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Following Up On Firefox 3.5, Safari 4 and Chrome 2

Yesterday's review of three Web browsers--Mozilla Firefox 3.5, Apple's Safari 4 and Google's Chrome 2--didn't mark a huge departure from my recent history of browser reviews. I still like Firefox best overall, I still think Safari is a good fit on a Mac but not elsewhere, and I still think Chrome is missing some features I use too often to give up.


But I had a little more trouble choosing between newest versions of these browsers. I can see there are smart people at work behind all three--and they all seem to have their priorities straight, to judge from the emphasis on performance in each program. Things look promising for Firefox 4, Safari 5 and Chrome 3, in other words.

Here, a few more details about the review:

* For my JavaScript testing, I used a benchmark routine called SunSpider. That was developed by the authors of the WebKit software written for Safari, but it hasn't always favored Apple's browser. In my own tests, in Mac OS X 10.5.7, Safari 4 earned a score of 871.8 milliseconds, quite a bit faster than Firefox 3.5's score of 1418.6 ms; in Windows Vista Home Premium, things were closer, with Safari (768 ms) trailed only slightly by Chrome 2 (852.4 ms), with Firefox 3.5 bringing up the rear (1427 ms).

* For memory-use testing, I relied on the figures reported by Vista's Task Manager and OS X's Activity Monitor. One sample result: With a single window open to's home page in Vista, Safari needed about 98 megabytes of memory, Firefox took 55.7 MB and Chrome used 41 MB. In OS X, Firefox needed 78 MB and Safari required just 71 MB.

* For the reader who commented that Opera was "left off the list": If Opera 10 hadn't just emerged in a beta-test form that includes a few somewhat experimental features, it would have been an easier program to include.

* So what's so bad about Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8? (Wrote one reader: "I use IE8 every single day, and visit many, many, web sites, and have never had any compatibility problems. In addition, I have never had any IE8 problems with other software in Windows.") I'd point you to my review of IE 8 from this March--and the summary of readers' reports of IE 8-related problems that I had to write in May. But IE 8 deserves credit for one slight advantage: When I tested a batch of known phishing-site addresses that had been flagged on the PhishTank clearinghouse, IE 8 caught one well-crafted attack that put a correct domain in the address bars of Firefox, Safari and Chrome--but an hour later, those browsers had caught up to that scam as well.

Have any other questions about these browsers, or suggestions about features I should try in them or in competing programs? The comments are yours...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 6, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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I had not really thought about this since reading the review in yesterday's paper, but I think that Firefox 3.5 takes a lot more time to launch than the previous version. On a freshly booted Lenovo T61 it takes close to a minute for Firefox to start and on several occassions I have clicked on the Quick Launch bar a second time only to end up with two instances running.

As much as I like Chrome for basic browsing, I don't like the lack of options for controlling how it operates and I have firewall difficulties when I move from my corporate office to my home office. While most websites seem to be more aware that IE is not the only game in town, I still come across websites which only work wit IE (right now I am struggling through the financial aid process on my daughter's college site).

Posted by: skipper7 | July 6, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

For my iMac, my favorite browser is iCab 4, which is built on WebKit and in my experience has been more stable than Safari 4 and seems as fast. I prefer Safari for RSS feeds, but for other tasks, I like iCab.

Posted by: lissner | July 6, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I read a post in eWEEK online ( that Mozilla was feverishly working on Firefox v3.5.1, since many users had some problems (like the supposedly remedied memory leakage) with the production version of 3.5. The post stated that 3.5.1 should be released about the end of July. Any news you have heard about that issue?

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | July 6, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I can't speak to the latest versions, but having had lockup & crashing problems with Firefox 2 (with lots of tabs open), I tried the initial version of Chrome for a while, and found it did indeed seem more lockup-crash resistant; and liked several of its other search features and neat interface. But I eventually found Chrome's "minimalist" approach lacked several Firefox features I often used for serious browsing & searching, such as being able to display search history in several modes (last-visited, by date & site, etc), to search without downloading graphics (which slows things down a lot), being able to reorder bookmarks by name, etc. Do the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome change this picture? Your review doesn't say.

In the end I migrated from Chrome 1 to Firefox 3, and found that increasing memory (to 2.5Gb) eliminated most of the lockup problems. (All this with Windows XP, on a workstation-class laptop.)

Posted by: realitychecker1 | July 7, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse


I had to disable the current updated version of Opera, when it turned all of my saved freebe super short trailers [not too many] from into non-working items. That web site used the European format in IE apparently.

I hope the next version of Opera doesn't do that.

Posted by: | July 7, 2009 2:26 AM | Report abuse

The only problem I have with my main browser, Opera, is that it does not handle Gmail Standard View well. For that I use Chrome, but it has a problem in that a mouse hover in Gmail does not show a URL, in contrast to what Opera provides.

IE I only use for MS updates, as required.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | July 7, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse


I agree. Firefox 3.5 is beginning to annoy me with it's extremely slow start-up time. It takes 30 seconds to a minute, even if the computer is fully booted and resting and has no other programs open and running except for what normally runs in the background (antivirus, etc.). This is more than twice as long to launch as the previous version of Firefox for me, and even then Firefox still took longer to start than IE does.

If Mozilla doesn't figure out a way to make Firefox launch faster (as in taking about a tenth of the time that it currently does, or less), they are going to see a lot of people drift away. There is no reason for a browser to take 30 seconds to a minute to load.

Posted by: blert | July 7, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

After trying different browsers on multiple OS -
Linux, Mac, Windoz - I use Firefox.
Firefox works the same on all systems, a plethora of terrific add-ons (free & not free), and works
on all sites that are not uSoft specific (there is IE compatibility mode available for rude sites).
Bottom line, it does what I want it to do and it performns well enough to keep me happy.

Posted by: George20 | July 7, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately this "review" and it's associated comments do very little to clarify differences between browsers. For example, the memory usage cited make no allotment for how the memory is actually used; is Firefox's additional memory allocated early on so less can be allocated when additional windows/tabs are opened? Just because a program (or O/S) is "booted," it doesn't mean that it is operational -- it only looks that way. I don't know the answer, but I do know that this little bit of information serves no purpose but to confuse the issue.

Same holds true of things like boot time, etc. Should I write my program so it boots faster and takes longer to do some things or boots slower and runs faster.

Posted by: lennyp | July 7, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I haven't used Chrome, but I have used the others and I have to say that there is nothing in any of them that really makes them stand out from each other. Each does what is expected at about the same speed. Microsoft's browser works better with Outlook Web Access of course, but other than that I don't see a huge difference between any of them. Other than having an enmity towards Microsoft or an affinity for Apple I don't see any good reason to use one over another.
This is just the opinion of an IT professional without any ax to grind and who doesn't live for saving three bytes of RAM or 20MS of time.

Posted by: ThomasFiore | July 7, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I can confirm the long start up time with Firefox 3.5. If you open a second instance, as expected, that is faster.

Chrome does have an annoying habit of losing login settings every once in a while. Very annoying.

I use Chrome for my main browsing for sheer launching and browsing speed, FF for some sites when I'm annoyed that Chrome lost the password, and IE for work. That work is the app I help develop uses ActiveX plugins to view video.

Posted by: eternalemperor | July 7, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I agree with skipper7 and blert on Firefox 3.5. It also took me 30 seconds to log in to post this. I had to disable the following Add-ons just to get the W.P. crossword to load: No Script, Long URL Please, Java Quick Starter and Adblock Plus.

Posted by: MRGB | July 7, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

After years of enjoying and extolling Safari's 'snapback' option (which makes browsing much easier on 'deep' sites like the Post), I'm stunned that Apple has removed it in Safari 4, and won't even acknowledge the change in the face of user complaints.

I jumped through some flaming hoops today to remove Safari 4 from my Mac (no uninstall option!) and restore Safari 3. If Apple won't restore the snapback function, subsequent versions of Safari are dead to me, and I'll find another browser of choice.

Posted by: jnorrix | July 7, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Firefox 3.5 has been crashing on me of late, especially with multiple tabs open at once, and I don't like it. Thinking of migrating to either Safari or iCab.

Posted by: CaptainJohn2525 | July 8, 2009 2:22 AM | Report abuse

What I noticed immediately was 3.5 Firefox had slowed down loading pages. I turned off using the tab function and it seemed to improve speed quite a bit. I don't think using tabs in any browser helps too much.

Posted by: buzzvader | July 8, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

I run firefox 3.5 on an HP HDX18 notebook. It loads from cold to fully functional website in under 2 seconds. But my computer has a Windows Experience Index of 5.4 so I guess I am throwing a lot of power at it.

Posted by: POFTL | July 8, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Firefox 3.5 has been faster for me than the previous version, including loading faster. My only gripe is that three of the extensions I had installed don't work with 3.5 (yet, anyway). One of those was solely cosmetic (the Washington Capitals browser theme), so that's not a major issue. The other (an improved login manager) is a loss I will feel more acutely.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 9, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

For the people complaining about long startup times for Firefox 3.5: Can you try the fixes suggested in this blog post and report back here if they help?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | July 10, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

According to Mozilla, Firefox 3.5 is based on the Gecko 1.9.1 rendering platform, which has been under development for the past years.

Posted by: cylim | July 12, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Rob, I am switching back from Chrome to IE8 for two primary reasons. Despite Chrome's speed I am tired of getting to web pages and not being able to see all content. IE shows all the content. Second, the lack of Print Preview has been an occasional hassle.

Posted by: msimburg | July 13, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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