Early Glimpse of Firefox 8 Shows Vast Performance Increases

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 11, 2011

Mozilla has faced some backlash from IT administrators for its move to a rapid release cycle with the Firefox browser, but you have to hand it to Mozilla for staying the course. For years, Firefox saw upgrades arrive far less frequently than they arrove for competitive browsers such as Google Chrome. Since announcing its new rapid release cycle earlier this year, Mozilla has released versions 4 and 5 of Firefox, and steadily gotten better at ironing out short-term kinks, most of which have had to do with extensions causing problems. Now, Firefox 8 is already being seen in nightly builds, although it's not released in final form yet, and early reports show it to be faster than current versions of Chrome across many benchmarks.

Firefox 7 and 8 run a new graphics engine called Azure, which you can read more about here.  And, in broad benchmark tests, ExtremeTech reports the following results:

"Firefox 8, which only just appeared on the Nightly channel, is already 20% faster than Firefox 5 in almost every metric: start up, session restore, first paint, JavaScript execution, and even 2D canvas and 3D WebGL rendering. The memory footprint of Firefox 7 (and thus 8) has also been drastically reduced, along with much-needed improvements to garbage collection."

Mozilla has already done extensive work on how memory is handled in Firefox 7, and these issues are likely to be addressed further with release 8. At this point, Chrome is Firefox's biggest competition, and ExtremeTech also reports:

"While comparison with other browsers has become a little passe in recent months — they’re all so damn similar! — it’s worth noting that Firefox 8 is as fast or faster than the latest Dev Channel build of Chrome 14. Chrome’s WebGL implementation is still faster, but with Azure, Firefox’s 2D performance is actually better than Chrome. JavaScript performance is also virtually identical."

I use Firefox and Chrome, but my primary reason for using Chrome is that it has been faster. With the early glimpse of Firefox 8, the performance gap stands a chance of being closed, and it looks like these two open source browsers have never competed more closely than they do now.