November 2011 - Posts

The (probably) never ending war of Chrome, FireFox, and IE
Thursday, November 03, 2011 10:34 PM

Something interesting happened in October (yeh, stocks have been doing comparatively great): IE's share in global desktop browser usages has dropped to a perilous 52%. This, combined with its barely there mobile browser usage, brings its overall share below the 50% percentage mark. 

Source: www.frelia.com

With interesting data invariably comes incessant probe of why.

Why so?

Some analysis pointed out the geek factor.

The tech community has abandoned IE in droves ever since they found the delicious toy of Firefox, which is dynamic and cool, decidely tech friendly and fast and active in development. It started the trend of multiple tabs, a wonderful array of extensions. It gives programmers Firebugs; Chrome joined the browser war in 2008, soon afterwards, tech people was attracted to it by its minimal interfaces and fast and smooth performance. Chrome came in late yet learn fast. It soon offered a wealth of tools and even more faster development cycle. I believe in no time, Chrome would reach 100 or Google (1 followed by 100 :)). Chrome also upended the browser game by building its V8 engine that fueled the Javascript engine speed war, throwing in its own script langauge.

More analysis dived into the browsers' differences in speed, interface, support for standards (ie., html5 and css3), privacy and security and Extensions.

In short, there is convergence among the browsers towards speedier, cleaner, more secure, and more customizable browsers. Surprise! With competition so fierce and stake so high, the best wins!

Speed-wise, Firefox and IE have greatly improved their speed so much so that Chrome actually is currently losing in this battle.

Interface-wise, Chorme started the minimumistic approach, Firefox and IE are taking notes. This minimum approach is actually catching fire in interface design. Google started it with its barebone google search, Facebook's home page also has the clean blue. Chrome, FireFox and IE also took great effor to allow tabs be informative yet non-obtusive, draggable and dockable. Work like a great app.

In terms of standards support, in the tech community, IE is always the object of ridicule. In support of HTML5 features, IE has been falling behind.

In extension offering, FireFox leads the way.

Under the hood - JavaScript Engines

JavaScript is currently the most important language. This in no small part is due to the quick rise and improvement of JavaScript engines, which in turn has made this browser war so intense and so interesting and so beneficial to all of us internet users.

The engine behind Chrome is V8 javascript engine. Copy Wikipedia here:

"V8 increases performance by compiling JavaScript to native machine code before executing it, rather than to execute bytecode or interpreting it. Further performance increases are achieved by employing optimization techniques such as inline caching. With these features, JavaScript applications running within V8 are said to have an effective speed comparable to a compiled binary."

Firefox has a rapid evolution line of JavaScript engine, started with Rhino, the very grandpa figure started at Netscape in 1997. After that, there are "monkeys" with mostly funny names: SpdierMonkey, TraceMonkey, JagerMonkey, IonMoney, then tamarin.

IE did not have any serious JavaScript engine until IE 9. Before that (IE 8 and earlier) it uses a script interpreter for running JavaScript. Now with IE 9 JavaScript engine, it provides features such as JavaScript background compliation and library optimization.

Parting words

So, in the global browser competition for more market share, IE is in steady decline yet still dominate the scene, FireFox is barely holding its ground, Chrome is rapidly rising. Still nothing is certain other than that the more they compete, the more we demand, the greater good will come out of it. Also, we, programmers, time to work harder to meet up the challenge.

by xxxd
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