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Futuremark, makers of 3DMark, have launched PeaceKeeper, the first comprehensive browser benchmarking suite.

The results are intriguing -- Apple's Safari and Google Chrome are the top browsers speed-wise. Windows 7 beats Windows Vista with similar hardware and the same browser version, but still lags behind OS X. And the hardware on the system, particularly the CPU dramatically influences results.  (Source: PeaceKeeper)
The makers of 3DMark take on the web

Mozilla, Apple, Google, Opera, and Microsoft all claim the same thing -- that their browser is the fastest.  So who is telling the truth? 

Until recently, that was a tough question to answer.  Sure there was a handful of free tests, such as SunSpider's JavaScript benchmark, Celtic Kane's JavaScript benchmark (a bit older), or the crude CSS benchmark posted on HowToCreate.  However, these tests all had one thing in common -- they did not fully test the browser's speed across a variety of rich-content standards.

FutureMark, makers of the popular 3DMark hardware benchmarking software, know all about how to provide a cohesive benchmarking suite.  So amid ongoing work on PCMark, 3DMark, and even a video game (Shattered Horizon), FutureMark decided to try to settle the browser bragging match once and for all by releasing a comprehensive test suite.

The result is the Peacekeeper benchmarking suite, which is now available as a free online applicationDailyTech had the pleasure of talking with FutureMark President Oliver Baltuch and learning more about this exciting new test, as well as some of its more interesting results.

Currently, the test covers page rendering using everything from HTML 5.0 to CSS.  It also includes a number of tests to gauge JavaScript performance with typical algorithms such as encrypts, filters, parses, sorts, and array manipulation.  DOM performance is also tested.  Currently, flash performance tests are not included.  Mr. Baltuch says that a second version is in the works "that would include more of the HTML 5.0 and something that works to measure flash performance as well as possibly power performance."

The core set of tests now simulate conditions that might be encountered on content-heavy pages such as YouTube, Facebook, or Meebo.  The results are intriguing.  For the same browser version tested across different OS implementations running on virtually the same hardware Mr. Baltuch states, "The Apple [computers] tend to be 5-10 percent faster [than Windows machines].  We believe that is based on the middleware of the OS.  We believe that it is more streamlined."

While OS X holds the speed lead, Mr. Baltuch noted that Windows 7 featured substantial gains over Windows Vista.  However, Internet Explorer 8.0, Microsoft's flagship browser remains much slower than the industry's speed-leading browsers -- Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.  Mr. Baltuch comments, "Windows 7 is faster than Vista is.  But Internet Explorer 8.0 is 5 times slower than Chrome and Safari."

Despite Chrome and Safari being the fastest, Mr. Baltuch says he uses Opera 10.0 beta 2 for browsing because he likes the user interface and features the best.  He also praised Mozilla users for their very helpful feedback.  He says that some browser makers have embraced his company's efforts, while others remain standoffish.

He states, "Some seem to be happy.  The Norwegians (Opera) seem to hate us at the moment (FutureMark is Finnish).  The guys at Microsoft have been silent so far."

For those interested, Peacekeaper is funded by advertising revenue and is also funded by sales of consulting services to large businesses.  Also, the benchmark has helped to increased the adoption of FutureMark's paid products like PCMark, according to Mr. Baltuch.

A couple of final interesting notes.  Mr. Baltuch says that the test is compatible with the popular Apple iPhone.  He also notes that there is a large difference between web performance, going from a netbook processor (such as the Intel Atom) to a high-end desktop processor (such as the Intel Core i7).  This is due to the CPU's pivotal role in running increasingly heavy web applications.  He also says that for users looking to try something off the typical beaten path, the Epiphany (browser packaged with Gnome Linux), Shiira (Webkit-based), and Midori (also Webkit-based) browsers all provide relative good Linux browsing performance.

Mr. Baltuch says his company loves feedback, so feel free to head over to the Peacekeeper page, check it out, and leave your comments.

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RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Spivonious on 8/10/2009 2:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. And since most websites are chock-full of server-side logic, the CPU in your machine means next to nothing. The only thing that you local CPU would provide a noticeable performance increase in would be Javascript/VBscript.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Spivonious on 8/10/2009 2:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
I ran through the benchmark and the tests are 90% javascript. We all know IE's Javascript engine isn't that fast.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By MrBungle123 on 8/10/09, Rating: 0
RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By halcyon on 8/10/2009 2:41:01 PM , Rating: 5
Most people today are running sub-2GHz single core computers more than 3 years old.

Yes, Anandtech and general heat-seeking web-using young male readers may be using what you describe and part of the business crowd, but that's about it.

And yes, browser speed does matter to some of us, even if you are not one of them.

Don't mistake everybody else to have the same needs as you.

As more and more apps are moving to the browser and the cloud, it makes sense to test the browser speed, esp. complex HTML 5.0 / CSS and EcmaScript speeds.

In a few years we'll all be happy that somebody pushed the browser vendors to shape up their rendering / compilation speeds.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By tastyratz on 8/10/2009 3:18:13 PM , Rating: 5
Plus: its measuring browser speed- not the capabilities of your computer and how much the browser will load you down. There are latencies and inefficiencies in certain operations that can cause something such as a web browser to display a page slower even when its not limited by computational power. An example would be some pages that just take an extra second or 2 to come up even though its not a web slowdown and it might only be using 10% cpu.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By B3an on 8/11/2009 1:32:00 AM , Rating: 3
I'd like to add that even on my 4.2GHz i7 with 12GB DDR3 RAM i can easily notice that Chrome is faster than FF3.5, and especially IE8 at loading pages.

So the argument about computers being so fast now that browser speed does not matter is pure cr*p. If i was to have a 10GHz i7 i'm positive i'd still notice Chrome being faster, because it's not down to CPU/hardware speed.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By B3an on 8/11/2009 1:33:34 AM , Rating: 2
Not all down to CPU/hardware speed i meant.

By Mojo the Monkey on 8/11/2009 1:35:31 PM , Rating: 3
Dang, and here I was with my lowly 4.1ghz i7 and 11GB DDR3 RAM, not noticing any difference at all. I have to get my hands on that last .1 gzh and gig of ram.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By rs1 on 8/10/2009 5:49:11 PM , Rating: 2
I mostly agree, except for the part about it making sense to test HTML 5. Virtually nothing actually uses HTML 5 right now (apart from a handful of interesting but mostly useless tech demos), despite its popularity in the press. While HTML 5 benchmarks will likely be important in the future, they are of little use right now, and because most browsers are just rolling out the initial iteration(s) of their HTML 5 engines I think any benchmark results would be misleading at best (especially if trying to draw conclusions about which browser is "fastest"). The performance of all the different HTML 5 engines is likely to change significantly once people start using it to implement real applications and the browser developers get a sense of how people are going to use HTML 5 in real life.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By headbox on 8/10/2009 6:24:22 PM , Rating: 5
Thanks for your comment. The first few sound like people who say "the speed limit is 55, why would I want a Corvette?"

My kids play free games online. Sites like Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, etc. all have some heavy browser-based games. Performance is important and noticeable. It's also noticeable on media-heavy sites, like those made by music groups or animators. Not everyone is on a Core i7 while looking at craigslist.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By erple2 on 8/11/2009 1:41:49 PM , Rating: 2
In that case, you're talking about flash performance. And I don't think that there's an appreciable difference between browsers and platforms for flash.

By JoshuaBuss on 8/12/2009 10:40:23 AM , Rating: 3
you're crazy. try IE8 on youtube then try chrome..

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Keeir on 8/10/2009 7:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
I would add to this that 1-2 seconds difference may not mean anything for one page loading, but when dealing with mobile applications, 1-2 seconds several times a minute really add up to more productivity per battery life.

Also, loading 100-200 pages a day. 1 second a page is more than a minute a day, and several hours over the course of a year... and this holds true for almost all level of time savings... switchings from IE8 to Firefox to Safari means hours a year for pretty much any user.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Etern205 on 8/10/09, Rating: -1
RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Alexstarfire on 8/10/2009 5:12:08 PM , Rating: 2
A broken browser does not equal a slow browser, just FYI.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Etern205 on 8/10/2009 6:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
FYI, I know the difference between a busted browser and a slow broswer...

IE busted: IE does not load any webpage, but browser works fine.
IE slow: Takes longer than any other browser to load a page.

It does not matter how it goes, on a clean OS install XP w/SP3 or Vista w/SP2 and all updates, certain sites under IE8 takes a long time. But I've found out if you click on the compatiblity view mode, the webpage loads right away.

There is a compatiblity list pack for IE8 and hopefully that will speed up the loading of a webpage.

By Etern205 on 8/10/2009 6:46:14 PM , Rating: 2
missing word: but other browser works fine. :)

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By MRwizard on 8/10/2009 8:00:50 PM , Rating: 1
you've bever heard of the internet black hole have you?

By MrPoletski on 8/11/2009 7:17:12 AM , Rating: 2
Once you go black you never go back...

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By stubeck on 8/10/2009 8:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
No they aren't. Just because the people you know do, doesn't mean everyone else does. Up to a few weeks ago I had a 2 year old 2 GHz system, and even that is faster than most people have.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Fox5 on 8/10/2009 3:27:20 PM , Rating: 4
Javascript, along with flash, is about the only stressful web content available.

But I'll say, Firefox 3.5 is noticeably faster for me than most other browsers, and Chome is the only browser that provides me with a smooth browsing experience with dozens of open tabs.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Omega215D on 8/10/2009 3:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
I currently like to use Firefox 3.5 and a not so well known browser called Sleipnir. Chrome is good but there are times when clicking on a tab it gets pulled out and forms a new window even though I released the mouse button.

By Omega215D on 8/10/2009 3:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
I want to mention that Safari is the most used on my MacBook because the scrolling and overall web experience is smoother than Firefox 3.5 for Mac but there are some sites that don't display properly in Safari...

By dragonbif on 8/10/2009 8:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
I just did the tests with IE8 and Firefox and ya Firefox is faster but I did something diffrent with the 2nd round of tests. I turned off the backward complatibility in IE8 for 7 and 6 and found that with it turned off it goes faster. At work we use IE8 because of the backward compatibility so we will not be turning it off there and I use Firefox mostly at home.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By thornburg on 8/10/2009 2:30:09 PM , Rating: 3
The only thing that you local CPU would provide a noticeable performance increase in would be Javascript/VBscript.

You've left off Flash, the bane of speedy web-browsers everywhere.

Also, when was the last time you visited a site that wasn't absolutely loaded with Flash and/or Javascript?

If you've never browsed the web with Noscript blocking *everything*, you should try it. It's a Firefox plugin, if that wasn't obvious.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Spivonious on 8/10/2009 2:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
I try to avoid Flash-based sites (the only one I visit somewhat regularly is Youtube) and the sites I visit that use Javascript are using it for very trivial things that even a 486 could run through in a blink of an eye.

I left off Flash because this benchmark doesn't use it (and I agree wholeheartedly that it shouldn't, since the browser maker has no control over the speed of an Adobe plugin.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By rocket86 on 8/10/2009 4:40:15 PM , Rating: 2
If you are a Firefox user I suggest you to try out Flashblock plugin. That way every website you visit (which you haven't whitelisted in Flashblock configuration) has its flash-based content blocked so that it won't clog up the CPU cycles. Instead of flash content is shown a white box of equal size with flash icon – one can enable the actual flash content by clicking it.

By Spivonious on 8/10/2009 4:48:34 PM , Rating: 2
I just run 64-bit IE8. Since no Flash plugin exists for it, I don't have flash things popping up. If I'm on a page where I need Flash (which is a poorly designed page, imo), I just open up 32-bit IE8 and paste in the link.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By GeorgeH on 8/10/2009 2:35:08 PM , Rating: 5
Thank you. I've never understood the "Fastest Browser" nonsense; it's like benchmarking a word processing program. Once a certain level is reached, it really doesn't matter.

Features, stability, compatibility, usability, security - these are the types of things DO matter. The ability to load a standard benchmark page 0.3s faster and get 459483439 more points on some random score sheet? Not so much, unless you're a "reviewer" that can't actually review something.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Motley on 8/10/2009 9:09:11 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps, but we definitely haven't reached that certain level yet. As a web developer, I have had to rework pages because the average browser wasn't capable of giving a decent user experience because of javascript performance issues. Often when dealing with CRUD type applications where you are caching a moderate sized dataset client side and building a grid/form type UI so that it's responsive during mass changes.

Unfortunately with the browser performance in the past, that would only be feasible for minuscule sized datasets. We are getting better, but each improvement in javascript allows more client side interactivity, and increases responsiveness.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By TomZ on 8/10/2009 3:10:42 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly. And since most websites are chock-full of server-side logic, the CPU in your machine means next to nothing. The only thing that you local CPU would provide a noticeable performance increase in would be Javascript/VBscript.
I disagree. Each time I have upgraded my computer in the past, one of the things I first notice is that my web experience improves. Pages render faster, despite being the same browser and version and of course with an unchanged Internet connection speed. Browser rendering speed does matter to the overall browsing experience.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By poohbear on 8/10/2009 3:35:58 PM , Rating: 2
really? i find that hard to believe. i've never noticed a diff in internet browser speeds ever since the single core Athlon XP days.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By TomZ on 8/10/2009 4:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
Then you're not paying attention too closely.

Try this - find an old (slow) machine and a new (fast) machine. Load the same OS and browser, and run them side-by-side. You'll notice that the faster machine lets you browse quite a bit faster. Pages load and render faster.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Alexstarfire on 8/10/2009 5:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
The difference between my netbook with an Atom CPU and my E8500 OCed to 3.0Ghz there is very little difference, the browser itself loads a bit faster, but that's likely due to the slower HDD it has in it. If you'd like me to go back further I could go check out the P3 CPU I have just sitting in my basement. Though considering it'll have to run XP or Win 7 with a low amount of RAM it might just be slow in general.

Any live-CD version of Linux that wouldn't slow it down?

By boldingd on 8/10/2009 5:55:05 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm. Not an Ubuntu spin. But, find something using BlackBox as a WM. That should run pretty well. ;)

Maybe ?

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By omnicronx on 8/10/2009 6:01:43 PM , Rating: 2
Atom CPU and my E8500 OCed to 3.0Ghz there is very little difference
Well then there must be something wrong with your system. I have my X2 3800 setup next to my X2 2.7GHZ setup on separate monitors and my new computer definitely loads pages much faster. Same amount ram, same OS but different, clockspeed and rendering times. There is no way you cannot tell the difference between an Atom and a C2D 3GHZ.. Its night and day, even with basic HTML, add in javascript and the difference can be two fold.

By Alexstarfire on 8/10/2009 8:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
I would argue that something must be wrong with yours because both load at nearly identical speeds for me.

By reredrum on 8/11/2009 5:21:59 AM , Rating: 2
not true...

for people with slower computers, like me, browser speed does make a HUGE difference. firefox 3.5 is the fastest for me. I notice a very large increase in speed when using it. in particular java script and flash load noticeably faster in FF3.5. i also have one of the fastest internet connections in the country..... - not that it matters considering internet speed isn't based on u're provider.

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