Remember megahertz and gigahertz? For well over a decade speed was what differentiated computers, Mac or Windows.
For the most part, CPU speed doesn’t matter much anymore. How about web browsers? Does being the fastest browser really matter?
Apple claims the new Safari, version 3.1, is the fastest browser available, Mac or Windows PC. Mozilla’s Firefox 3, still in beta, was released this week and some folks at ZDnet proclaimed it faster than Safari.
In my own non-scientific tests, the latest version of Safari, Mac or Windows seems faster at displaying web pags than Firefox, Mac or Windows, and certainly much faster than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
It means about as much as gigahertz on the average Mac or PC. What’s important is probably how good the pages looks, how quickly it renders, and how stable the browsing experience is.
Firefox users may argue that it’s all about extensions, but that’s not the case for the average browser user.
To compare Apples to apples, I downloaded the latest Firefox beta, version 5, to give it a try. I’d used the first three betas but found them to be sluggish and buggy. I skipped beta 4 entirely, though I admit that beta 5 works well (what’s with the huge Back button?).
Thanks to an alert Mac360 reader, always ready with a good link, I was able to download one of the nightly builds of Safari, also known as WebKit. Consider it the latest Safari beta.
What’s the difference between the two? Not much. Both rendered pages very fast, and the pages looked good. I like Safari’s look on the Mac better than Firefox. It’s a font thing. Firefox 3 has improved font rendering. On Windows, Safari looks good, but it’s arguable as to which renders fonts better, Safari, Firefox, or MSIE.
Firefox 3 on Mac looks more like a Mac application. Many of the old extensions I’d used on previous Firefox versions didn’t work with Firefox 3, but that’s to be expected. It’s a beta.
The question is, does it matter? Latency, bandwidth, and browser speed improvements have converged to provide a very pleasant web browsing experience these days.
Web sites are being constructed with a better balance of HTML/XHTML and CSS and adhere closer to the validated standards of each, further improving the browser experience.
What do we really want from a browser, and can we get it with today’s crop of very good browsers? For me, it’s accurate and attractive page rendering, compatibility with sites, page rendering speed, stability, security, and extra features, and in that order.
Like gigahertz on the average notebook or desktop, page rendering speed is becoming less important these days. I use Firefox for part of my work because of the variety of extensions. My day to day browser use has settled on Safari for Mac and Windows, sometimes Firefox, Mac and Windows, with a look at Internet Explorer, just to maintain compatibility.
Apple seems to be setting up a cross platform usability and experience differentiation with Safari on Mac, Windows, iPhone, and iPod touch. Frankly, the experience is pleasant, especially when added to QuickTime and iTunes, Mac and Windows.
Speed? It’s not much of an issue these days for anything. No one talks much about the speed differences between Macs and PCs. For the average user, there really isn’t any. Users of web browsers live in a golden age of browsers.
What’s your experience with browsers? Which is best and why?