Friday, April 7th, 2006

IE vs. FireFox: Browser Speed

Category: Articles

People are often shouting about how browser X is faster than browser Y. Peter Illes happened upon a test, and found that his setup showed a large performance improvement in FF over IE:

o decided to do some investigations and did profile the same task (switching from Basic into Expert) in both browsers on the same machine with the same conditions (only the two browsers loaded, average of 5 runs for each). Here are the results:

  • Internet Explorer finished on average in 18.34 secs
  • Firefox finished on average in 3.38 secs

Now, that IS a difference. In this test Firefox was faster by cca. 5.42 times.

If you want to take a look at the results first hand, you can do it by going to this page of the Morfik Dev2Dev Labs and either running the Mine Sweeper app from there (View MineSweeper xApp) or downloading the source code and running it locally (it is pre-compiled in the archive).

Of course, you can hardly make any conclusions from this alone.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 11:21 am

3.9 rating from 62 votes


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I slightly disagree about the difference. Firefox took me 7 seconds, and IE took 9 seconds… about a 1.3x load time difference. But I love firefox… and it still outdid IE

Comment by Chad Wagner — April 7, 2006

My results very closely matched the ones in that article. Firefox ftw!

Comment by Nick — April 7, 2006

FF’s JavaScript engine is significantly faster, but its rendering engine is faulty as well as slow compared to IE.
A test like this is no test, of course. Just an incident.
I always find it funny that a 6 year old IE still kicks FF’s ass for dynamic pages.

Comment by Lon — April 7, 2006

To Lon: FF’s rendering engine is faulty…? Based on what, may I ask?

Comment by Erik — April 7, 2006

That IS a difference but it is sign of something rotten in the code than in IE.
I like FF but when it comes to performance IE is definitely faster than FF. The difference is however not so bad – if IE takes 1sec, FF will take approximately 1.5sec (pure computations, no DOM manipulation nor rendering).

Comment by los — April 7, 2006

Lon… You sound like Bush and Microsoft Still hired you!!!

Here is a little math for you: April 2006 – Aug. 2001 is 4 Years+, not 6 years.

Speaking of dynamic pages, if you attempt to code one of them and get to actually work in the buggy IE, you’d know how broken it is. IE is like a little girl, crying over every little perfectly well coded JavaScript and requires me to waste my happy life patching it.

I have no idea how a $billion company manages to create such a disaster and have wise guys like you promote it.

Having that said, I believe the above benchmark is biased.

Comment by Mike — April 7, 2006

haha Mike, i think you have your browsers confused! Firefox is far more complaintive about javascript, and HTML for that matter, than IE ever has been. Are you high?
That aside, it is quite clear that Firefox does perform faster in some operations, and IE faster in others. They aren’t the same at all, each has it’s strengths and weakensses. I still prefer IE though, because it is far more extensible a platform to develop many types of applications with. About the only thing FireFox is really good for is keeping trouble users out of trouble. I’ve never had an infection from IE, but i also don’t use my browser as promiscuously.

Comment by damien — April 7, 2006

to Mike: IE5.5 or even IE5.0 was as fast as IE6.0 is in my opinion. So that would make the release difference 7 years.

to Erik: FF’s rendering/drawing engine optimizations make it do lots of erronous stuff when drawing animations.

Microsoft did a terribly good job developing IE4 and 5 the way they did. At that moment there was no competitor whatsoever that could match them. Maybe not even in standards compliancy (at that time). Let alone in being a platform to develop web-apps on. Too bad they didn’t continue it.

Comment by Lon — April 8, 2006

I didn’t think it was any secret that Firefox’s JavaScript engine is much faster than IE 6’s. I can’t think of a single DHTML script I’ve written that has run better in IE. Hopefully IE 7 will do better in that area.

Comment by Matthew Ratzloff — April 8, 2006

“FF’s JavaScript engine is significantly faster, but its rendering engine is faulty as well as slow compared to IE.”

This is true for an extent. I can’t speak about how faulty is it, I like it still much more than IE6’s rendering chaos, but IE6 rendering is indeed lightning fast compared to the sloppy speeds of FF’s.

One of the major points there is today which Firefox developers were unable to tackle is the ‘question of speed’. I hope they will manage, though :)

Comment by András Tarsoly — April 8, 2006

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Pingback by Tech Tweaker » Blog Archive » IE vs. FireFox: Browser Speed — April 8, 2006

In my projects which are targeted toward slower machines, I find Moz to be faster. For example I create 500 instances of an object which as properties. In IE it takes 1.4 seconds to 2.4 seconds depending on the speed of the machine, in Moz it takes 233ms to 400ms. Now I find that if you have arrays and set then with object references (ex: myObj.children.push(anotherObject) ) that’s whats slows IE down. Without the array Object Refs IE runs the 500 instances at 730ms which si still slower than Moz but I can live with it. Does anyone else have this problem with arrays and object refs????

Comment by Mario — April 8, 2006

András: this is not a question of belief. Hard facts. I very faithfully reflected on the discovery process. And this is NOT a benchmark, it wasn’t my intention. I just happened to code in a higher level development tool that targeted both browsers and the resulting (same) code was significantly faster on FF.
The benchmark you linked in is very insightful and I will link to it too, thanks!

Comment by Peter Illes — April 8, 2006

Chad: how did you get to your numbers? What is the hardware? Thx.

Comment by Peter Illes — April 8, 2006

We need a debate forum. Which is faster, IE or firefox?

There are no tests to prove which is faster. In opening IE compared to firefox, IE is faster. In displaying pages that I visit, IE is faster. In enjoying webpages that I go to, Firefox is better. That is not because I have a Firefox flu. It is because, IE seems cold. It is too utility and not friendly.

Comment by Anas Hashmi — April 9, 2006

Concerning the debate about IE and firefox, i would like share my experience. Involved in the development of a web application, i wanted to update a part of web page according to user interaction.
First, i used the well-known “xmlhttprequest” object on FF or the equivalent activex on IE.
To benchmark the response time of the application, i included an “how much time it takes to get my data and render it” which means i save the time on the user action (the start time) and then i do the difference between the end time and the start time.
To create the request, send it, and get the result back, it took 650ms with FF and 1.2s with IE. Then, more i do action with IE, … longer it become. After googling some time, i discover the IE memory leaks problem.
My second experiment was to use a simple IFrame, i build my request updating the src of the iframe and setting the right parameters (liek src=”do?param1=p1&param2=p2 …. “). The on the onload event of the iframe page, i send an sort of “hand-shake” to the parent page. (window.parent.handshake(“actioname”)….)
The time of IE decreases from 1.2 sec to 700 ms. And the time of FF increases from 650ms to 800 ms.
The interesting point is much more the difference itself than the value. Indeed, after tuning my process on the server (SQL tunning, application core redesign), i slow down the average response time from 650ms to 400ms.
That’s it for now;)

Comment by Jean-Christophe Fillion-Robin — April 9, 2006

If you try running the same amount of tabs open in FF and in Maxthon – (although based on the basic IE code) you” see a significant difference! Maxthon is much faster than FF, IE and Opera :) Give it a try.

Comment by Netanel Jacobsson — April 10, 2006

sadly, FFox is magnitudes slower and more memory-hogging than either Konqueror or Opera, on Linux. i have no idea why…but its definitely reason enough to use something else

Comment by ix — April 10, 2006

As to my hardware, I am on a : toshiba stellite A55 with a gig of ram, 60 gig 7200 RPM Deskstar harddrive, and windows xp. It just didn’t load with as much difference in speed as the writer achieved, and of course… this is merely my experience just as the writer had his experience. I find firefox easier to develop in, and even have the new IE7 beta, which as referred to in Microsoft’s release states that many sites that work in IE6 may not work in IE7 due to fixes in bugs which we developers have previously found hacks to get around. Boy, how sad that they screw ya twice… code once for IE6, and then come out with IE7 that many years later without any other releases.

Comment by Chad — April 10, 2006

Chad: I am immersely interested in the huge difference between our results, that’s why am asking (sorry:-). My rig has a 2GHz P4 and 2 GB RAM and I would love to understand why the significant difference. Is ours a relatively fresh install or rather an old one? Do you have plug-ins installed for IE? And for FF? I’ll give it some thought… thx

Comment by Peter Illes — April 11, 2006

You are all friggen idiots. Everyonen knows Lynx is the best browser around.

Comment by Smartest Guy Here — May 2, 2006

Microsoft did a terribly good job developing IE4 and 5 the way they did. At that moment there was no competitor whatsoever that could match them.

The problem was that once they had finished taking over the browser market, they had no reason to continue innovating and developing IE, so it stagnated while they fried other fish…

Its only now due to the immense bad publicity it’s been receiving, that they have started to update it to try and address the amazing insecurities, that and they wanted to make it look pretty for Vista :P

Comment by RyanC — May 18, 2006

Whoops, should have included “Too bad they didn’t continue it.” as a quote as well…

Comment by RyanC — May 18, 2006

A true side by side comparison is really imposible with these two browsers. For instant, Firefox has individual, fully customizable profiles for each every user. IE does not! This accounts for some of a slight speed benefit of IE on first openning.

I work on computers and networks in offices and everyday I spend at least 7 to 8 hours on the net with Firefox. I have used literally every browser ever written since 1988 (including Lynx).

For me it is not about the speed of the browser itself, but the availability of all the extensions offered to make surfing overall safer, faster, and much more convenient. To me Firefox fully customized for the individual is by far the Best. With the extensions available, it enables a user to take back some of the control all you app and site writers try to take away.

I like being able to choose which video player I want to use for which file type and to open it up outside the browser in full screen. I like being able to download a large media file to my desktop, even if the content provider meant for it not to be able to. I like being able to Zap ads and banners away with a click. I love keeping Flash closed and under control until I want to see it. I really love zapping those pesky ads that cover what you really want to see.

***Customizable Search*** for any search app available on the net. ***Check and Tune*** your internet connection right in your browser. Empty cache privacy files and logs in one click! Using an extensive right click menu and the overwhelming Superiority of Firefox to shut down Popups. And not having to deal with ActiveX and VBScripting safety issues.

The find feature is lightyears ahead of IE. Downloading is a breeze! IE is still back in the dark ages on a majority of these issues. Also we should include the fact that for many years our own government has told Microsoft to clean up it’s two biggest liabilities that have enabled virus and malware attacks to cripple computers worldwide and they’ve done absolutely nothing to cure those woes.

Top it all off with it’s Superior instantaneous Updating feature and that, even for all the Extensions and Skins. Now Firefox has IE fading in the rear view mirror on inovation and copying the very Firefox features that are putting them in the ground. There is just no question that pound for pound, feature for feature Firefox leaves all of the competion eating it’s newborn dust. Remember IE is about 15 yr old now and Firefox is just a totler learning to run. ;)

So you ignorant morons can take all of your stats and numbers and chew’em up before you swallow your tongue! :D

Comment by MoNaRk — May 23, 2006

We’ve recently encountered a problem on some customer’s systems where IE was running painfully slow. Side-by-side comparison showed IE taking 15-20 seconds click-to-done where FF was 2 seconds.

We’ve ruled out the low hanging fruit (spyware, anti-spyware, virus, anti-virus, etc.)….so far, it looks like an IE issue.

Comment by Fred — May 27, 2006

Hi there,

I would like to point your attention to this site. I have just created this site and i am sending it for client approval. The site has been developed in Dreamweaver MX. Butttt…

There is one MAJOR problem. The pages on IE 6.0 are taking more than 1 min to open and in FireFox they ar opening like a flash. The home page is opening fine in IE as well but inside pages are showing a major problem in opening. The surprise part is that the Home Page is about 90 KB with exter .js script used for menus and the inside pages are 68KB with the same .js script for menus.

Please guide me about what can be done to fix this issue. I shjall be thankful to you.

Please guide me about what to do… is there anything wrong with my browser or my machine is infected.

Comment by man — July 27, 2006

hi. I have a problem with:
I have done this site in DW MX. The home page is 90KB + .js script for menus +3 – 4KB flash file and inside pages are about 65-70 KB + .js script for menus. SURPRISINGLY…The home page opens fast on IE 6.0 and FF 1.5. But the inside pgs are opening too slow on IE 6 (>1 min) but very fast, almost like a flash, on FF 1.5. What’s wrong my code, IE 6 or my machine or everything. I am sending the site for client approval. Plz HELP me about what can be done to fix this problem…

Comment by man — July 27, 2006

Most of the problems are the result of Microsoft’s refusal to run by the standards they themselves claim to have agreed to. Firefox, Netscape, Opera and the rest all go by an agreed upon standards base. i.e is full of corrupted code and worse yet is Active X and their notoriously bad Visual Basic Script or VBS for short. Within these two scripting languages are the cause for most of the virus and malware infections that plaque the internet! And even though they make minor attempts to clean them up, they still have kernel access to enable Microsoft to access kernel features and program installations directly. When Vista comes out Microsoft will have the ability to shut down features and have logs fed directly to them, that they only say will be used for performance enhansement. Reality is if you believe a Corporate Enity is trustable with your information, you are very naive indeed!

Comment by MoNaRky — August 21, 2006

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