Firefox counters Google's browser speed test

Mozilla fights back against Chrome, saying the upcoming version of Firefox beats Google's browser in a JavaScript race.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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2 min read

Mozilla fought back on Wednesday with some performance results to show a forthcoming version of Firefox outpacing Google's new Web browser, Chrome.

During a launch event Tuesday, Google was eager to toot its horn about Chrome's performance running JavaScript, a programming language used to power many sophisticated Web applications such as Google Docs, Yahoo's Zimbra e-mail site, and Zoho's online application suite. Google showed performance results using its own collection of five JavaScript benchmarks and V8, Chrome's JavaScript engine, but Mozilla countered with a different test called SunSpider.

Mozilla Firefox Google Chrome JavaScript
Mozilla's speed test shows a future Firefox outpacing Google's Chrome for JavaScript programs. Mozilla

"We're very much in the game and moving fast--'reports of our death are greatly exaggerated,'" JavaScript pioneer and TraceMonkey coder Brendan Eich said in a blog. And noting Firefox's higher score, he said, "Maybe we should rename TraceMonkey 'V10' ;-)"

Firefox 3.1, which Mozilla hopes to release by the end of the year, comes with JavaScript acceleration technology called TraceMonkey. In Mozilla's test that pitted TraceMonkey-enhanced Firefox against the Chrome beta, Google's browser was 28 percent slower on Windows XP and 16 percent slower on Windows Vista.

One caveat is that Mozilla programmers have been talking about SunSpider's obsolescence. I'd like to see TraceMonkey-enhanced Firefox's score on Google's benchmarks, or at least some Mozilla commentary about the quality of Google's benchmark suite. And of course, bear in mind that JavaScript, while important, is only one element of overall browsing performance.

Update 8:16 a.m. PDT: Mozilla's Chris Blizzard directed my attention to this post by John Resig with a broader collection of JavaScript benchmarks. It shows much more balanced results overall, but also shows TraceMonkey faring worse than the current Firefox on Google's tests.

However, Eich said in his post that the TraceMonkey team is addressing the particular issue that hobbled TraceMonkey compared to Chrome.

"(One) graph does show V8 cleaning our clock on a couple of recursion-heavy tests. We have a plan, to trace recursion," he said on the blog. "We simply haven't had enough hours in the day to get to it, but it's 'next.'"

Click here for full coverage of the Google Chrome launch.