Does Internet Explorer 10 Top Open Source Browsers at JavaScript Apps?

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 25, 2011

As we reported when Firefox 4 was recently released by Mozilla, its download numbers when first released were way beyond those of Internet Explorer 9 from Microsoft. At the same time, Firefox and Google Chrome have been steadily eating into Internet Explorer's market share around the world, giving rise to the seemingly clear conclusion that open source browsers are leading the innovation curve. But Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 is now available as a preview, and Microsoft researchers are claiming that its performance at "real" JavaScript tasks within web applications is actually faster than Firefox's and Chrome's. Could version 10 be a coup for Microsoft?

As The Register notes, Microsoft researchers are claiming that popular JavaScript benchmarks are skewed in such a way that they don't reveal real performance at actual JavaScript tasks within actual web applications. At this page run by Douglas Cockford, a senior architect at Yahoo!, he writes:

"...benchmarks are not representative of the behavior of real web applications. But lacking credible benchmarks, engine developers are tuning to what they have. The danger is that the performance of the engines will be tuned to non-representative benchmarks, and then programming styles will be skewed to get the best performance from the mistuned engines."

The same page also links to a benchmark test that Cockford says is a fairer representation of actual JavaScript tasks within web applications. Notably, in his compilation of benchmark scores using this test, Internet Explorer 10 is fastest, and Firefox outperforms Google Chrome.

Yes, many will be quick to claim that Cockford is jumping on a bandwagon driven by Microsoft researchers with vested interests in promoting Microsoft's browser, but it still may be true that in the browser wars, there is overreliance on canned benchmarks that aren't reflective of actual web application usage. In any case, Cockford's benchmark is publicly availabe, so anyone can run it and evaluate whether his argument is a good one.

If Cockford's claims about Internet Explorer 10 are true, it is not just a little bit faster at real web applications than the major open source browser, but a lot faster. Given what we've seen from Firefox and Chrome developers, though, it won't be a surprise to see them tune their JavaScript engines to perform better on tests involving actual web applications. IE 10 is still in development, so the jury is out on which browser will win the race in the end.