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I’m currently running IE 8.0, Safari and Chrome. Definitely a mixed bag of pros and cons. I’m still an Explorer fan, but Chrome has done a good job of taking the best of each, mixed with lots of the good stuff from Firefox, and shows you how nice browsing really could be. But Chrome feels far more like Alpha than Beta.

Safari is somehow… Pleasant to use. It’s riddled with quirks that ought to be annoying. It takes a long time to fire up on a PC, and the big, gray, top space of the browser looks clunky and wasteful. Probably an artefact of Chrome/IE having that same space “smoked glass”ed.

 

I like the way IE does bookmarks, but I think I prefer the button bar concept in Safari. I find Safari’s bookmark manager the least intuitive I’ve ever used, not that it’s all that bad but instead of popping it into the window they replace your entire browser space with the bookmark manager and you have to select “Hide all bookmarks” from the menu or notice the little “book” icon is actually a visibility toggle. If you can wrap your head around this perversion of normal UI flow, you can probably get along with it fine.

Having just converted to using Safari’s bookmark bar, I liked the presence of the same concept in Chrome; but then it one-upped Safari and put the pages I frequent into the “New Tab” display. IE8 does something sort of similar, their “New Tab” is no-longer the old “About New Tabs” page, but actually shows you things like tabs you recently closed, kinda neat. Safari, on the other hand, just shows you a blank page (I think you can configure it):

Yeah, don’t try to read too much into my Chrome browsing habbits, I haven’t used it that much. It has quirky problems with a bunch of popular sites.

The first couple of days I tried chrome, it seemed to have unpredictable performance. It crashed when I tried to go to Microsoft’s site to see the Seinfeld teaser (note: I just told you that link crashed my browser, dumb dumb). However, I have definitely noticed that stuff which is JavaScript heavy is smoother and more stable, so sites like Facebook etc… I can best describe it as being like the difference between when you used to telnet into computers over a modem vs the first time you logged in to a server on a local network.

My more java-script intense tools at work feel nice and smooth: I pulled up the page that lets me review the chat logs (GM activity, HC activity, /reports, etc) and pulled down 6 months work of /reports in each browser:

 

  • IE takes about a 60 seconds downloading the data, about 10 seconds loading it, about 15 seconds sorting it and then about a second rendering the resulting page (which shows 30 reports per page and 442 pages). It takes 1-2 seconds to switch between pages and nearly 30 seconds if you click “All”.
  • Safari takes about 53 seconds downloading the data, about 2 seconds loading it, about 11 seconds sorting it and then about a second rendering the resulting page. It takes about 1.5 seconds to switch between pages and around 12 seconds if you click “All”.
  • Chrome takes about 51 seconds downloading the data, about a second loading it, about 8 seconds sorting it and the page seems to render instantaneously. It takes about 0.8 seconds to switch between pages and around 6 seconds if you click “All”

(Yes, you bet I’ve suggested to Ramp that he look at whether we could switch to the Google V8 javascript engine instead of the one we’re using right now!)

I tend to like sites that have that old “google” look & feel. Google is my search engine, I use LinkedIn, Friends Reunited and Facebook. My own web designs try to borrow from that same tones-of-blue-and-gray.

Because google is based on WebKit, like Safari they both share a cool pro and a bad con: The pro, resizable text areas allowing you to resize any multi-line input box on any page anywhere; the con, no default XML renderer so accessing an XML page just shows either a blank or bits of text. Both IE and Firefox have a default XML viewer that validates and then shows you the XML nicely marked up.

The first few days I was using Chrome, there were definitely some periods of sketchy performance that had me worried it was uploading or downloading a ton of stuff, but watching my modem lights quickly showed that to be untrue.

I do think Google are onto something with the way they are making every window/tab in Chrome a separate process. I’ve had a lot less multi-tasking issues with Chrome. It doesn’t bring a whole lot of new ideas to the table, but it does a nice job of bring a lot of other folks’ ideas together and polishing them well. There are some privacy concerns with the combined search/address bar and the fact it is continuously sending data up to Google.

I hope other browsers will take pages out of the Chrome leaf, but Chrome isn’t going to become my preferred browser any time. I particularly hope it might shake up the Firefox team to quit being so Andreesen and focus more on function than form: they need to pander to the end user and the average web dev, not the detached and clinical pursuit of web standards to the letter. It surely is a pain supporting the mix of this and that across browsers, but that’s how the web evolves – eventually some technique or practice becomes formalized and we move on. I see Firefox as a threat to that process, and supporting Firefox is always more work than as-yet-non-standard solution working elsewhere.

IE8 hasn’t grabbed me in any particular way. It feels slower, it’s clearly bloatier and although they’ve polished some IE7 adds, the IE8 adds feel more tacked on than IE7s Firefox/Opera/Safari clones.

So, despite my attachment to IE, here I am writing this article in Safari ;)

3 Comments

“Yes, you bet I’ve suggested to Ramp that he look at whether we could switch to the Google V8 javascript engine instead of the one we’re using right now!”

You might want to hold off on that, Mozilla is far from out of the JavaScript speed race.

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9114163

You should read the article carefully.

“Eich said TraceMonkey has more potential than Google’s interpreter for additional, and dramatic, speed improvements. “We’ve only been working on TraceMonkey for, what, three months now,” he said in an interview today. Google has said its Danish engineers had been working on V8 for approximately two years.”

Two words: “From scratch”.

Secondly, I think you missed the point of V8. It’s faster than the current JS engines but where it kicks into gear is as an application language. Take a look at the performance comparison linked from the article… When V8 is faster, it averages 3.71x faster performance across the tests while TM averages only 2.4x faster. And this is the beta of V8, so one assumes performance will improve before release. I would hope that TM is aiming their implementation at browser performance.

One would also assume that TM will get signifigantly faster, as they have only been at it 3 months, which is a pretty good argument for refactoring, I think. And I have to disagree with you on TMs goals, the way to make browsing faster is to go after the slowest part, applications, the same thing that V8 did.

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