IE8 Beta 1 vs. Firefox 3 Beta 4: who is faster?

    The history of Internet Explorer 7 is a prime example of how you should not delay the development and release of programs. Announced on February 15, 2005, it became available to users only in October 2006, not to mention the fact that before that Microsoft had not updated its browser for 5 years. This delay was enough to create alternative products such as Firefox and Opera. Their popularity is growing every day, and Internet Explorer is mostly used as the easiest way to download an alternative browser.

    These events could not but affect Microsoft's policy regarding the development of its Internet applications: the company decided to release Internet Explorer updates every year. And although many reacted to this promise with great distrust, Internet Explorer 8 still came to light, at the moment anyone can try its first beta version.

    According to Net Applications research, Internet Explorer has a market share of about 74%, despite a steady decline, which is mainly due to the outflow of IE6 users. From January to February 2008, the share of Firefox increased by 0.29% and currently stands at 17.27% compared to 74.88% for Internet Explorer. The release of IE8 and Firefox 3 will not lead to a strong change in the balance of power in the market. According to analysts, the indicators will grow in favor of Firefox, its market share by the end of the year will approach 20%, while Internet Explorer will stay at 70%. The primary goal of the release of IE8 is to stabilize Microsoft's position in the browser market, as well as the elimination of obsolete IE6. It’s difficult at the moment to judge how he will succeed, but the first impression is often true,

    In terms of design and usability, Internet Explorer 8 is practically no different from the 7th version; all the improvements mainly concerned the menu structure and the new panel for quickly opening bookmarks that are familiar to Firefox users.

    Of the innovations, it is also worth noting the special features for site developers, which are contained in the Developer Tools button, after which the editing window of the site you are viewing appears.

    The Emulate IE7 button deserves special attention, after which Internet Explorer 8 starts displaying pages in the same way as version 7 of the browser does. This is currently the most useful feature, as some sites in IE8 are distorted to the point of impossibility. It is also noteworthy that in this mode of operation the pages load faster than in IE7, and the stability of the browser is at a high level, as for beta.

    Of the new features in Internet Explorer 8, Activities and WebSlices are the most interesting. They are special add-ons that help the user interact more actively with various online services. In the case of Activities, this interaction consists in installing add-ons from various sites, with which, with further use, you can select the text and search for it, for example, on Yahoo! Maps or on e-bay, without leaving the page with the selection. In practice, it all looks like this:

    Explaining how WebSlices (“slices of the Web”) works is even more difficult, because it requires a website specifically designed for this function. At the moment, you can check the operation of WebSlices on a special version of e-bay, which works quite well with it. Once on the main page, we enter the desired product in the search field, after the page with the search results is displayed, we hover over any purchase offer, a purple icon appears on its left side.

    After clicking it, the browser offers to subscribe to WebSlice with this product, and after confirming the selection, a new bookmark will appear on the quick launch panel.

    But to call it simply “bookmark” would be too simple, this is the same WebSlice, when you click on it, information about the previously selected product or service appears. Plus, it will be updated, so that the user can easily track the price change and make a purchase at any time convenient for him, the same is true for weather services, etc.

    This, perhaps, is all that can be said about the functionality of Internet Explorer 8, and although it works stably, the final version is still far away, so there is no point in praising or scolding him strongly.

    Comparison between Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 and Firefox 3 Beta 4, of course, is not entirely correct, but it is very difficult to do without considering the new Microsoft browser, especially since these versions of programs are nothing more than prototypes of future final releases. Therefore, in order to understand what can change in the "browser wars", it is worthwhile to conduct a small test.

    Before presenting information about the results, it is worthwhile to talk a little about the testing methodology. All measurements were carried out on a laptop with a Pentium M 1.6 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM in the Windows XP SP2 operating system using two Acid tests, as well as a JavaScript speed test found on the Celtic Kane website.

    A few weeks ago, IE8 developers reported that the browser passed the Acid 2 test completely, this is really true, but at the same time there are several questions to this statement. The results of Internet Explorer 8 in Acid 2 are a little alarming, because, passing the test on the official Web Standards Project website, he correctly displayed the image, but when double-checking the results on the Acid Tests website, the picture was a bit distorted. In the IE8 developers' blog, these results are explained by browser protection settings, which does not allow it to use ActiveX controls when accessing the Acid Tests site. Perhaps this is the case, but, nevertheless, all this very much resembles the application of a double standard policy, who knows on what other sites IE8 protection will not allow ActiveX to be enabled. In this case, it turns out

    Firefox 3 had no problems with Acid 2 at all; it correctly displayed information both in the test with the Web Standards Project and with Acid Tests.

    The next Acid 3 test turned out to be much more complicated for browsers, and this is not surprising, because at the moment it is the newest tool for checking compliance with the requirements of the Web Standards Project.

    Despite the fact that Firefox 3 developers strive to fully comply with all W3C standards, browser results in Acid 3 were above average.

    Internet Explorer 8 is much worse, it seems that concentrating on Acid 2, the developers have not even looked at Acid 3, at least this is what the test result indicates. Perhaps in future versions browser performance will increase, but it is unlikely that its final version will be able to pass Acid 3.

    The speed of both browsers is at a high level, it sounds a little strange for Internet Explorer users who are used to minute page load waiting, especially when using dial- up. However, subjectively, the speed of IE8 can be compared with the speed of Opera, but in practice this is not entirely true: browser speed has increased, but it is still lower than that of Firefox.

    To test the speed of browsers, we used a test that shows how fast they are with JavaScript. The best result in it was shown by Opera 9.50a, it is 615 ms and when compared it can be considered a reference.

    Firefox 3 scored 693 ms, which can be considered an excellent result.

    The performance of Internet Explorer 8 was higher than the previous version of the browser, but compared with other results are not outstanding.

    As a result, Firefox 3 wins in almost all respects, the results of comparative testing of the final versions of browsers will show a similar result, there is no doubt about it. However, the achievements of Internet Explorer 8 in comparison with its previous versions can not be underestimated either, for Microsoft it is a great achievement that will undoubtedly win its adherents. One can only hope that the final release of Internet Explorer 8 will happen this year, otherwise all the efforts of the developers will be nullified.

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