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Investigating the Performance of Firefox 4 and IE9 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the nine-is-bigger-than-four-so-it's-better-right dept.
theweatherelectric writes "Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan has investigated the performance differences between Firefox 4 and IE9. He writes, 'As I explained in my last post, Microsoft's PR about "full hardware acceleration" is a myth. But it's true that some graphics benchmarks consistently report better scores for IE9 than for Firefox, so over the last few days I've been looking into that. Below I'll explain the details [of] what I've found about various commonly-cited benchmarks, but the summary is that the performance differences are explained by relatively small bugs in Firefox, bugs in IE9, and bugs in the benchmarks, not due to any major architectural issues in Firefox (as Microsoft would have you believe).'"
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Investigating the Performance of Firefox 4 and IE9

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  • Real Benchmarks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camcorder (759720) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @10:43AM (#35464060)
    Only benchmark I care is the real usage of web. Is there any benchmark available that tests sites such as top 30 sites listed on alexa.com, and have some automated usage profiles and compare load time, render time, memory usage etc.?
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:29AM (#35464352) Homepage

      Ultimate browser benchmark: Logging in, and posting on slashdot.

    • What good is that and how are they going to make their tests lean in their favour?
    • I really dont care how well a browser works on goatse

      If there was a benchmark based on usage of a list of websites I can almost guarantee that list would be populated by money(corps/sites would pay their way onto the list) OR pranksters would do their best to fudge the list(widespread malware that helps put goatse at the top based on usage stats) A list of specific sites doesnt constitute the whole WWW

    • For the legions of XP users, it's FF4 and IE8.

      And for a real benchmark, gmail with lots of labs going is pretty brutal on scripts.

    • Because it doesn't let the browser devs wave their e-penises around. The thing is that in terms of speed, all browsers are plenty fast enough for normal browsing. Your internet connection is the limit, or slow ass ad servers, not the browser. I haven't waited on my browser to render in ages. It is always some dumbass ad company who's server isn't responding that hangs the rendering of the page.

      So the browsers don't compare that because it isn't somethign they can brag about. You'd have to cache the data jus

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @10:44AM (#35464068)

    the summary is that the performance differences are explained by relatively small bugs in Firefox, bugs in IE9, and bugs in the benchmarks, not due to any major architectural issues in Firefox (as Microsoft would have you believe).

    So MS is spouting some anti Firefox FUD? When did this start? How are we supposed to measure browsers against each other if one (or both) sides aren't telling the truth. My confidence is crushed ... just crushed.

    • What is this, FUD about FUD? I've never heard of Microsoft actively discouraging Firefox use in the last few years. Sure, they recommend their own browser, over it, but that's hardly surprising.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What is this, FUD about FUD? I've never heard of Microsoft actively discouraging Firefox use in the last few years. Sure, they recommend their own browser, over it, but that's hardly surprising.

        Microsoft posted several demos comparing the canvas performance with Firefox on the IE blog with IE9 being signficantly faster. They claimed the speed difference on the account that IE9 is hardware accelerated by using the gpu.
        This mozilla guy said that their implementation was slower because of an inefficient dom manipulation and security checks they were doing, rather than the actual rendering process which was on par if not faster then the one in IE.
        So now he basically just called out the full gpu accele

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Not to mention they were nice enough to release an H.264 plugin for Firefox [slashdot.org] thus freeing Mozilla from any licensing issues. It supposedly only works native in Windows 7 since Win 7 comes with H.264 support built in, but since it is simply calling the WMP API if you have an H.264 DShow codec installed (personally I like Klite Mega on XP, Vista codec pack for Vista and 7 Codec pack for 7 along with 64 bit MP Classic) it should work just fine.

        I think the bigger problem for Firefox isn't IE but Chrome which the

        • by DrXym (126579)

          Not to mention they were nice enough to release an H.264 plugin for Firefox [slashdot.org] thus freeing Mozilla from any licensing issues. It supposedly only works native in Windows 7 since Win 7 comes with H.264 support built in, but since it is simply calling the WMP API if you have an H.264 DShow codec installed (personally I like Klite Mega on XP, Vista codec pack for Vista and 7 Codec pack for 7 along with 64 bit MP Classic) it should work just fine.

          Firefox was free from any licensing issues ANYWAY. OS X, Windows and Linux all have multimedia frameworks. It would have been relatively straightforward for FF to utilise them for video media types it didn't handle natively.

        • If I recall correctly, the MS H.264 extension also caused extreme memory bloat/leakage.

          Also, a lot of the rewriting you're talking about as needing to happen has in fact been going on, in the open for anyone who's interested to see. Heck, mobile Firefox already does use process isolation and it's coming to the desktop version next. The project is called electrolysis. Honestly, a lot of what you're saying sounds like the usual uninformed trolling about how old Gecko is and how badly it needs to be overhaule
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Not to mention they were nice enough to release an H.264 plugin for Firefox [slashdot.org] thus freeing Mozilla from any licensing issues. It supposedly only works native in Windows 7 since Win 7 comes with H.264 support built in, but since it is simply calling the WMP API if you have an H.264 DShow codec installed (personally I like Klite Mega on XP, Vista codec pack for Vista and 7 Codec pack for 7 along with 64 bit MP Classic) it should work just fine.

          Bullshit, they didn't free Mozilla from anything, Mozilla still has to pay a licensing fee for copies that are running on other OSes if they want support, given that MS just created a plug in to use a library already in Windows. And not even all currently used versions either, I'm not sure about Vista, but it doesn't do squat for those of us on XP.

          If you haven't actually loaded up a copy of what Mozilla has been doing over the last year+ of work, what precisely do those browser versions have to do with any

          • by h4rm0ny (722443)

            Bullshit, they didn't free Mozilla from anything, Mozilla still has to pay a licensing fee for copies that are running on other OSes if they want support,

            So you'd be happy if MS also provided licensed versions and plugins for OSs they don't own? Seems a little unreasonable. As to XP, it's ten years old, again it's not reasonable to complain that they're not releasing new enhancements to old software they're not selling anymore. It's not like anything on XP is broken by this, they're just not adding new functionality to it anymore.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Oh what a classic FOSSie reaction, just like the moonies or any other religion, at the sight of anything wrong instead of asking logical questions like "Why is it doing that" you start drooling and foaming at the mouth and screaming shill like a redneck screaming nigger. How typical and sad.

            And since I just pointed out that since it calls the WMP API it should work fine on all current Windows OSes from WinXP up that shouldn't be a problem,strike one, and if Linux or OSX wants H.264 support on Firefox they c

            • or better yet Firefox could drop their NIH bad attitude and just support whatever the OS supports by calling whatever native player they have, or even call VLC since it runs on all and plays all.

              Well then, I must have some strange alien version of Firefox, even though it claims to be Firefox 4.0 RC, because I have never encountered a problem playing any video including H.264. My copy of Firefox is obviously using the codecs I have installed on my system (Windows 7 and VLC).

              after 10-12 hours of usage FF has managed to blow through the entire 1.5Gb of RAM all by itself and start hitting the swap which slams the CPU at 100% and practically shuts down the machine. So just like the old 2.x.x crap it is shutdown and relaunch just to get FF to give back memory,

              I have never seen this problem and have never seen FF use anywhere near 1.5GB of RAM on any of my computers. Slow? Sluggish? Sorry, I'm not seeing it. And trust me, if FF was 1/100 as bad as some people are claiming, I would

      • What is this? FUD about the FUD about the FUD? Or more accurately, FUD that the OP was in fact spreading FUD by claiming non-FUD to be FUD?
    • Re:MS Firefox FUD? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 12, 2011 @10:59AM (#35464140)

      Pick a browser. If that works for you then well done. If you dont like it then pick another.
      Politics, morals & fanboi-ism aside none of the browsers are really that bad any more.

    • Joking aside, I am kind of curious what thuis "as microsoft would have you beiieve" comment is coming from. I haven't heard any of this fud. Is it some back and forth that the browser fanatics are following? If so they'll be happy to know that the rest of the world s really doesn't care very much, and will continue using whichever browser their preferences dictate.
      • Re:MS Firefox FUD? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:24AM (#35464312) Homepage

        > Joking aside, I am kind of curious what thuis "as microsoft would have you beiieve" comment is coming from.

        This blog post [msdn.com], which was linked to in the article. Especially the last section ("Full Hardware Acceleration is the Difference") would lead the reader to believe that the difference was architectural.

        • by phizi0n (1237812)

          There's actually been multiple blog posts by Microsoft and one by Opera too about how other browsers don't have "full hardware acceleration" but Mozilla has been open, honest, and accurate when they describe what acceleration API's FF4 uses on each platform.

        • by PNutts (199112)

          I don't use FF or Chrome so I honestly ask which one of those are FUD? I've always treated comparison matricies with suspicion of the cherry picked features shown.

          • by binkzz (779594)

            I don't use FF or Chrome so I honestly ask which one of those are FUD? I've always treated comparison matricies with suspicion of the cherry picked features shown.

            I can only agree with one of the points: Compatibilty. More websites are compatible with IE than any other browser; this is true. All other points are, in my opinion, false, fabricated or complete lies.

            Even the points where Chrome and FF got a nice green tick get FUD in the explanation! Not one point other than the one I mentioned is at all true,

        • That's interesting reading. Especially because several points are flat-out incorrect re: the competition.
  • Ach, yet another up-to-date yet incomplete picture of what is going on with the latest browser speeds. Great they've done the work, but my head is starting to spin from all the recent related posts on this matter.

    Is there not a site/service that compiles speed/etc info from automated tests on browser nightlies/etc? Surely it can't be that hard (for someone, unlike me, who can programme :)?

  • by howardd21 (1001567) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:14AM (#35464244) Homepage

    I am not sure I even care, as long as pages load reasonably quick (this one loads in about 1-2 seconds using FF4 RC over a Roadrunner cable modem), that is fast enough for me. I am more interested in things that save ME time, like password addons, dragable tabs, quick zooms, form fillers, etc. I have about 10 add-ons to help with this and generally I do not even think about it. Maybe if I were running some ridiculous AJAX app, but come on, to load Slashdot or TMZ or whatever the average user uses?

    Does the average user even notice? How many people sit around with a stop watch and complain a page took an extra 0.25 seconds to load?

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      As for the browsers in question, I can't personally speak.

      However, what I can say is this: there are irritating bugs shared by both ff3 and chromium based browsers (caching implementation), and I'd suspect they'd be present on safari as well. If IE4 has fixed the problem, and IE doesn't have it, it's likely the average user would notice, I suspect: I've experienced 2-3+ second waits when going to a page because the browser is too stupid to be able to actually go to the page and ignore the cache.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wampus (1932)

      My benchmark is pretty simple: Can I plan Entanglement without the fan spinning up? IE9 and Chrome don't spin the fan up, FF4 does.

      • Running Entanglement on a 1.2 Ghz ULV dual core with WIn 7, I just noted the following:
        • Chrome hits between 20 and 28% of CPU usage.
        • FF 4 RC 1 was between 18% and 42%, but spent most of the time at around 35-39 percent,

        Interesting test, and interesting game also, but I do not play a lot of games.

    • by Malc (1751)

      I wish they'd try and compete on some useful things, like just trying to catch up with the competition on the multi-process front. Netscape/Mozilla have always been bad about monolithic archs. Besides better security and stability, I went to be close just the bits that are using all the CPU and memory without having to reload all of me tabs.

      • Mozilla is working on multiprocess. The project is called electrolysis and is already being used for mobile Firefox.
        • by Malc (1751)

          We should expect it in five years then, at the pace Mozilla develops things.

    • by mpol (719243)

      I see this reply all the time on slashdot. But just this week I found out that at my work, where we have simple P4 machines, a simple javascript animation causes Firefox to use 100% cpu.
      That's quite a lot. So I think javascript performance still can be improved. It's just one animation that runs continuously, on my own site: http://chaosmongers.org/ [chaosmongers.org]
      So dismissing speed improvements is not something I do anymore. I do think speed improvements can and should be made.

      • That is an interesting observation. I just went to your site using FF 4 RC and noted that when I used your menu system at the top it was spiking at around 52% CPU usage. This is on a 1.2Ghz dual core ULV Intel processor and Win 7. I see that occasionally when running a Youtube video, etc. It generally does not affect UI speed, but does cause the CPU to spike and the fan to run.

        I can also say that the latest Chrome browser does not do that on the same machine when on your site. Memory usage is abou
    • by dFaust (546790)

      Well, it's hard to define "average user", but I will say that at work we have several popular, commercial web apps that we use for various internal things (bug tracking, timesheets, etc.) that are staggeringly faster on Chrome 9 and especially 10 than on FF3 or Safari 4 or IE < 9 (I can't speak for 9). So much so that it's immediately obvious to your average non-technical person that has to interact with these apps. So much so that these average non-technical people are jumping ship to Chrome after tryin

  • So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nemyst (1383049) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:16AM (#35464250) Homepage

    Benchmarks that Microsoft use are inherently favoring Microsoft and benchmarks that Mozilla use are inherently favoring Mozilla. That's surprising isn't it?

    At least I commend the investigative work done here and the fixes applied to FF4. I hope we can see those before the final release!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Firefox 4 is already at RC stage and won't be changed for the final release unless a showstopper bug is found. More likely is that they'll land for Firefox 5, which is supposedly coming 3 months from now. It's also possible that some of the fixes could land for a 4.x or 4.0.x release if they're proven stable and relatively risk-free.
  • I'd be happy for Web sites that don't run crappy buggy lardy scripts that bring my quad-core to its knees, and browsers that quit jettisoning useful functionality. With Firefox you have to install plugins to mitigate its usability defects. Which is a loser game because FF upgrades break plugins and you can't count on plugin authors to keep up. For example, remember the good old days when the URL bar kept a chronological history of pages you had visited, so it was dead easy to go back in time? Not any more,
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not that it makes up for the usability flaw you pointed out, but you can use the keyboard shortcuts CTRL+K and CTRL+L to automatically mark the entire search or URL field contents.

    • Jetpack should make extension compatibility a much better experience as it gains traction. https://jetpack.mozillalabs.com/ [mozillalabs.com]
    • by jadrian (1150317)

      No one-click clear the URL bar.

      F6 selects the text in the URL bar. In practise this is more general than clearing. You can simply start typing and the previous text will be gone (and if you don't want to type new text you don't have any reason to clear it). On the other hand you can also for instance, simply copy the text, or move your cursor and edit it.

      • The sad thing is that F6 requires an add-on to restore its old functionality in FF4; it was changed to selecting the active tab, rather than the URL bar text...
  • NEVER hang the UI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anethema (99553) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @12:42PM (#35464882) Homepage
    What's stupid is the wrong stuff is being concentrated on.

    If google maps loads in 3 or 4 seconds doesn't matter to me. What I want is for the whole browser not to hang its UI anytime one website is doing stuff. I hate opening tabs in the background and having the browser be unusable until they load.

    And this is on a quad core i7, 8gb of ram.
    • by Gordo_1 (256312)

      What's stupid is the wrong stuff is being concentrated on.

      No, what's stupid is that you make a statement that shows you misunderstand the fact that a blog post by an individual Engineer does not represent the priority or scope of items that a large organization like Mozilla is able to work on.

      Your pet beef *is* being worked on and it's called Electrolysis.

      • Not just electrolysis. Per-compartment GC, landed in Firefox 4, helps this a bit, along with other-thread finalization. Web sockets help a bit. Generational GC or something similar seems likely to land in Firefox 5, this will help a bit too.

    • by caywen (942955)

      Well, unlike you, I want more. I want Google Maps to be fast and fluid. I also want the vast majority of browsers to have a lot of performance room to spare so that the *next* version of Google Maps will not only be phenomenal, but continues to be fast and fluid. Stability is good, but we are right to be demanding more.

  • Is Microsoft still doing that thing where IE9 detects standard Javascript benchmarks and cheats on them, or have they also figured out how to detect when people insert no-op statements into them and "optimise" those too?

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)
      IIRC that turned out to be dead-code detection noticing what was effectively a delay loop and removing it as it did no useful work. The changes people made that stopped it skipping that part just confused the dead-code detection enough that it wasn't sure the optimisation was safe.

      FYI: I'm no fan of Internet Explorer and I know who I trust least between MS and FF, but please don't spread anti-IE FUD. It only makes others look as bad as them (for using their tricks), and good god there is plenty of real c

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