Monday, June 21st, 2010

Studying perceived performance of Firefox and Chrome

Category: Browsers, Usability

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” said the cowboy John Wayne. Mozilla’s new intern with the same name knows that Mozilla needs to do… and it needs to do performance. It isn’t just about JavaScript performance though, the battle for the hearts and minds is perceived performance. This is a tough game for Mozilla as the average user giving Chrome a shot is doing so on a fresh browser with no history, bookmarks, or add-ons. If you download a fresh Firefox nightly you may be surprised at how fast it is!

John has been doing some analysis comparing the perceived performance compared to Chrome:

and came up with some recommended actions for the team:

  • With just a few changes in the Firefox start-up process, we could greatly enhance the feeling of Firefox’s speed. The changes listed below are recommendations to help better the overall Firefox experience.
  • Draw the OS spinner icon as little as possible, but one solid break isn’t bad and might be better than one really long spinner.
  • Draw the browser chrome while the window is being animated (drawn) to size. So that most of the drawing happens simultaneously rather than sequentially.
  • Make a new ‘website loading’ icon with less visual weight that animates faster but is slightly larger (would allow a user to ‘see’ the faster animation).
  • ‘Lazy’ load tabs that are being restored (already being talked about).
  • Load upgrades and add-on updates upon browser close, not browser start.
  • Delay loading the website’s title until the website is ready for interaction.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:21 am

2.5 rating from 4 votes


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The biggest difference I see between Firefox and Chrome is just the raw startup speed. I think this is the most important thing they need to fix, and it’s one of the main reasons I now use Chrome (the other is the combined address/search bar).

Comment by Skilldrick — June 21, 2010

Interesting article, & sorry to derail the comments, but SERIOUSLY AJAXIAN – FIX YOUR PAGE WIDTH
470 pixels isn’t enough to squeeze in article images & youtube vids.
Liquid layout PLEASE.
I’ll do it if you like. You have my email address.
I’m sick of seeing every piece of content chopped off.
I’m not trying to be mean, we all love you ajaxian. It just detracts from actually being able to read the content (& diagrams)

Comment by ProPuke — June 21, 2010

Yes, but the tests are still far from reality: Firefox needs a lot of addons just to start becoming functional. And STILL is slow and heavy as hell. On the other hand, Chrome is very fast with amazing startup speed, but still pretty featureless.
Still, I would be preferring to use Chrome from the two. But actually, Opera -to ME- is much better than both and feature-complete from the box (for my usage).

Comment by Eraserhead — June 21, 2010

Eraserhead hit it. FF is generally loved by all for its features, but a naked test of firefox is not a good comparison with a naked test of Chrome.

I switched to Chrome because of FF’s startup speed. It seems fast in the video but load even 5 of the 20 add-ons that I use and a 90-day web history and it becomes a dog. Web history doesn’t slow down Chrome at all but it sure does FF.

I only use FF for development now because Firebug is still better than Inspector. FF’s marketshare is declining drastically in favor of Chrome. I’m glad to see Chrome innovating and that Webkit is making such great progress. As a webdev, I’d be perfectly fine with one good browser(-engine) out there. 2 years ago that was Firefox, now it seems to be Webkit (even though Webkit is getting fragmented).

Comment by tercero12 — June 21, 2010

I’m curious as to which extensions you feel a clean install of Firefox needs to match a clean install of Chrome. I’m not talking about the collection of extensions developers typically install, more like just the ones for every day use. For the most part, these type of tests are aimed at enhancing the day-to-day experience for normal users, not power users. For typical use there is little difference in features between clean installs of almost all the browsers. Sure they each have their own little special features but the primary use of a browser is to surf the web and they all do that very well out of the box.

Comment by travisalmand — June 21, 2010

As the person performing test pointed out – FF and Chrome have different default pages. And FF has 2 tabs open if I remember correct? I’ve got no idea why he would even install Adblock and ietab on FF, since Chrome doesn’t have anything like that by default.
What was the point of this “benchmark”?

Comment by paziek — June 21, 2010

Hmm, yes, those things will make my “perceived” startup time of ~35 seconds for Firefox much more bearable than, say, Chrome’s ~12 or Safari’s ~7 seconds one.

Comment by smoofles — June 21, 2010

Those are fantastic suggestions.

Comment by CaptainN — June 23, 2010

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