Saturday, September 06, 2008

Google Chrome: Makes Mozilla Step Up, Microsoft Squirms, Adobe is Lost

firefox_3_logoIn what seems to be an call from Mozilla not to be forgotten so quickly, the developers of Firefox have released a last second upgrade to Firefox 3. Though still in beta (recommended for developers and testers only) this new version seeks to take the limelight away from Google Chrome just a little bit. As an avid fan of Firefox myself, I’m still using it for 70% of my serious browsing, especially if I need a resource for coding or similar tasks, but for faster playing around online I have to admit that Chrome leaves Firefox sitting on the starting line in a wake of browser dust when it comes to the speed of loading sites.




To combat the JavaScript frenzy surrounding Chrome, Firefox 3.1 Alpha introduces the Mozilla competitor for V8, dubbed TraceMonkey, a “project to bring native code speed to JavaScript” according to Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s interim Vice President of Engineering. According to Shaver, TraceMonkey will double the speed at which Firefox handles Javascript.


chromeSome friends of mine have reviewed Chrome since I mentioned it earlier this week, some with positive reviews and some with negative, though the negative reviews didn’t cite and reasons why. I myself have been let down by Chrome a few times when something I was trying to do didn’t work properly, but I temper my dissatisfaction with the knowledge that Chrome has been on the market for less than 96 hours while its competitors have been in the market for four or more years. I’m giving Google the benefit of the doubt that updates in the near future will iron this issue out. 


My only negative experience thus far has been the failure of the Sandbox to operate properly. Chrome touts its new sandbox feature as a tool to prevent one crashing tab from crashing the whole browser, meaning you only lose one tab, not all five or ten you may have open. Thus far I have had Chrome crash on me twice and it has yet to only crash the one tab, instead crashing the whole browser. I will however admit that I wasn’t just browsing the web when this happened. I’m constantly playing around in sites that tend to strain any browser; editing my web site’s code, while remotely controlling client computers, and other tasks that tend to require many instances of JavaScript, ActiveX, and more to be playing nicely together, which they seldom do efficiently.



Chrome’s new JavaScript engine also has Microsoft slightly worried. Recently Microsoft has released a beta of Internet Explorer 8.2, which in my opinion should have stayed on the shelf a even load at all under the new Microsoft interface. The work around for this is their new Compatibility Mode, which will revert the site back to IE7 viewing mode, however this feature either crashes or doesn't seem to work at all when I need it to. As soon as I get the current page to display properly, I usually have to go on to a new page, which reverts back to IE8 mode. Clicking IE7 compatibility again reloads the page and takes me back to the previous page where I begin the monotonous cycle again.


Many users are complaining in forums that their web programs seem broken, but when asked they admit that it only doesn’t work in IE8 Beta 2. Quite frankly, you should have better sense than to be working on hardcore applications in a Beta browser without expecting it to fail. My advice to these people is simple; stop complaining to companies for their sites not working! Instead, complain to Microsoft that their browser doesn’t work with the site in question. Even Microsoft can’t read minds (yet). They cant’ fix what they don’t know about.


Back to the point, Microsoft seems to fear Chrome and its V8 technology as well. While Google and Chrome are battling with Mozilla and TraceMonkey, Microsoft has been working hard to convince people Silverlight is better than Adobe System’s flash component. Why Microsoft would invent a technology like Silverlight, which is only another way of doing what flash already does just fine, and which is only supported on Microsoft’s browser is completely beyond me. (This isn’t to say it wont “work” on other browsers, but that Microsoft doesn’t offer support for how to make it do so. Full compatibility for silverlight can be seen here: by clicking on System Requirements at the bottom of the page.)

silverlight My only thought is Microsoft thinks if they can convince a majority of  the global market of programmers to switch to Silverlight over Flash that they can then lock them in to designing sites for Internet Explorer and thus recapture their choke-hold on the market. This seems to be to be back to their Nazi approach to the Internet; “Do it using our way or die!”  Maybe a screaming three year old throwing a tantrum is a better mental picture for their approach. Either way it seems they don’t want to make anything better for anyone unless it means hoarding users for themselves.


The inherent problem with Silverlight is the web resides firmly in favor of JavaScript programming over Flash or Silverlight. It seems the two kids (Microsoft and Adobe) are just now looking around to see that no one cares about their fight and instead have moved on to how to address faster JavaScript.  Faced with the decision to program in Silverlight or Javascript, most programmers have decided to stick with JavaScript. Its malleable and can do more now than ever and shows no signs of limitations in the near future, so why bother learning something new that has no advantage?


In fairness to Microsoft it should be stated that Silverlight is designed to compete more in the online video market against Flash than within the browser application market, but I can easily envision the two markets converging within the next two years or so into some mashup of programming that can perform both tasks with one application. I have no technical inside information from which to possess that opinion, but it just seems like the next logical step to me.


Neat Features for Chrome: Easter Eggs

There are a few neat features in Chrome some of us wont’ ever be aware of if we aren’t told about. Called “easter eggs” these features are hidden and not advertised as benefits to the browser. I’ve used most of them and they provide some interesting informative results. Try typing these commands into the browser window (called “Omnibox)

  • about:memory
    This shows how much memory the browser is using. I currently have one browser instance of Chrome running and one instance of Firefox 3 running. Take a look at the stats below for memory usage on my PC.
    Firefox takes up 400% more private memory, 53% more shared memory, and a total of 311% more of my PC’s memory to run. WOW. I opened up Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to the same page and did a memory test. I had to open up 11 new tabs and load the same page for Chrome to consume almost as much memory as Firefox. It hands down is better on memory consumption.
  • about:stats
    Shows internal measurements of Chrome.
  • about:network
    Tracks network activity of using a particular web site.
  • about:version
    Shows your current version information about Chrome
  • about:histograms
    Shows performance measurements such as time to autocomplete text and other related information.
  • about:crash
    Crashes the tab you’re currently looking at.

If you have a comment or thought about any of this, please be kind enough to leave it in the comments section. I’m interested to see what others have to say about the new browsers.

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