DM Confidential — Safety tests and market share are nice, but everybody loves a good race.
Web browser load times are often hawked as the ultimate test of a browser’s quality. It’s hard to blame any of the large players for harping on their speed performances so often, since pointing to a single, small number makes it easier to grab people’s attention than laying out detailed explanations of safety and feature improvements.
PC World recently posted browser loading test results for the Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.0.7, Chrome 2 Beta and Safari 4 Beta Web browsers.
The result? Chrome was the quickest of them all, by a fairly substantial, mostly insignificant amount of time.
In PC World’s browser speed comparison, the four browsers were set to the task of loading nine sites: pcworld.com, en.wikipedia.org, youtube.com, microsoft.com, ebay.com, amazon.com, myspace.com, yahoo.com and apple.com.
Google Chrome’s average page load time across all nine Web sites was 1.3 seconds. The only site that it did not load faster than the others was amazon.com, where Safari finished first.
Chrome’s performance was particularly impressive in loading Wikipedia’s English-language home page, which it loaded in 1.12 seconds, compared to IE 8’s 2.24 seconds, Firefox’s 3.31 seconds and Safari’s 3.38 seconds.
Google’s browser also loaded eBay’s home page in 0.83 seconds, the only of the four to complete the task in under a second. It also loaded MySpace’s home page in 1.43 seconds, while IE 8 took 2.59 seconds, Firefox required 2.94 seconds and Safari needed 4.2 seconds.
Although Microsoft claimed IE 8 is now the fasted browser out there, it finished with an average page load time across all nine sites in this test of 1.8 seconds.
Safari and Firefox tied for third with average page load times of 2.12 seconds.
The test was run on a Gateway notebook with Windows Vista Service Pack 1. PC World reinstalled the operating system before each browser was tested.
“For each browser, we cleared the browser’s cache and then loaded each page in our test suite,” wrote Nick Mediati of PC World. “We repeated the process ten times per site per browser to ensure accurate results, to factor out fluctuations in network traffic, and to build a sufficiently large sample size to identify trends. In addition, we threw out the two best and the two worst scores for each page load test to further reduce the influence of fluctuations and to produce more consistent results.”
Mediati also noted that a browser’s visual claim to have “finished” loading a page was not heeded. Instead, the testers made sure to see whether all visual parts of the page were fully loaded.
Though the test makes for an interesting litmus test, Mediati is quick to point out that “The ironic thing about browser makers’ speed claims is that many users probably won’t notice the difference between the fastest and slowest browsers in our tests.”
The moral of the story should be obvious to all: while seconds required to load pages makes for a fun platform of comparison, browser safety and features that appeal to the user remain the most important browser attributes.
For Mac users licking their chops at finally getting their hands on Google Chrome, the wait may not be much longer. Fall 2009 may be a feasible expected date of arrival.
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