Posted by: reformedmusings | July 10, 2009

Javascript speeds in Firefox 3.5, Chrome 2.0, and Internet Explorer 8

According to a number of web  postings, the speedy Tracemonkey Javascript engine in Firefox 3.5 is not implemented in the 64-bit version. That would be bad, because the added speed of Tracemonkey put Firefox 3.5 on par with Google’s Chrome browser and its speedy V8 Javascript engine. Since I only believe 1/2 of what I see and nothing that I hear, I decided to check this out. In the process, I compared Firefox 3.5 (32- and 64-bit), Chrome 2.0, and Internet Explorer 8.

For this comparison, I used the x86_64 build of Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04 and a standard 32-bit WinXP SP2 setup, the latter in a virtual machine. I don’t have a 32-bit Linux install available in a virtual machine at the moment, otherwise I would have used it as well.

UPDATED 7.12.09 to include actual 64-bit Firefox 3.0.11 comparison.

There’s a great post called what does tracemonkey feel like? by Mozilla’s Director of Evangelism. In his post, he points to an online mini-benchmark with which one can make comparisons between browser Javascript engines. The site worked well in Firefox 3.5 in both Linux and WinXP, but interestingly would not work in either Chrome 1.x or IE8 under WinXP. I didn’t pursue the issue to find out why. It would run under the latest Chrome beta

Upon initial loading in Firefox 3.5 under WinXP, the page produces this result:


The draw time is pretty impressive at 126 ms. Moving the sliders around, I saw numbers in the range of roughly 110 ms to 135 ms or so very consistently. According to Chris Blizzard, Firefox 3.0.11 comes in at about 800 ms, so FF 3.5 rates as considerably faster. This is all with the 32-bit version.

On initial page load in x86_64 Ubuntu, the results aren’t quite as impressive:


Here you can see that the draw time hits around 300 ms. Moving the slider sees considerable variation, from about 295 ms to about 412 ms or so. That’s about but 2 – 4 x slower than 32-bit FF 3.5 on WinXP. Indeed, it looks like full Tracemonkey functionality is lacking in 64-bit Firefox. Ouch.

It could be worse. 64-bit Firefox 3.0.11 on Linux:


The initial loading takes 424 ms. Moving the sliders around produces draw times between 396 and 493. So, 64-bit FF 3.5 provides some improvement over 3.0 in Linux. There’s some comfort there, but not much.

Here’s the same test in the latest Chrome beta,


Draw time for the initial page loading jumps to 341 ms, but then things get weird. When first dragging the sliders around, I got draw times up to 430 ms at first. Then after a few seconds of dragging the slider around, the draw times drop to the 82 – 130 ms range. That’s the same range as 32-bit FF 3.5. After restarting the system and Chrome, the numbers jumped back up to 340 – 500 ms draw times. Clicking the Animate button resulted in a rating of 436 ms. But this time after several minutes of playing around, the draw times again dropped to 82 – 140 ms. I have no explanation for the wide variation in test times for Chrome.

Then again, it could be a lot worse. As expected, Internet Explorer 8 won’t even load the test page properly – even in compatibility view. As with all the browsers in this test, I updated IE 8 to the latest version before running this comparison. Although Firefox and Chrome didn’t require a system reboot during their updates, IE 8 required two reboots! Given its gaping security holes and poor performance, I can’t imagine why anyone would use IE at all.

Bottom line: 64-bit Linux users have been relegated to 3rd class open source citizens after decades of Linux user support and evangelism for Mozilla. That only puts Mozilla about 10 years behind the predominant hardware. Thanks, Mozilla.

Loyalty cuts both ways. So, when does Chrome become available for Linux?


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