I remember sitting at home, one relaxed Sunday afternoon, surfing the Web and watching the progress bar on my browser move ever so slowly. At this point I was wondering to myself, will things ever change? (Not my life - the web page!). In the past, whenever I got really fed up with the slow Internet speed I would change providers. I've moved from MTN to Glo to Etisalat and all the way back again. After a while I realised it was a waste of time. They were nearly all providing a substandard service and didn't really care about my custom anyway (Feel free to take our poll on the right-hand side and see what others think).

 

Anyway, as I went to open another Internet Explorer window I noticed the Google Chrome icon just sitting there on my desktop, sadly gathering dust from non use. So I said to myself "Why not? What have I got to lose?"

The answer of course was nothing and I have no regrets to date. Now, I'll be the first to admit Google Chrome is not sexy! She has been stripped of all her make up, from fake eyelashes to weave on and high heeled shoes, all gone. All that is left now is pure unadulterated speed!

Many people have asked how they did it. Well, it wasn't just as easy as stripping it down. One of Google’s main secrets (Not so much a secret as it is registered under the BSD Open Source Licence) is that they used a tool called Webkit as a basis for its programming. This is the same Webkit used by Firefox, which is another great browser I must add. But that’s not all they did. There are three other main elements that set it apart from other browsers. I haven’t gone into to much detail so I have added links to more info for the nerdy types who would like some bed time viewing.

1. DNS pre-resolution : 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhDDwmOyRmk
When you want to visit a page, your computer asks your provider’s DNS server to translate a URL into a unique numerical IP address needed to reach any online resource. This DNS lookup can take over a second, resulting in a delayed page loading. In Chrome, while you’re examining the content at hand, the browser is figuring out IP addresses of all the page’s links in the background. When you click a link, Chrome already knows IP address of this web resource and begins loading right away.

2. V8 JavaScript engine : 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTkTBKSnqbA
V8 is Chrome’s brand-new, open-sourced interpreter that speeds up Javascript code commonly used in web pages. Since complex pages have a lot of Javascript code, performance of the Javascript engine trickles down directly to a user. V8 owes its performance to the so-called byte-code optimization, the technique that dynamically compiles Javascript code into a shorter representation that’s optimized for the run-time execution. It also features hidden class transitions and precise garbage collection, both adding up to the overall speed.

3. DOM bindings : 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QRTkPrFbVQ
DOM (Document Object Model) is a collection of Javascript APIs used to change content and state of a page without reloading it. As a result, web apps feel like desktop programs whose user interface responds immediately. While performance of the Javascript engine matters as it determines how fast the Javascript code runs, the interface between Javascript and the C++ code that talks to a browser also matters, especially in a perceived nimbleness of the user interface in web apps. Chrome optimizes those code paths, adding up to the overall performance.

"So it’s fast but how do we know it’s the fastest browser out there?" I hear some of you ask. Good question. I read it but like most of YOU, I don't believe everything I read on the Internet. So I decided to do some more research and perform some tests of my own.

These are by no means scientific. In fact they were not meant to be. The fact is I figured if I can notice a big difference using it for some of my day to day tasks, then there might actually be some truth to the research written out there.

Ok, back to my test. I have three browsers installed on my machine ( HP pavilion, Pentium dual core – 2.16GHz, 2GB RAM), so my tests were based using these.

The number one contender was the ever so popular Internet Explorer (booo!). The number two favourite was our very own Firefox (a long standing Open source rival) and lastly the new kid on the block Google (I have been stripped naked) Chrome.

By the way, I did these tests 3 times for each browser and took an average.

Test 1: Opening up the browser: 
The first thing I wanted to look at was how long it took the browser to open. For me this is quite important, since I usually have to wait forever for my laptop to start up and I don’t want to have to wait for the browser to do the same thing. This is especially true when you’re in front off a client and you’ve just finishing boasting about how sleek and fast the new website you have developed for them is.

Browser
Time
Internet Explorer 15 sec
Firefox 9 sec
Google chrome 5 sec


Google chrome easily the fastest here! Firefox comes in second and oops who is that still at the start line?


Test 2: Opening up specific web pages
Loads of web pages have different types of element embedded in them and each browser handles them in a different ways eg. Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), flash, video etc

BBC website / Facebook / Yahoo Homepage

BBC

Browser
Time
Internet Explorer 34 sec
Firefox 22 sec
Google chrome 20 sec


Facebook

Browser
Time
Internet Explorer 27sec
Firefox 20 sec
Google chrome 15 sec


Yahoo

Browser
Time
Internet Explorer 6 sec
Firefox 5 sec
Google chrome 5 sec


Google Chrome just edges away, but Firefox is very close. I have to say here though, I didn’t really have time to test out any Flash based sites or complex video sites. Personally most of the websites I develop are based on Content Management Systems (Database backend and PHP) and we use a lot of JavaScript and keep flash to a minimum.


Test 3. Opening up tabs

Here I opened up 20 tabs and watched how my computer reacted. The reason for doing this? Well, I find it easier and faster to open up new tabs while doing research and this stops my desktop from getting too cluttered.

Browser
Time
Internet Explorer 2 sec
Firefox 1 sec
Google chrome 1 sec


This was a difficult one because there is not much difference in speed time for each browser, but the responsiveness of my computer was noticeable when opening up 20 tabs in Internet Explorer. Guess I won’t be doing that anymore.

To check out what was going on I opened up my task manager (ALT CTR DEL). Each tab creates a new process, unfortunately Explorer is so bloated that you end up with 20 fat guys (equivalent to my 20 tabs) sitting in a car and running out of gas (in this case RAM/CPU capacity).

Firefox’s tabs, which were admittedly fast, are still in one process, but there are great disadvantages to this, especially, when it comes to security and hacks. We’ll have a look at this in another blog. Firefox have however followed suit and are introducing this new architecture/feature into Firefox 3.6.4 beta so lets see what happens.

(http://news.softpedia.com/news/Multi-Processes-in-Browsers-Chrome-Internet-Explorer-Firefox-and-WebKit-140535.shtml)

So there you have it. The fastest gun in the Wild Wild West is Google Blazing Chrome, that is for now. Technology changes so quickly nowadays so watch this space or you might miss something.

Even though I found Google Chrome to be the fastest this by no means, means I am going to stop using the other browsers. It’s a bit like having an outfit for different occasions, each still have their pros and cons.

Internet Explore: I use her to do most of my website testing because that’s what most of our clients and their customers will be viewing their websites with.

Firefox: Website testing and troubleshooting. They have some fantastic tools that aid website development from speed testing to CSS and validation.

Chrome: General browsing and research. My internet is slow and there is not much I can do about it but that doesn't mean my browser has to be!

Here are some links for the more scientific folk who found my tests to mediocre and crude.

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2335242,00.asp

http://www.situsinformasiinternet.com/2010/02/fastest-browser-test-firefox-opera-safari-and-google-chrome.html

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/opera-10.60-internet-explorer-9-safari-5,2680-12.html

http://www.pcworld.com/article/162252/google_chrome_is_fastest_browser_in_siteloading_tests.html


Other browsers you might want to check out are OperaSafari and Flock.

Why don't you try these out for yourself and let's us know what you think. What works for me might not necessarily work for you but you never no till you give it a try.

From my perspective, not a bad decision for a lazy, Sunday afternoon. I should have more of these!

Ciao for now

Oyehmi. T. Begho BSc (Hons), QTS, MA, MBCS, MCPN