Step aside, Chrome, for Squirrelfish Extreme

WebKit programmers, whose work is used in Apple's Safari browser, proclaim another JavaScript breakthrough, an important move for rich Web applications.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Just about every browser out there now is trying to grab the crown for fastest performance for running JavaScript, the programming language that powers many increasingly sophisticated Web-based applications. The latest development is from the programmers behind Apple's Safari.

Mozilla bragged earlier this month about TraceMonkey, a new JavaScript engine due to ship in Firefox 3.1 near the end of 2008. Next came Google's Chrome, a leading feature of which is the performance of its V8 JavaScript engine. Now the WebKit programmers, whose open-source code is used in Apple's Safari browser and the Konqueror browser of the KDE interface software sometimes used on Linux systems, have a new version of their JavaScript technology.

It's called Squirrelfish Extreme, and the WebKit programmers said Thursday in a blog posting that it's more than twice as fast as the first-generation Squirrelfish announced in June and more than three times faster than the current WebKit 3.1 version. They based their conclusions on one benchmark, SunSpider.

"SquirrelFish Extreme uses more advanced techniques, including fast native code generation, to deliver even more JavaScript performance," the programmers said.

For details of Squirrelfish's techniques--bytecode optimization, a polymorphic inline cache, a context-threaded just-in-time compiler, and a regular expression just-in-time compiler--check the WebKit blog.

Charles Ying also performed SunSpider tests that showed Squirrelfish beating Google's V8 and Mozilla's Tracemonkey on a 2.4GHz iMac.

WebKit's SquirrelFish Extreme is faster than its three-month-old predecessor.
WebKit's SquirrelFish Extreme is faster than its three-month-old predecessor on the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark. WebKit