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Close to a Perfect Web Browser?
Latest Web Technology & Web Design News, March 8, 2011

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March 8, 2011

I've liked the Google Chrome Web browser since it first showed up in 2008. Today, with the slipstream release of Chrome 10, I may finally be ready to retire all my other Web browsers.
By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

The reason I'm considering doing this is quite simple. Chrome 10 Web browswer is screamingly fast. It's more than ten-times faster than its first version was in dealing with JavaScript. It also leads all other of today's Web-browsers when it comes to raw JavaScript processing speed with its new "Crankshaft" V8 JavaScript engine.

Update: I, and a lot of my readers, were puzzled about why this set of SunSpider results showed IE 9 doing so badly compared to Chrome 10, so I took a closer look. This time IE 9 took first by a nose.

How much faster? Well on the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.91 test, Chrome left most, but not all of the other Web browsers eating its dust. I tested Chrome 10 on my Mint Linux 10 PC and was impressed. For benchmarking it though I decided to run it on my Windows 7 SP 1 system so that the forthcoming Internet Explorer 9 could get its innings in.

My Windows 7 test PC is a Gateway DX4710. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It's no speed demon, but it gets the job done. It's hooked to the Web via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 25Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Web connection. On this system, I then ran the SunSpider benchmarks three times for each Web browser,

IE 9, despite my hopes that it would show better, came in, a dismal last with a mark of only 1,185.8-ms (milliseconds). As for IE 8... Well let's just say it lagged even further back. That said, it should be kept in mind that only a year ago IE 9's numbers would have been great. Today, not so much. IE 9 was followed by Firefox 3.6.15, the latest Web browser version, with 945.0ms.

Apple's Safari 5.03 took third place in my impromptu Web browser drag race with an impressive 422.1ms mark. And, coming up right behind Chrome, there was the Firefox 4 beta 12 with a time of 388.0ms. But, winning by a small margin, there was Chrome 10 with a speed of 321.0ms.

If it were speed alone, it would be a close race, but while Chrome 10's pure speed is impressive, it's not the whole story.

Beyond Pure Speed

Chrome now places its setting in its own tab. This makes it both easier to get at them and to work with them. It didn't sound like much of an improvement to me, but after a few hours of tinkering with Chrome 10, I actually found it quite useful. If you're not sure where the right setting is, Chrome also includes a search mechanism so you can quickly find it.

The new Web browser also gives you the power to sync Web browser bookmarks and passwords between all your PCs using Chrome no matter whether you're running Chrome on Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows. I loved these feature in Xmarks, which is still, to the best of my knowledge, the only Web browser extension that lets you share bookmarks and passwords across Web browsers, and I love seeing this functionality built into Chrome. If you're like me, and using multiple PCs and laptops during a day, it's an invaluable addition to your Web browser arsenal.

Chrome, which has always scored well in security, has extended its sandbox security style to its built-in Adobe Flash Player. What this means is that even if something tries to use Flash to put malware on your computer, the mis-behaving program is stuck inside a virtual sandbox where it can't get to the rest of your PC. This technique has worked well enough that Google is offering a cool $20,000 to anyone who can break out of the Chrome sandbox and exploit a Windows 7 PC in the upcoming Pwn2Own 2011 competition.

Even if a security hole is found, I'm not too worried about it. Not only is Google willing to put its money behind finding and fixing bugs, Chrome is based on open-source code so its problems will always be easy to find and then fix.

The only thing that some people will object to is that Chrome 10, as Google had announced, no longer supports H.264. I don't see this as a huge problem because, like it or lump it, the default video standard for the Web is Adobe Flash (big mistake). Google hopes it will become its own VP8/WebM video codec and container standards, but that's a story that's going to take years to resolve. Suffice it to say that if you really need H.264 support in Chrome, and you're running Windows, Microsoft has a H.264 plug-in for you. If, in the end, it turns out H.264 does become the Web video standard, then Google will restore this functionality.

In short, while Web video standards are a big deal, Google not supporting H.264 in this version of Chrome isn't a big deal (but it will be).

Today, I'm not worried about H.264 support. Today, I'm happy that Chrome 10 is proving to be such an exceptionally secure and remarkably fast Web browser. A perfect 10? No, not quite, but closer than anyone else out there for now.

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