Firefox 4 the Fastest Browser? Not Yet!

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 22, 2010
Updated • Feb 26, 2015

Browser developers like to compare their browser to others. We have the fastest, or we are closing in, or we gained xxx percent over the last couple of months have become common ever since Google Chrome made its first appearance.

Asa of Mozilla published a new article yesterday with the title "are we fast yet?" in which he came to the conclusion that the latest Firefox 4 JavaScript performance resulted in the "fastest Sunspider score on the planet".

Sunspider is a JavaScript benchmark that is typically used to compare the performance of different web browsers in this field.

Claiming that the latest Firefox 4 builds have the fastest score is one thing, but neglecting Opera and Internet Explorer in the comparison is another. Asa mentioned technical restrictions as the reason, as the performance was measured in a shell test, not browser test.

The chart shows Mozilla's Spidermonkey JavaScript engine beating both Google v8 and Apple Nitro by a slim margin.

Lets take a look at our own unscientific results of all four browsers running the SunSpider benchmark.

We have thrown the latest versions at the JavaScript benchmark, in particular: Firefox 4.0b8pre, Opera 11 Alpha, Internet Explorer 9 Beta and Google Chrome 8.0.552.5 dev.

browser speed

The Google Chrome browser had the fastest JavaScript performance in the test, beating the second placed Opera 11 Alpha by roughly 30ms. Firefox 4 was 30ms behind Opera 10 Alpha, and Internet Explorer another 30ms behind Firefox. The difference between the first placed Google Chrome and Microsoft's Internet Explorer was less than 120ms.

What does it mean? All web browsers offer a fast JavaScript performance. The difference in JavaScript performance is slim and should not play a big role anymore for most users. It has to be noted that JavaScript performance is just one of the factors of a browser's web performance.

I'd say it is time to congratulate all browsers on their performance and move on and never look back. Yes, browsers will get even faster in the future but it will not have such a big impact anymore than in the past. All are fast and that's it. This means that it is time to look at other parameters when making the default browser choice.

What's your take on this? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. 98199 said on October 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Speed among all these contenders are negligible at best, I mean nanosecond differences is not going to ruin my day but what is more important that no one hardly ever talks about is the issue of resource allocation.

    I have noticed that chrome takes up way too much resources when it’s running..take a look at your task manager whenever you have that sucker running with multiple windows open, it hogs CPU and memory. Same can be said of Opera and FF as well.

    My biggest wish is for these browser makers to makes their programs less resource hogs..tighten them up…that is all I ask..

    1. Daniel said on October 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm

      Resource hogs don’t seem to be a major issue anymore for people with Windows 7 or Linux.

      There are lightweights though: Maxthon3 and Seamonkey.
      Of course, the first one doesn’t have email client but PopPeeper or even Digsby can cover that area pretty well.

  2. operakat said on October 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Yes, I agree, let’s move on now, away from discussing varying javascript speed tests to overall web speed, which is always something that Opera has led for 15 years.

    The other important browser news is now that Google has a browser, are they using their search site as a hammer to discredit other browsers like Opera by blocking them on Google Instant?

    Why has it been almost 2 months and Google can’t unblock Opera from using Google Instant; w/o requiring changing the Opera UA to FF?

    I’m sure it’s a simple oversight…like Google stealing of passwords and emails in the Street View fiasco, after they said they didn’t.

  3. Afya said on October 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Everyone knows JS isn’t everything. But the progress Mozilla made really impresses me. At the beginning, when I see the chart in arewefastyet, I thought it’s impossible, and think Mozilla is somewhat optimistic. But now they’ve made it, even its system dependent, and I’m sure thats not an easy task.

  4. WonderCsabo said on October 23, 2010 at 12:12 am

    You made an article wich stands on bad results, questioning Fx4’s SS speed (not JS speed!)…

    Yeah, the SS benchmark doesn’t show the actual real-world JS performance, and JS performance is not everything at all, we know that.

    Don’t you feel you’re little bit contemptuous?

    James: Chrome is still the most responsive browser on the market.

  5. Lulu said on October 22, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Agreed, JS performance isn’t everything. Ad FasterFox (Elad Mod) to FF and you’ll see a true performance gain with a high speed connection.
    Even with IE you can make registry changes to increase the amount of connections per server.
    However, if you want to make these changes in Chrome you’ll have to modify and compile from source. No thanks! The lack of an About:Config in Chrome means it’ll never be installed on my system.
    Chrome is the least configurable and thus the fastest and lightest. FF is the most configurable and is the slowest and heaviest. Opera has a chance to be somewhere in between which is very interesting. Sorry but IE9 just doesn’t register.

  6. Daniel said on October 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm


    3 out of 9 ain’t bad. ;)

    1. Adam said on December 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm

      Opera has the 9 points. Only the 8 is missing and it is possible with a userscript.

  7. James said on October 22, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Now since most of the browsers are Blazing fast, Google Chrome doesn’t have any Major feature that sets it apart from the others, thus Opera, Firefox and OMG even IE are better choices! Epic Fail Google…

  8. WonderCsabo said on October 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I can just repeat myself: and another thing: Fx4 SS benchmark performance shows an irrelevant result. Until Bug 598650 and Bug 599127 is not fixed, we cannot really compare it to other browsers.

    Yeah, i defend Fx4 against lies. What i mentioned, are facts. The AWFY is a totally relevant, well measured test system, i dunno why you question it because of your home made benchmark results…

    1. Martin said on October 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      The problem here is that you do not understand what I’m trying to say. And since this would turn into another endless discussion with a narrow minded Internet user, I close it with the following, leave it at that and have decided to spend my time otherwise.

  9. WonderCsabo said on October 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I’m sure that you didnt tested the latest Fx4 Tracemonkey build, wich has the improvements.

    And another thing: Fx4 SS benchmark performance shows an irrelevant result. Until Bug 598650 and Bug 599127 is not fixed, we cannot really compare it to other browsers.

    The uses shell to benchmark, that result is correct.

    1. Martin said on October 22, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Nice that you are defending your browser, really. I have downloaded the version that you mentioned and this version reduced the Firefox score to 260ms, which is as fast as Opera, but still slower than Chrome.

      For me, for now, Firefox is not the fastest browser JavaScript wise. And even if, those speed tests become irrelevant anyway.

      1. Tim said on November 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

        Well hurray, because he gave you the wrong link too…
        You don’t need the Tracemonkey release, you need the combination of Tracemonkey and Jägermonkey. You can download it at

        I know I’m late, but I just wanted to mention this ;)

      2. Martin said on November 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm

        Thanks Tim, it is getting confusing now, with all the builds and such ;)

  10. MM said on October 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Will see when opera adds extensions. Until then firefox all the way.

  11. kalmly said on October 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed FF. I started using it early on. However, for some time now, while it loads fast enough and pops up pages quickly when I first launch them, clicking links to other urls moves slower and slower and often fails altogether. The add-ons are great but I don’t use that many and I had to give up on my favorite, Flashblock, because it became so unreliable. It prevented some videos from running at all – I never could figure out why – and would suddenly decide to block something I was listening to. The only way I could get it working again would be to shut down FF and start it up again. Instead, I found myself going to IE more and more.

    Opera for me from now on.

  12. OAlexander said on October 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Java should hardly be used to begin with, just like SWF. Beyond that, I stick generally with what colleague Daniel said above: The flexibility of Firefox is unrivaled, thanks to the myriad of fabulous extensions. As long as they don’t wreck it by removing the statusbar, etc, …

    1. zgitrdun8705 said on October 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm


      Javascript is not Java…’s an unfortunate and confusing name choice. JavaScript’s official name is ECMAScript, and it’s used to create dynamic webpages.

  13. Daniel said on October 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Couldn’t say it better Martin.

    For the time being i give preference to Firefox because of it’s flexibility.
    1. The toolbars can be manipulated much more than any other.
    2. The url remembers which pages you visit most.
    3. Shortcuts are easier to remember and more functional.
    4. Extensions have proven their worth and are easier to find online.
    5. People who like different themes can’t find a better browser.
    6. Compatibilty with webpages is practically a non issue.
    7. It remembers the zoom size of the page you visited.
    8. Zooming keeps images and text in proportion to one another.
    9. Never crashes (at least not on my Windows7 Home).

    What else did i miss?

    1. Sascha said on October 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm


      Mostly everything you mentioned is also delivered by Opera which I prefer. Some issues are even better in Opera.

      But again: It all depends on what you like and don’t like! :)

  14. Sascha said on October 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I agree, speed is not all! The Browsers in future will make the difference by the people behind them or using them. It is like real life friendship, you like people for their habits and behaviour or you don’t.

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