Keep Your Eye on Webkit and Multiple Browsers in the Browser Wars

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 04, 2008

Wow, the competition among open source browsers is getting so heated that you have to stay on top of the day-to-day goings on with the pre-release versions. We've written before about Google Chrome winning speed tests, and I keep hearing people cite it as the fastest browser. Meanwhile, CNet has been posting speed results showing very strong performance from the beta version of Firefox 3.1 (it is indeed snappy).  Now, there are some new performance results out that show the nightly builds of Webkit--the open source rendering engine within Safari and Chrome--posting the fastest speeds of all.

Chrome, like Safari, uses Webkit as its rendering engine, but it has its own V8 javascript engine and other components. For that reason, and others, Webkit and Chrome are two different things.

Check out the Sunspider benchmarks shown here for the nightly build of Webkit, the nightly build of Firefox Minefield (note that this is running on Ubuntu), and Google Chrome. Webkit dusts the others off.

I've been a fan of Webkit for a long time, and it is the rendering core in far more browsers than just Chrome and Safari, including several open source browsers. It's good to see it competing so effectively.

As we've written before, the really good news is that open source browsers are absolutely defining innovation in browsers. They're doing so at such a rate that I won't be surprised to see next-generation open source browsers entirely change how we use things like hosted applications. Speed improvements can have a big impact on enhancing resource-intensive web-hosted applications, and lightweight form factors are likely to lead to much better mobile browsing experiences.

Meanwhile, another browsing trend I've noticed is that more people are using multiple browsers, especially people using both Firefox and Chrome. We posted recently about how extensions are coming for Google Chrome, which could level the playing field between extension-rich Firefox and extension-starved Chrome. In response to a related item, a reader said this:

"Is it just me or has anyone made their Firefox too heavy like I did? Don’t get me wrong I “need” every add-on I installed but I use Chrome when I want to take it old school and just browse with a lite and very quick browser. I hope they don’t come out with add-ons so I won’t be tempted."

While I am looking forward to extensions for Chrome, I can relate to this. Indeed, if you do use many extensions with Firefox, they can start to slow performance down, and they occasionally crash into each other. I'm increasingly running Firefox when I want my extensions available, and Chrome when I just want snappy, unfettered performance.