Bleeding Edge Web browsers – Fast but buggy

I like software, … alot =) I used to make software and loved it, but I like using and configuring it even more. The web browser seems to become the standard way to present your GUI and it’s even possible to make programs that run entirely in the web browser. I dare to say the web browser is THE most important piece of end-user software today.

Since Google released it’s branded version of Chromium, the Javascript engine (or interpreter) is under major discussion. Google had the brilliant idea (I don’t know if they were the first, though) to compile Javascript code and run it as machine code instead of interpreting it the old-school way. The implementation of this idea, namely V8, has significantly sped up our browsing experience. This is not the only reason why Chromium (or Chrome, as you like) is so fast. It’s of course also fast, because it’s ‘just’a clean browser. Not alot of options, no plugins, just browsing. I’ve been using the daily build version of Chromium since build 4xxx and I must say, it’s been getting better and better. The speed has improved, but, more importantly, so has the compatibility. More and more sites are rendered correctly and allow you to use their functionality with the Chromium web browser. It’s probably safe to say that also web builders adjust their website in such a way, that Chromium (and therefor also Apple/Windows using that are using Safari) can render their sites correctly.

Mozilla’s answer to Google’s V8 Javascript engine is called TraceMonkey. It’s will be available to the public when Firefox 3.5 goes final, but of course there are also daily builds =) Ive also been using these daily builds and I must say, it’s blazing fast. Because I’m using some plugins, the overall browsing experience is somewhat slower then Chromium, but, then again, more site render correctly with Minefield, this is the internal name for the Firefox 3.5 alfa/beta daily builds.

I’m not gonna sum up a list of comparisons between the two, there are plenty of websites that already do this. I would encourage you, though, to go for a test ride yourself 🙂 If you want to run some synthetic benches, check out Dromaeo and Sunspider, but I recommend you just use the sites you visit on a daily basis to get a good idea what your choices are. The web browsers is the program you use most, and it’s not hard to see it’s only gonna be more used in the future.

Minefield (Firfox) daily builds with TraceMonkey. To enable TraceMonkey: Install the browser and start it up. Type about:config in the address bar. Scroll down to the variable javascript.options.jit.chrome,  double click it,  it should switch to ‘enabled’. You are now TraceMonkey enabled 🙂 One nice touch, is that the daily build updates itself to newer daily builds standard. You’ll receive a message when a new version is available, which is, surprise, surprise, almost daily 🙂

Chromium daily builds with V8. V8 is always enabled, just download, install/unpack and run. Chromium is, btw, the open source code that Google build his Chrome browser on. Google adds some Google branding and software that gives them more info on where you are browsing. I’ve never been such a Big Brother fan, so I was glad when I found out that Chromium doesn’t have all that stuff. Note: It’s not quite free of ‘tracing’ code, though. Google Search the Web to find info on how to minimize the information that Google collects about all of us even more. Here is the change log for the daily builds.

Alternatively, there is of course Opera. This browser is build by some brilliant assembly programmers. Their Opera 10 release is the first browser to pass the 3rd Acid test. This browser is not very stable though and it’s compatibility with websites is worse then the two I mention above, so I found I could not use this browser for daily use.

And for the Microsoft fans, there is Internet Explorer 8. A real improvement over IE6 & IE7, but that is mainly because they realise it might be a good idea to follow the World Wide Web Standards instead of doing their own thing. When they were at it, they also improved Javascript performance.

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About Yuri de Jager
Technology Addict

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