgrade.html

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