Mozilla needs to step it up

I’m currently using the Chromium developer builds for Linux and it’s amazing how Chromium is still so much faster than Firefox even though Google Chrome has been out for over a year now and Mozilla just performed a major release this summer.

It’s pretty obvious that TraceMonkey in its present state doesn’t hold up to either V8 or SquirrelFish Extreme (which score rather similarly in my experience, usually with SFX a relatively slight margin ahead of V8). I understand that TraceMonkey is much more competitive on Windows, but I almost never use Windows so I don’t care to look into that.

Mozilla really needs to focus on getting consistently good performance if they want to remain relevant.

Chromium is a godsend because of the competition and development it has both encouraged and provided in regard to in-browser JavaScript VMs. It is crucial to the future of the web that we get this show on the road, because fast JavaScript and HTML 5 canvas means the end of proprietary, patent-encumbered necessary evils like Flash and Silverlight. It’s almost impossible to browse without Flash anymore, and that must change.

I’m annoyed at Mozilla because despite their overtures and aggrandizing, Firefox is improving very slowly, and still can’t seem to cope with many of the same demos that Chrome 1.0 was chewing through without issue.

The sad thing is that I don’t really want to switch to Chromium and I don’t want the world to switch to it either. Google has way too much control as it is, with access to almost everyone’s email, search history, etc., and the ability to effectively kill off anyone who depends on referrals from search traffic (most sites see 80%-90% of external search referrals from Google) and Firefox already has thousands of good extensions and themes, not to mention a slight rapport and installed base in the general public.

But Chromium is just so much faster and safer; even if I could bring myself to ignore the 250% speed difference in _just_ the JavaScript VM (no mention here of Chromium’s vastly faster user interface), Firefox has been crashing a lot lately due to erroneous packaging by my distro, but if and when Chromium crashes, it only brings down the affected tab and everything else remains intact, which, at least this week, has made browsing much more pleasant.

Chromium’s every-tab-as-a-process technique also makes exploits much more difficult.

These are the results I just got from Sunspider, against the latest available Chromium and Firefox 3.7 nightly builds on an up-to-date Arch Linux install with kernel 2.6.31.

This is a 32-bit Chromium against a 64-bit Firefox, but the 32-bit to 32-bit results were similar and actually a bit less favorable to Firefox.

TEST                   COMPARISON            FROM                 TO             DETAILS

=============================================================================

** TOTAL **:           2.22x as fast     1092.2ms +/- 4.7%   492.6ms +/- 3.6%     significant

=============================================================================

  3d:                  2.10x as fast      154.4ms +/- 1.5%    73.4ms +/- 4.3%     significant
    cube:              1.87x as fast       47.2ms +/- 6.0%    25.2ms +/- 5.4%     significant
    morph:             1.40x as fast       35.0ms +/- 0.0%    25.0ms +/- 7.0%     significant
    raytrace:          3.11x as fast       72.2ms +/- 2.8%    23.2ms +/- 5.9%     significant

  access:              3.50x as fast      130.8ms +/- 1.6%    37.4ms +/- 6.5%     significant
    binary-trees:      20.0x as fast       40.0ms +/- 3.1%     2.0ms +/- 44.0%     significant
    fannkuch:          4.00x as fast       55.2ms +/- 1.9%    13.8ms +/- 9.9%     significant
    nbody:             1.28x as fast       23.6ms +/- 2.9%    18.4ms +/- 3.7%     significant
    nsieve:            3.75x as fast       12.0ms +/- 12.7%     3.2ms +/- 17.4%     significant

  bitops:              ??                  36.6ms +/- 6.2%    37.0ms +/- 4.1%     not conclusive: might be *1.01x as slow*
    3bit-bits-in-byte: ??                   1.6ms +/- 42.6%     2.4ms +/- 28.4%     not conclusive: might be *1.50x as slow*
    bits-in-byte:      1.18x as fast       10.6ms +/- 6.4%     9.0ms +/- 9.8%     significant
    bitwise-and:       *4.27x as slow*      2.2ms +/- 25.3%     9.4ms +/- 7.2%     significant
    nsieve-bits:       1.37x as fast       22.2ms +/- 8.3%    16.2ms +/- 6.4%     significant

  controlflow:         10.7x as fast       34.4ms +/- 4.1%     3.2ms +/- 17.4%     significant
    recursive:         10.7x as fast       34.4ms +/- 4.1%     3.2ms +/- 17.4%     significant

  crypto:              1.82x as fast       56.8ms +/- 7.0%    31.2ms +/- 6.5%     significant
    aes:               3.57x as fast       33.6ms +/- 8.1%     9.4ms +/- 7.2%     significant
    md5:               1.29x as fast       14.2ms +/- 3.9%    11.0ms +/- 8.0%     significant
    sha1:              *1.20x as slow*      9.0ms +/- 16.9%    10.8ms +/- 9.6%     significant

  date:                2.28x as fast      171.6ms +/- 2.2%    75.2ms +/- 3.9%     significant
    format-tofte:      3.46x as fast      104.4ms +/- 3.4%    30.2ms +/- 1.8%     significant
    format-xparb:      1.49x as fast       67.2ms +/- 2.4%    45.0ms +/- 5.9%     significant

  math:                *1.05x as slow*     45.4ms +/- 2.4%    47.6ms +/- 3.5%     significant
    cordic:            1.06x as fast       20.2ms +/- 2.8%    19.0ms +/- 6.5%     significant
    partial-sums:      *1.10x as slow*     18.8ms +/- 3.0%    20.6ms +/- 3.3%     significant
    spectral-norm:     *1.25x as slow*      6.4ms +/- 17.4%     8.0ms +/- 0.0%     significant

  regexp:              4.44x as fast       78.2ms +/- 12.2%    17.6ms +/- 3.9%     significant
    dna:               4.44x as fast       78.2ms +/- 12.2%    17.6ms +/- 3.9%     significant

  string:              2.26x as fast      384.0ms +/- 11.2%   170.0ms +/- 4.8%     significant
    base64:            *1.60x as slow*     11.0ms +/- 8.0%    17.6ms +/- 6.3%     significant
    fasta:             2.49x as fast       72.8ms +/- 3.9%    29.2ms +/- 7.6%     significant
    tagcloud:          2.83x as fast      102.4ms +/- 6.7%    36.2ms +/- 7.4%     significant
    unpack-code:       3.02x as fast      162.6ms +/- 17.7%    53.8ms +/- 3.4%     significant
    validate-input:    -                   35.2ms +/- 18.3%    33.2ms +/- 4.9%

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