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Firefox 4 beta 6 (a "small beta")

Internet Explorer 9 beta 1

IE 9 offers quick, easy to access translation.
Which is the better browser? We weigh in with benchmarks and detailed analysis

I. The Launch

Microsoft has followed the lead of a certain fruity competitor and has unveiled one of its star products at a special event in San Francisco.  Dubbed "The Beauty of the Web", Microsoft announced the public availability of a Internet Explorer 9 beta build.

Microsoft's press release describes:

Starting today, tech-savvy consumers can download the beta of IE9 and test drive the new browsing experience at some of the Web’s most popular sites. At the “Beauty of the Web” event in San Francisco, more than 70 top sites and global brands showcased new sites and Web-based applications they have built to take advantage of the new capabilities IE9 offers. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, and global brands such as Quiksilver, Red Bull, Livestrong and Amazon are showcasing experiences that take advantage of IE9’s ability to tap into the power of the whole PC and modern standards such as HTML5 to offer rich immersive experiences, and to integrate sites seamlessly with Windows 7.

The new browser is not supported for Windows XP.  While Windows Vista support is coming, the initial beta only offers 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 version.  It is, however, offered in 33 languages. (Correction: Apparently Microsoft is offering the beta for Vista users as well.  Simply click the appropriate download link, and a Vista-compatible download should start if you're running on Windows Vista.)

The beta is available for download here.

Firefox 4 beta 6 also launched this week.  Some may recall that Firefox 4 beta 5 landed just last week and remember our prediction that beta 6 would land in October.  Well beta 6 isn't a 
full beta; it's what Mozilla calls a "small beta".  Apparently beta 5, which brought hardware rendering to Firefox, had some issues and Mozilla had to rush a fix.  The company writes:

We’ve decided to issue a small beta update in order to fix a stability issue on Windows and some rendering and keyboard/mouse focus issues on OSX related to plugins. This small update should be ready late tomorrow, and will be presented as "Firefox 4 Beta 6".

Beta 6 is replaced by beta 7, which is still expected to land in the timeframe we suggested -- sometime in October.  The final release of the browser is still expected to be November 2010.

You can download the "small beta" Firefox 4 beta 6 here

II. The Benchmarks

There are a lot of various browser benchmarks out there, but only a few good ones.  We wanted to get a variety of tests to compare the speed of the IE 9 beta and the latest Firefox 4 beta, so we included an overall test (Peacekeeper by FutureMark), a CSS Test (How to Create's CSS loading test), two pure Javascript only tests (Sunspider and Celtic Kane's JSBenchmark), and a composite test of various Javascript and DOM tests (Dojo Toolkit's "TaskSpeed").

Additional we have added three new tests -- FishIE Tank, Psychedelic Browser, and Flying Images.  All of these tests focus heavily on rendering, thus give a feel for the speed of hardware acceleration.  Note the heavy edge of Firefox 4 beta 6 and Internet Explorer 9 beta 1 over Google Chrome 6 on these tests (Chrome won't get hardware acceleration until Chrome 7).  Note, Microsoft also makes all of these tests, so there may be some sort of favoritism there -- but we hope not.

Last, but not least, we've added Mozilla's Kraken, a Javascript benchmark.  This rather lengthy benchmark is Mozilla's crack at making a test similar to Sunspider.  Did the home court advantage help Mozilla and Microsoft on their selective tests?  Scroll down to see

The results are below, with benchmark results from Google's recent Chrome 6 stable release for comparison.  Why Chrome 6?  Google Chrome is generally the fastest browser, so its a good index of how truly fast these two browsers are, not just which is faster than the other.

You can download Chrome 6 here.

The results are as follows:

i. PeaceKeeper (Higher is better)

1. Firefox 4 beta 6:                2707 Points
2. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:   1987 Points

Chrome 6 :                              4840 Points

ii. How-to-Create CSS Test (Lower is better)

1. Firefox 4 beta 6:              15.6±4.18 ms
Actual Results: (32,18,10,9,19,17,12,18,12,9)
2. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:  20.4±4.07 ms 
Actual Results: (19,26,20,17,20,18,28,17,22,17)

Chrome 6:                               9.5±1.96 ms
Actual Results: (13,10,9,8,8,8,8,8,9,14)

iii. Sunspider Javascript (Lower is better)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:  629.0ms +/- 6.6%
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                     773.2ms +/- 0.7%      

Chrome 6:                                  623.0ms +/- 6.8%

iv. Celtic Kane's JSBenchmark (Higher is better)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:
Average Score: 257 ± 15
Last Score: 255
Test iterations: 20
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:
Average Score: 210 ± 38
Last Score: 177
Test iterations: 20

Chrome 6:
Average Score: 330 ± 50
Last Score: 350
Test iterations: 20
(These results seem abnormally high, but we retested, and they still stuck in this range.)

v. Dojo Toolkit's "TaskSpeed" Suite
(Lower is better)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:  6933 ms, no errors
Individual test results: 205, 1784, 798, 1042, 747, 418, 469, 434, 1036 ms
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                     16586 ms, 4 errors
Individual test results:  1600, 2659, 2121, 1981, 232, 1497, 2043, 2392, 2061 ms

Chrome 6:                                  4098 ms, no errors
Individual test results:  229, 1198, 541, 546, 516, 203, 220, 240, 405 ms

vi. Psychedelic Browser (Higher is better)

(all tests were done at 1440x725 pixel window size, 500 fish)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:                    53 Frames per Second
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                                       34 Frames per Second 

Chrome 6:                                                    N/A (fish do not render properly)

Note/Disclaimer: Microsoft makes this benchmark.

vi. FishIE Tank (Higher is better)

(all tests were done at 1440x725 pixel window size, 500 fish)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:                    53 Frames per Second
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                                       34 Frames per Second 

Chrome 6:                                                    N/A (fish do not render properly)

Note/Disclaimer: Microsoft makes this benchmark.

vii. Psychedelic Browser (Higher is better)

(all tests were done at 1440x725 pixel window size, 500 fish)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:                    53 Frames per Second (average)
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                                       34 Frames per Second (average)

Chrome 6:                                                    N/A (fish do not render properly)

Note/Disclaimer: Microsoft makes this benchmark.

viii. Flying Images (Higher is better)

(all tests were done at 1440x725 pixel window size, 196 icons, same zoom/view)

1. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:                    45 Frames per Second (average)
2. Firefox 4 beta 6:                                       42 Frames per Second (average)

Chrome 6:                                                    11 Frames per Second (average)

Note/Disclaimer: Microsoft makes this benchmark.

ix. Kraken (Lower is better)

We'll spare you the "unleash the kraken" humor.  Here are the results...

1. Firefox 4 beta 6:              25434.7ms +/- 10.1%
2. Internet Explorer 9 beta 1:  57042.0ms +/- 7.9%

Chrome 6:                             18409.1ms +/- 1.2%

Note/Disclaimer: Mozilla makes this benchmark.

x. Benchmark Conclusions

After two updates, it now appears that running a broader range of benchmarks that Mozilla's and Microsoft's respective browsers are in a dead heat.  Microsoft wins two of the three javascript tests, but Mozilla takes one of the lengthier independent JS tests (TaskSpeed) and its own Kraken test. 

Likewise Microsoft manages to narrowly take all three of its rendering tests -- but it may have a home court advantage here.

Whether it's a little faster than Firefox 4, or a littler slower, this is still an incredible turnaround given IE 8's slow performance compared to FF 3.  At long last Microsoft has a browser that is no longer painfully slow to use.  Over all Firefox does win a couple of benchmarks, though, likely due to its superior overall standards support.

Of course, if you're looking for pure speed, Chrome 6 blows away both browsers.  But speed isn't everything -- usability is equally, if not more important.  And that brings us to...

III. Features, Functionality, and Looks

i. Tabs and the Address Bar

As previously reported, Internet Explorer 9's beta brings a dramatic new look, which follows Firefox 4's approach of merging menu items and hiding them inside icon drop-down menus.  Except IE 9 takes things a step farther, cutting the taskbar down to a single line.  Whereas Firefox 4 has the tabs above the task bar, Internet Explorer 9 has the address bar to the left of the tabs.

The upside of this approach is that with a small number of tabs (less than 10) you have much more screen real-estate.  Web pages are easier to read and there's less visual distraction.  The downside is that with slightly more tabs open (10 to 20) the line space lost to the address bar is sorely missed, as finding your tab is hard to do.  Ultimately, Microsoft made a tradeoff here, but we feel that it probably picked the better choice for most users.

One additional note is that when you search using CTRL+F, it 
does add another line to your browser bar.

A nice feature in Mozilla worth noting is the quick tab preview, available in the top right, beneath the "x" icon.  This allows you to quickly reach tabs, especially when you have too many tabs open for Aero Peek.

This feature is made even nicer by "tab sets", formerly known as tab candy.  A new feature in Firefox 4, you can click on any tab and assign it to a new group.  To name groups, you must click the quick tab preview.  You can also drag and drop tabs into appropriate groups from the quick tab preview.  You can also make a new group in the quick tab preview by dragging your mouse on an empty area and releasing.

Also new to Firefox 4 is the ability to make app tabs.  App tabs show up as small icons to the left of your standard tabs -- great for frequently used sites. 

ii.  Windows 7 Polish

IE 9 has the clear edge over Firefox 4 in Windows 7 polish as well.  It offers Aero Peek.  To access this, simply hover your mouse over the IE 9 icon in Windows 7 to see previews of active tabs.  It also offers pinning.  To pin a site, simply drag a tab to your taskbar on the bottom of your screen.  Many pinned sites also have the ability to use jump lists, to jump to commonly used functionality.  Last, but not least, IE 9 allows you to drag tabs to the side of your screen, and they will automatically "snap" -- the proprietary "Aero Snap" feature.

Of these features Firefox 4 only has Aero Peek.  Granted, it also offers OS X and Linux compatibility -- something Microsoft doesn't offer.  And also bear in mind that while the Windows 7 graphical polish with Internet Explorer 9 looks extremely slick, it won't be accessible to Windows Vista users.

Both browsers also have Aero Glass themes -- thus their GUIs look somewhat similar.  Also note that Aero peek fails in both browsers when you have too many tabs open -- the items are reverted to a list.

iii. Extensions

Firefox 4 has some distinct advantages over IE 9.  One is the browsers' prolific extensions community.  Extensions have lots of uses, but for the average user they boil down to a few things -- GUI tweaks, speed tweaks, and ad/javascript blocking.

When you examine the extensions closer, though, you realize that IE 9 doesn't really lose that much by not offering them.  It offers colored tabs in its stock form (child tabs and their parent get a common color) -- you need an extension in Firefox to do this.

Likewise IE 9 offers quick translation of text, without any add-ons.  Just highlight text, click the small square icon that comes up (unless a specific page blocks it), and then hover over "Translate with Bing".

While the speed tweaks (FasterFox) are nice, they don't make that big of a difference.  Ad-blocking can be a bit more contentious topic.  Some users swear by it, and won't use sites with ads.  However, in Firefox, AdBlock alone typically isn't enough to hide all the ads on a page.  You also need a Javascript blocker like NoScript.  But what we've increasing found is that this ends up making a chore out of browsing many pages -- you have to selectively figure out what to block/unblock to hide the ads without hiding/breaking desired content.

At the end of the day if you want to spend extra time to block ads, Firefox's extension may make the crucial difference in your browser choice.  But if you want to simply surf the web without making a chore of ad-blocking, IE 9 is perfectly fine.

iv. Menus

We do have a major complaint with Firefox's new menu system.  Many important items are hidden (e.g. downloads) and you have to press ALT to reach them via the traditional menus.  In IE 9 these kinds of features are slickly integrated into the right most two icons (the star and the gear).  Granted, there are keyboard shortcuts for these things in Firefox 4 (CTRL+J for downloads, for example), but most non-tech-savvy users tend to rely on menus more heavily then keyboard shortcuts.

Note Microsoft's IE 9 also has keyboard shortcuts, so it doesn't force users to choose.

Other major complaints with Firefox 4 include the new "go to tab" feature.  While this might
seem like a good idea, users tend to use a couple of different websites and often like to open multiple copies of the site.  This makes it a real pain if you actually want to open multiple copies of the same page.  And if you have enough tabs to make this worthwhile, you probably have to many tabs open to be efficient in the first place.

v. Sandboxing/Stability

Another gripe is Firefox's lack of sandboxing.  During our benchmarks, two of them crashed in Internet Explorer -- PeaceKeeper and TaskSpeed.  While this may seem like a bad thing, what was great was that the other tabs not only were utterly unaffected, but the affected page automatically reloaded.

When Firefox crashes, it crashes hard.  While the "Restore Session" feature can ease the pain, Mozilla obviously trails in terms of making an error-proof browser.  And where as Mozilla previously seemed to have a memory advantage over Internet Explorer 8 because of sandboxing, quick peeks at our task manager during testing, show IE 9 to have a similar or leaner memory footprint (of its combined processes) than Firefox 4.

vi. Private Browsing

Lastly, Internet Explorer 9 allows you to browse InPrivate side by side with normal browsing.  This is dangerous in that you could accidentally browse in the wrong window and breach your session's privacy.  But on the other hand, it's nice to be able to keep your list of active tabs up, while you have a private session.

Firefox 4, on the other hand, requires you to stop your current browsing when you want to go private.  So there's less risking of accidentally typing in the wrong window -- but you don't have access to your currently open tabs.  Additionally when you exit private mode, all of your tabs reload.

Overall we think Internet Explorer 9 has the superior privacy implementation, though you have to be a bit more careful with it.

vii. Standards Compliance

Firefox has the ability to sync bookmarks, history, passwords, and other user profile items in its stock build.  A common preconception was that Internet Explorer 8 was unable to do this.  It did have the ability, but required certain third party extensions such as Xmarks.  Its safe to assume that Internet Explorer 9 will see third party syncing support, if Microsoft doesn't get its act together and build it in.

viii. Standards Compliance

Firefox 4 and Microsoft both offer support for most of the bleeding edge web standards HTML 5, CSS 3, SVG graphics, DOM L2 and L3, etc.  There are a few less prolific web standards that IE 9 doesn't support and Firefox 4 does.  However, overall IE 9 should be ready for the vast majority of web pages.

This is over-simplifying things a bit.  The two browsers do differ in what codecs they use for HTML 5 videos.  We discuss the different codecs in this previous piece.  At the end of the day Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for waking up from its previous state of standards ignorance (in the days of IE 6 and IE 7)

ix. Conclusions

Overall, between the Windows 7 polish, the sandboxing/superior stability, the superior private browsing implementation, more screen real-estate, and the easier to use menu system, we feel Internet Explorer 9 is the better browser in terms of features.  That's not to say Firefox 4 isn't a good browser -- or that it doesn't have some edges on IE 9 (namely, the ability to block ads if you take enough time, the addition of some nice tab improvements (tab sets, app tabs), and the ability to quickly sync your settings across the internet). 

But at the end of the day the annoyances of Firefox 4 combined with the polish of IE 9 is enough to give IE 9 a slight edge in overall features, functionality, and looks.

IV. Final Thoughts

Internet Explorer 9 beta 1 appears to be in a dead heat with Firefox 4 beta 6 in terms of Javascript and rendering speeds.
  And IE 9 beta 1 has a slight edge in looks, features, and functionality.  Ultimately we feel this is enough to recommend IE 9 beta 1 as the superior browser.

There are a few special use scenarios where we would recommend Firefox 4 instead, though:
1.  If you are dead set on blocking ads.
2.  If you are a developer and are aided by certain extensions or need access to be able to load pages with certain less prevalent web standards which IE 9 does not support.

A final note is that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has long held a significant edge over Firefox in manageability in terms of corporate mass deployments.  Most IT folks will confirm this.  Now that Internet Explorer 9 has finally caught up to Firefox in terms of speed, standards compliance, and looks, its almost scary to imagine what it will be capable of.

If the IE 8 was able to hang on to 60 percent market share, IE 9 seems likely to grow Microsoft's share.  And Firefox 4 finds itself in a tough place, as it faces an increasingly popular Google Chrome and has difficulty differentiating itself as the superior offering to Internet Explorer, like it once did.

Update 1 -- Thur. Sept. 16, 2010 11:50 a.m.:

We admittedly left a few odds and ends out of this review.  Namely, we did not explicitly discuss two strong new features of Firefox -- Firefox Sync and Tab Candy.  We will add in discussion of these shortly, but they ultimately don't effect the overall conclusions of the piece.

Also we will try to add the results of the Flying Images, FishIE Tank, and Psychedelic Browser benchmarks, as these are non-Javascript-exclusive benchmarks that look add browser rendering speed and other factors. [ Ed. - Done! ]

As to GPU rendering, the above benchmarks should add a bit of insight into speed of implementation in IE 9 and Firefox 4.  Ultimately, though we haven't come across any major stability issues with hardware rendering in either browser.  And both browser likely implement hardware rendering using the same Direct2D calls, so we're going to call it a draw in this category for now.

Update 2 -- Thur. Sept. 16, 2010 12:50 p.m.:

We fixed the Celtic Kane JSBenchmark section, which we incorrectly labeled as lower being better.  With this fix, IE 9b1 now takes 2/3 of the JS benchmarks.  We also added 3 rendering tests, which IE 9b1 beats FF 4b6 in.  We corrected the conclusions to accurately state that it appears that Microsoft has the slight speed edge, given these findings.

Update 3 -- Thur. Sept. 16, 2010 12:55 p.m.:

We're also working on adding the Kraken benchmark results (made by Mozilla).  This only seems fair since we included the results of Microsoft's rendering/JS benchmarks!

Update 4 -- Thur. Sept. 16, 2010 3:05 p.m.:

After a bit more time we managed to get the Kraken benchmark complete.  Low and behold, Firefox 4 came out on top of that benchmark.  That leaves the two browsers in a 2:2 tie in Javascript tests.  Microsoft still has an edge in rendering tests, but it makes those tests, so we're willing to call it a dead heat.

We added information about syncing features in IE/Firefox into the features section and also added talk of tab sets ("tab candy") and app tabs.  Overall, the base functionality -- menus, screen real estate, graphical polish, etc. still feels a bit better in IE 9 that Firefox 4 -- of course you may have other ideas.

If we missed anything major, please feel free to let us know and we'll try to include it as (yet another) update.


All testing was done on a 64-bit Windows 7 Professional EditionThe hardware used was a MacBook Pro with an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T9600, a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT GPU, and 4 GB of DDR RAM.

Comments     Threshold

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By BigSlick on 9/16/2010 12:12:01 PM , Rating: 5
So..., I keep hearing all this and that about IE9, FireFox and Chrome, but what's the deal with leaving Opera out in the cold? Why no love? (Sniff Sniff)

By mikefarinha on 9/16/2010 12:23:21 PM , Rating: 4
I thought Opera users were used to it?

By cknobman on 9/16/2010 1:27:24 PM , Rating: 1
Honestly Ive tried opera and it sucks.

By dark matter on 9/16/2010 1:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
Really? It has a fast j engine, and all the other browsers copied their quickdial feature. It was the first to have tabs.

I use Chrome now, but to claim Opera sucks is just an opinion. A poor opinion as well IMHO.

By ChristopherO on 9/16/2010 2:17:16 PM , Rating: 4
Try to develop for it... Opera has some really unique quirks that make heavily AJAX-enabled pages with dynamic page elements... Well, not always fun.

The most "durable" browsers for that sort of behavior have been Firefox and IE. IE might not be a "standard compliant browser" for CSS and super-advanced layout, but the behavior of the JavaScript engine is readily predictable once you understand the choices it makes. My prior employer had some extremely sophisticated web applications, and I only needed to fork the code for Safari/Chrome (WebKit) and Opera. FF and IE worked happily without differentiation.

In my opinion the WebKit/Opera code-path had a degree of less-than-stellar logic to make up for bizarre behavioral differences.

If you just pop things on the page, everything was grand. Try real-time, complex manipulation of all the page elements, and things just fly apart at the seams.

By dark matter on 9/17/10, Rating: -1
By kingmotley on 9/19/2010 11:18:17 AM , Rating: 1
XUL and XAML are interface technologies. Those really have nothing to do with AJAX. Although I do see a lot of people referring to AJAX where it isn't technically correct, but uses similar principals. AJAX is using javascript and XML to make calls to a web server or web service in the background while the user can continue to use the web page. Anything beyond that isn't really AJAX, but many people misuse the term to mean anything from client side DOM manipulation (like slide panels, animations, etc) to entire javascript libraries like ExtJs/Dojo/jQuery which all have the ability to do AJAX or simplify AJAX calls, each does so much more that isn't AJAX.

By doradhorror on 9/19/2010 10:16:04 PM , Rating: 1
It's not an opinion, its a fact.

I hate you idiots who think 1+1=2 is just an opinion. The idiots who act ignorant in an argument.

By Souka on 9/16/2010 2:06:16 PM , Rating: 3
very few people use it on the computer...

Even Safari is more popular (thanks to the iPhone)

By TheWebDragon on 9/17/2010 12:50:11 PM , Rating: 2
I like how goes to the apache test page for initial install.

By TheWebDragon on 9/20/2010 3:40:06 PM , Rating: 2
also interesting is what the wayback machine shows for them*/ and in addition their global-packed26.js/css files are missing from so you get a largely unstyled page when you go there.

How did you manage to use this site? Even google's cached version shows it in a largely useless state

By iamezza on 9/18/2010 6:09:36 AM , Rating: 2
lol, Firefox has over 80% market share on one of the continents... Antarctica ;)

By omnicronx on 9/16/2010 4:45:12 PM , Rating: 3
Because Opera is not the fastest, nor does it have a new build to test. As the article stated, Chrome being the fastest browser, they were simply using it as a benchmark to compare the other two results from.

DT DOES have articles on new Opera releases, but I don't see why it should be reflected here. This is an FF vs IE comparison, with Chrome results shown merely for baseline purposes.

By bug77 on 9/17/2010 4:09:02 AM , Rating: 2
Because Opera is not the fastest, nor does it have a new build to test.

Last I checked, you couldn't put a piece of paper between Opera 10.6 and Chrome 7 (unreleased). As it happens, Opera 10.62 is just out and it comes with a modest speed increase.

By TheWebDragon on 9/17/2010 12:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
TextLast I checked, you couldn't put a piece of paper between Opera 10.6 and Chrome 7 (unreleased). As it happens, Opera 10.62 is just out and it comes with a modest speed increase.

Indeed the speedtests for opera came out quite interestingly in comparison to the rest on my laptop.

By B3an on 9/18/2010 9:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
Lol what? Opera is pretty much identical to Chrome in speed.
Infact it's currently the fastest browser on Peacekeeper -

In actual usage though i would say IE9 feels faster and smoother than anything else.

By Reclaimer77 on 9/18/10, Rating: 0
By justjc on 9/19/2010 9:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
The Linux people would disagree, as Opera for quite a few generations have put the latest versions on Windows before Linux.

By TheWebDragon on 9/20/2010 3:42:00 PM , Rating: 2
The Linux people would disagree, as Opera for quite a few generations have put the latest versions on Windows before Linux.

Indeed, both the Windows AND Macintosh versions of opera 10.6 were released many months before the Linux version, during their rewrite. I'm glad they took the time to do it, as when it arrived on Linux at long last, the wait appears to have been well worth it.

This is all wrong
By RugMuch on 9/16/2010 10:42:40 AM , Rating: 3
T minus 30 till fan boys bust a nut

RE: This is all wrong
RE: This is all wrong
By zippyzoo on 9/16/2010 10:57:57 AM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah, just wait till I use this on my iCoaster.

RE: This is all wrong
By MozeeToby on 9/16/2010 11:05:18 AM , Rating: 4
Well, I may as well get it started. I'm going to primarily take issue with the idea that IE doesn't lose much by not having a vibrant extension community/system.

First, let me get this out of the way: NoScript isn't about blocking ads, it's about only running code that you trust. Take this very website for example, I trust it and am fine with it running scripts in my browser but for one reason or another, this site actually wants me to execute JS code from at least 5 other sites. It looks like three ad providers (only one of which I'm readily familiar with), a sharing site for the Facebook/MySpace buttons, and two others with names that do not describe what they do at all. You're no longer asking me to trust you, you're asking me to trust a half dozen other places as well.

More generally speaking about extensions, I can think of a bunch of reasons why they are important. You can add functionality that most of your users don't want without bloating the performance or UI. Take for example, IE's new translate feature; I for one would probably never use it. On the flip side, I have an extension that encodes text to QR barcodes so that I can quickly get information onto my phone, something that the vast majority of people would never need.

It also provides a way for developers to test out an idea that might not be quite ready for a prime space in the browser. FF Sync (to sync bookmarks, passwords, etc across multiple computers), Tab groupings, and The Awesomebar all started their lives as extensions years ago, and it allowed the developers to discover a lot of pitfalls and issues before distributing it out to the whole user base. Most important though is the fact the FF has thousands of people writing extensions, the sheer amount of creativity and brain power thrown at it is mind boggling.

RE: This is all wrong
By B3an on 9/18/2010 2:02:01 AM , Rating: 2
IE9 finally seems to be getting proper addon support now though, and theres also an addon manager.
If it's anywhere near as easy as it is to make addons for Chrome and FF then it will obviously take off quickly for what is still the most used browser.

RE: This is all wrong
By RugMuch on 9/16/2010 11:14:21 AM , Rating: 3
I will admit I like IE, but the only reason I even touch firefox is when I'm using zotero or stuck using linux.

RE: This is all wrong
By bjacobson on 9/16/2010 5:02:52 PM , Rating: 3
Firefox still can't use more than one of my cores at once when loading multiple tabs (any time I middle click in forums or load up for the first time-- I have about 20 tabs that I regularly check, economics blogs, forums, sites like this, etc.)

In other words, I never use it anymore. Chrome, on the other hand, maxes all 4 of my cores for about 5 seconds while it renders the pages. Then it's completely done. Takes Firefox 15+seconds, during which the UI is laggy as hell as very unresponsive.

Only Javascript
By MrDiSante on 9/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: Only Javascript
By JasonMick on 9/16/2010 10:54:33 AM , Rating: 3
So here we are using exclusively javascript for measuring performace again and completely ignoring things like HTML, CSS, DOM, Layout, Formatting and the rest. Very representative of real-world usage guys. Why don't you leave the benchmarking to AnandTech, they're actually competent.

Err... RTA, please.

I include a basic CSS test. I also include two tests that look at DOM performance (the TaskSpeed suite and the PeaceKeeper benchmark). And PeaceKeeper looks at a whole slew of other features.

Please actually try to read before you post complaints, you'll be doing both of us a favor.

RE: Only Javascript
By UNCjigga on 9/16/2010 12:40:40 PM , Rating: 2
How about testing with the Kraken benchmark (or is that too new to serve as a reliable benchmark, given it was developed by team Firefox?)

RE: Only Javascript
By JasonMick on 9/16/2010 12:53:35 PM , Rating: 3
Will do...

RE: Only Javascript
By bug77 on 9/16/2010 11:07:48 AM , Rating: 2
That. And just for completeness sake, throw in multi-platform, x86 vs x86_64, physical installation vs virtual machine, run some stress tests and so on.

Jeez dude, he was just looking at some metrics, what's wrong with that?

RE: Only Javascript
By quetel on 9/16/2010 11:14:47 AM , Rating: 2
Microsofts elaborates on their targetted optimizations for IE9 and choice of benchmarks here:

Nice showing from FF
By bug77 on 9/16/2010 10:41:56 AM , Rating: 2
Since the new JS engine for FF is still not included, the scores paint a nice picture for FF. However, its performance is still about half that of Chrome and Opera. So it still won't compete with the top dogs, but it won't be going toe-to-toe with IE9 either.

RE: Nice showing from FF
By inighthawki on 9/16/2010 10:49:12 AM , Rating: 3
You don't really believe that IE9's speed won't increase as it gets closer to release, do you? Besides the fact that it's a beta version that just got past a tech preview stage, MS has a pretty good track record of providing some nice optimizations right before release. If possible I think it would be best to not try and directly compare beta versions of browsers, and instead try to focus on what those numbers mean for the future of the product.

RE: Nice showing from FF
By bug77 on 9/16/2010 11:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
It could happen, but I was only talking about what I know.

RE: Nice showing from FF
By MozeeToby on 9/16/2010 12:44:26 PM , Rating: 2
Typically, browser speeds decrease when they go from browser to release. I've never heard a good explanation as to why, but the phenomenon has occurred with the last 2 major FF releases and the last 2 major IE releases. The same can be said for releases of Chrome, but to a lesser extent.

Chrome already has GPU acceleration
By Nihility on 9/16/2010 6:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
Just wanted to point out that the bleeding edge version of Chrome already has GPU acceleration.

It's called Canary and it can be installed alongside the regular version.

Use these switches:
--enable-gpu-plugin --enable-accelerated-2d-canvas --enable-accelerated-compositing --enable-video-layering --enable-webgl --enable-fastback --enable-gpu-rendering

RE: Chrome already has GPU acceleration
By Scrith on 9/17/2010 6:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad Chrome has NO FREAKING BOOKMARK MENU! Whoever thought it was a good idea to force every Chrome user to use up valuable vertical screen space on a stupid bookmark bar ought to be stripped of their Google stock options.

RE: Chrome already has GPU acceleration
By Nihility on 9/18/2010 5:21:22 AM , Rating: 2
There's also no keyboard shortcut for opening the bookmark manager.

It's like they completely ignored the use of bookmarks as a tool for locating useful sites that you only need twice a year.

By justjc on 9/19/2010 9:50:24 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't that make sense?

Google is a search company after all, and without bookmarks the easiest way of getting to a page is searching for it.

My only complaint so far
By mikefarinha on 9/16/2010 10:52:56 AM , Rating: 3
If you pin a site to your taskbar and then try to move a tab from that pinned instance to another instance it wont attach to the new instance.

Oh and no speel check.

Other than that the new IE is pretty friggin' awesome.

RE: My only complaint so far
By Spivonious on 9/16/2010 11:04:53 AM , Rating: 2
Don't forget to send this kind of feedback to MS. There's a link in the Gear menu.

RE: My only complaint so far
By inighthawki on 9/16/2010 11:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
I think one of the deciding factors on whether or not I decide to use it is going to end up being addons. If I can find addons for the things I use now, I won't have much trouble switching between browsers, so only time will tell. I really hope MS decides to put a large focus on making sure addons are important.

I've tested the new IE and I am incredibly pleased tbh. It's fast, GPU accelerated, I think the UI design looks rather nice. And this is only beta 1, so we'll see what happens.

CelticKane Bench
By charrytg on 9/16/2010 12:08:50 PM , Rating: 3
Mick, this is wrong. On CK's site, it clearly says that the HIGHER the score, the better, not lower. This explains why chrome's score is in the 300 range, while firefox and IE are in the 200 range. This makes firefox the slower one, not IE.

RE: CelticKane Bench
By metaltoiletry on 9/16/2010 12:40:53 PM , Rating: 2

Browser -------- Avg Score -- Relative Speed
Chrome 5.0-------- 418 -------- 1x
Safari 5.0---------- 417 -------- 1x slower
Opera 10.6-------- 360 -------- 1.2x slower
Firefox 3.6-------- 134 -------- 3.1x slower
IE 8.0--------------- 61 -------- 6.9x slower

RE: CelticKane Bench
By JasonMick on 9/16/2010 12:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
I fixed this and update the conclusions. See above! Thanks for the spot. :)

Actually that, combined with the rendering benchmarks I added changes the picture entirely, tilting speed as well in Microsoft's favor.

Thanks again.

Aero Peek
By Aikouka on 9/16/2010 12:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
It's possibly just me, but I have to say that the Aero Peek changes are my least favorite thing about the newest Firefox versions. The problem that I have is that more often than not, I am restoring/un-minimizing my browser to either go back to the same tab I was at or go to a new website (tab) entirely. To complete both of these tasks, I now have to click on Firefox in the taskbar and then find the tab that was already in focus.

It just seems that in most cases (for me), this is going to waste more time than it will ever save. With a quick glance, I couldn't find anything in the Preferences to turn this off... is there anything in the "about:config" page to turn it off?

RE: Aero Peek
By Tamale on 9/16/2010 2:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
turn it off in your taskbar preferences if it bothers you.

RE: Aero Peek
By MattCoz on 9/17/2010 1:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
Change your taskbar settings to "Never combine".

No Ad Blocking?
By mgilbert on 9/16/2010 1:27:41 PM , Rating: 2
No ad blocking in IE9? Sorry, Microsoft, I'm not interested. FF and Chrome both have excellent blocking through extensions. Ad blocking is my first litmus test for a browser.

RE: No Ad Blocking?
By hemmy on 9/20/2010 11:22:20 AM , Rating: 2
There is ad blocking, using inPrivate Filtering - just like you could do in IE8. Problem is just like FF you still have to have a list of what to block. Some people have compiled pretty thorough lists, but you still have to manually update the list when new ones are posted.

Suggestions to Mick
By sviola on 9/16/2010 5:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
Hey Mick,

How about formatting the tables in an easier way to read?

Also, on the kraken benchmark, what is better, lower or higher numbers?

RE: Suggestions to Mick
By sviola on 9/16/2010 5:34:54 PM , Rating: 2
One other suggestion Mick, you never mention the add-on menu for IE9, which allows you to disable them and shows the performance impact of the add-on. And also the new download manager for IE9.

IE vs FF
By p05esto on 9/16/2010 1:30:44 PM , Rating: 3
As a developer I try and use all 4 main browsers regularily, but personally I've always been partial to IE. Web sites just seem to render best in IE probably because it's the dominant browser and designers make SURE their site looks good in IE always. That does matter ya know.

But with IE9 "so far" spanking the crap out of FF I wonder how long some of these little browsers will last? This is what happens when these little guys get a chip on their shoulder and start bashing the elder Gods of technology. Bitch slap is the official term, waking a sleeping giant also comes to mind.

Frankly if MS really wanted to they could dominate ANY area of technology. But instead they prefer to lay low and have their hands in everything, stay diversified and successful in the majority of areas. They do NOT want another anti-trust against them.

IE9 for Vista 32bit
By magill515 on 9/16/2010 2:38:23 PM , Rating: 3
While Windows Vista support is coming, the initial beta only offers 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 version.

I got the Vista 32bit version from Microsoft's web site. It was recognized by website and offered me the Vista x86 version.

By bunnyfubbles on 9/16/2010 11:14:51 AM , Rating: 2
Where's the comments on Tab Candy and Firefox Sync?

Also whats with the lack of comment about GPU acceleration with either browser?

I don't see how this preview can come to any sort of respectable conclusion or final thoughts with such an incomplete look.

By metaltoiletry on 9/16/2010 11:44:29 AM , Rating: 2
I am using a Dell system with a single core Celeron and the Firefox Beta CRAWLS. It's slower than Internet Explorer 8 by far; however, Internet Explorer 9 is much more like Chrome on this system.

The system also has an Nividia 9300GS, but the whole GPU usage for Firefox seems to make it worse.

Granted these are both betas so, I'm not surprised by this.

Switch to Tab
By Divineburner on 9/16/2010 1:21:43 PM , Rating: 2
It seems that the vast majority hadn't realized the one click way to open multiple of the same tab.

Middle-click almost anything in Firefox, and you get it opened in a new tab.

Thus, if you middle-click the 'Switch to Tab' when you enter the URL, it doesn't switch you to your tab. Instead, it opens a damn new tab .

Graphic drivers...
By ChristopherO on 9/16/2010 2:23:03 PM , Rating: 2
Some people are forgetting a very simple fact... This is the *first* hardware accelerated browser.

As a result, the AMD/Intel/Nvidia drivers have a chance to actually increase the rendering speed of the browser -- just like driver revisions have a chance to increase frame-rate of popular games.

Mind you, no guarantees, but this potential for added speed is pretty exciting. Apps that go through the standard software renderer/Windows APIs can't really be tweaked by a video card vendor.

A few things
By Murst on 9/16/2010 3:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
There's a few things I have issues with in IE 9.

1. Button/address bar at the top. I'm a huge fan of making this smaller. However, the current implementation wastes about half of the vertical space. Half of the bar is empty space. It would be a far better approach to do what Chrome did, and use that space for tabs.

Alternately, the bar should change to a single line ( with IE9 open, press F11 to see what it SHOULD look like by default - minus the collapsing part ).

2. Compatibility - sites like ESPN don't render correctly in IE9. I'm not sure if this is the fault of ESPN or IE9, but it needs to be fixed.

3. Scrolling - the browser doesn't work very well when scrolling with the mouse wheel. The scrolling should be smooth. It is hard to read text when it jumps around the screen.

By tranvitiello on 9/17/2010 6:08:33 AM , Rating: 2
There is no war like thing is going to happen between IE and Firefox. As far as market representation tells, IE is still numero uno. But performance and user satisfaction makes Chrome the best browser. Mozilla is better than IE in most of time but some functions of IE is better.

Not "small beta"
By adiposity on 9/19/2010 3:44:36 AM , Rating: 2
Well beta 6 isn't a full beta ; it's what Mozilla calls a "small beta" . Apparently beta 5, which brought hardware rendering to Firefox, had some issues and Mozilla had to rush a fix. The company writes:

We’ve decided to issue a small beta update in order to fix a stability issue on Windows and some rendering and keyboard/mouse focus issues on OSX related to plugins. This small update should be ready late tomorrow, and will be presented as "Firefox 4 Beta 6".

Mozilla is not calling this a "small beta." They are calling it a "small update." They are not inventing a new type of beta. If you read their statement, it's clear that what is "small" is the update...

What exactly is a full beta anyway?

By adiposity on 9/19/2010 3:59:01 AM , Rating: 2
I find the comments about extensions pretty ignorant. A lot of useful extensions are not mentioned, but obviously this article can't cover them all. IMO, colored tabs is a pretty minor feature, but if you want it, adding an extension is no harder than finding where to enable such a feature in IE.

And the comments about noscript being required, or manual adblocking, seems opposite to my experience. With the use of adblock plus (not adblock), and the default adblocking subscription, I pretty much never see any ads. And this is a huge benefit to me over Chrome and IE. Chrome does have it's own adblocking extensions but they're quite poorly implemented compared to adblock plus.

Dismissing this as the realm of manual adblocking junkies or power users misses the point. You install one extension and all ads disappear. It's nearly that good.

By Methal on 9/19/2010 3:06:04 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think it could be humanly possible for me to careless about IE. I haven't used it since IE 5 was the best it got.

And Security?
By Rukusss on 9/17/2010 2:51:32 AM , Rating: 1
Kudos to Microsoft for making the browser wars competitive again. However, as far as security goes, users still have to contend with the gaping holes known as ActiveX and Silverlight. Speed doesn't do you much good if all it allows you to do is get infected faster.

Big win, but not for MS
By nafhan on 9/16/10, Rating: 0
All this does...
By ThatNewGuy on 9/16/10, Rating: 0
“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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