22-Mar-2011

Firefox 4.0

Mozilla Firefox Logo

The browser wars continue. For the three browsers which I use - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome - program execution speed is inversely proportional to browser market share as per August/2010 industry stats.

The long-awaited Firefox 4.0 official release happened on March 22nd, 2011. I downloaded and installed my copy today. Among the many improvements touted for this release, I was most interested in the program launch time for Firefox 4.0. I was previously using Firefox 3.6.12 where the program launch time was on the order of half a minute. As my usage style is to to launch programs on demand, opting to close them when not being used, program launch time is a big deal for me. Chrome 3 launch time is under 2 seconds, closer to 1 second. Internet Explorer 8 takes around 10 seconds. Since Firefox is my preferred browser, partly due to the many plug-ins that I utilize, I have been severely hampered by the excruciatingly slow program launch. Firefox 4.0 launches in about 2 seconds. One happy user here. Considering that once upon a very long time ago, I preferred Internet Explorer over Netscape, it is ironic how Firefox has become my browser of choice. I hold no biases; I go with what is best!

In typical fashion, Firefox installation is fast and painless. Many plug-ins were not compatible with Firefox 4.0 and had to be upgraded. That was part of the Firefox check-list during installation. Everything works seamlessly and promptly. Pretty much a non-event!

The current top-3 browser competition involves Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4 and Chrome 10. It is interesting to note that Firefox 4 and Chrome 10 are available for various operating system versions and platforms while Internet Explorer 9 is only available on Windows 7. Since I am with the 66% of the Windows users that are still running XP (Microsoft cites 74% of work computers use XP), I am excluded from commenting on IE 9 usage.

Without getting into the details of benchmarking results for the top-3 browsers, which version of the browser, which aspects are being measured (e.g. JavaScript processing speed, graphics rendering speed), my general conclusion is that the top-3 by market share have inversely proportion execution speed. i.e. IE has most market share while being the slowest overall, Chrome has the least market share while being the faster in general. Firefox is in the middle. Subjectively, Firefox 4.0 seems a touch faster for page loads while the program launch time of a couple of seconds is a huge improvement from the 3.6 line-up.

From my usage experience, not a lot has changed. That is the way I like it. The most noticeable change is the removal of the status bar at the bottom of the browser window. URL and page loading status are shown as a pop-up message at the bottom of the window and the message disappears when no longer applicable. There is an Add-on Bar at the bottom of window where the status bar used to be and this can be toggled on/off with a Ctrl+/ keyboard sequence. I have it turned off which gives me that much more vertical browser window space for web page content.     With Message and Add-on Bar     No Message or Add-on Bar

Check out the Firefox 4.0 download statistics at Mozilla.

See Browser Wars.


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