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Mozilla: Firefox is faster than Chrome

JavaScript benchmarks show new TraceMonkey engine faster, says Mozilla's CTO

September 5, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Mozilla Corp. answered claims that Google Inc.'s Chrome browser outperforms Firefox with benchmark results of its own that showed the upcoming Firefox 3.1 is faster at executing JavaScript.

According to tests run by Brendan Eich, Mozilla's chief technology officer and the creator of JavaScript, Firefox's new TraceMonkey interpreter is up to 28% faster than V8, the name Google gave to the interpreter used by Chrome.

Eich ran the SunSpider benchmarks on the most recent build of Firefox 3.1 and on Chrome, the beta browser Google released earlier this week. "We're very much in the game," Eich said on his blog Wednesday, where he detailed the test results. "Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated."

Within hours of Chrome's release, reviewers and bloggers had posted results from several JavaScript benchmarks -- SunSpider and Google's own V8 Benchmark Suite among them -- that showed Chrome being markedly faster than the current Firefox 3.0.1.

Eich disagreed. Although he called V8 "great work, very well engineered," 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.

"We think ours has more room to improve," said Eich.

In the specific areas where Chrome's V8 now blows TraceMonkey out of the water -- recursion tests, for example -- Mozilla will take catch-up steps soon. "We have a plan to trace recursion, not just tail recursion," Eich said. "We simply haven't had enough hours in the day to get to it, but it's next."

And in the end, it's not a zero-sum game, where if one browser wins, the other must lose. "We've never tried to say that Firefox is the fastest browser," Eich said. "For Web developers, what's important is if performance is close enough [between browsers] to actually deploy Web applications for those platforms."

Speed, after all, is not an end to itself. The reason browser performance, especially JavaScript performance, is important is because it allows developers to create Web applications to rival traditional desktop programs in speed and sophistication. "The more browser makers who take performance to the next level, the likelier people will build Web apps that can replace desktop apps," said Eich.

Eich wasn't afraid to tip his hat to Google. "Chrome does some interesting things," he said. "There are some talented people working on Chrome."

Mozilla might end up taking some of Chrome's ideas, and perhaps even some of its open-source code, to work into Firefox. Tops on Eich's list: Chrome's running each browser tab as a separate process, an approach designed to prevent a single site, and thus tab, from crashing or locking up the whole browser.



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