Mozilla released the first beta of Firefox 4 yesterday. In addition to offering a spiffy, new interface and a whole host of new features, including enhanced HTML5 and WebM video support, the latest version should be faster. As there have been a few new browser releases recently, with Opera, Chrome and Safari all making great leaps forward, I though it was time to do a comprehensive head-to-head test to see how the new Firefox stacks up against them.
Rather than using my usual testing suite, WebKit’s SunSpider, for this shootout I used Mozilla’s Dromaeo testing suite. Dromaeo takes a lot longer to run — around 15 minutes or so — but it’s also much more comprehensive than SunSpider (it actually incorporates tests from Sunspider and also from Google’s V8 benchmark suite). For comparison, I also used the Peacekeeper tests, another comprehensive browser performance testing suite. Testing was done on my 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro; only the major Mac browsers were tested.
While there is some disparity between the results — it’s surprising that Opera 10.6 does very well on the Peacekeeper test (and in my previous SunSpider tests) but not so well on Dromaeo — it’s clear that although the beta of Firefox 4 shows a definite improvement, it’s still lagging behind the other browsers, particularly Chrome, which was the fastest on both tests. Hopefully that’s something the Mozilla developers will work on as they work towards a final release of Firefox 4, which is due by the end of the year. However, given the rapid release cycles of the other browser vendors, will Mozilla be able to keep up? Firefox still has a few aces up its sleeve — a giant extension ecosystem, an enormous user base and some innovative new features, like in-browser contacts management — but on raw speed it’s still losing out to its main competitors.
If you’d like to try Firefox 4, you can download it here. As with all pre-release software, there may still be some gremlins to iron out.
Let us know what you think of the new Firefox 4 beta in the comments.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?