Now that I’ve evaluated Mac web browsers twice in the last year, it seemed like a good idea to take a closer look at some of the Windows web browsing options for the 90%+ Connected Internet readers who aren’t Mac users.
In the past, web browsing options were more limited on Windows, despite the massive majority of installed users. Windows never has been a hotbed for developer interest, at least in the area of freeware. However, I was guessing that Mozilla and Webkit have been around long enough now that Windows developers had finally gotten around to creating some alternatives to the brand name browsers, and I was right.
Four rendering engines are represented. Opera uses it’s own proprietary engine, Presto. The rest fall into three categories: Trident (IE), Mozilla and Webkit. For those of you coming to the party late, Mozilla is the codebase that traces it’s roots back to Netscape and is more commonly associated with Firefox these days. Webkit is Apple’s implementation of the khtml engine from the KDE desktop environment for X.
Lunascape is unique in that it incorporates Trident, Mozilla, and Webkit, allowing the user to change rendering engines to suit their browsing. If you prefer Webkit, but a certain site works better in Trident, not a problem with Lunascape, and no need for multiple browsers. A solid idea in theory, we’ll see how it works in practice.
- Mozilla based browsers:
- Firefox 3.5.2
- Flock 2.5 -the original social browser
- Wyzo 3.0.3 -new Mozilla browser, claims to increase download speed
- Blackbird African-American biased web browser. The divisive browser. This is an article all by itself, but in a nutshell, it’s Firefox with a dark theme, a news ticker and a grim reminder about the state of race relations in the United States.
- Trident based browsers:
- Internet Explorer 8
The tests used are:
- Acid 3 Tests standards compliance
- Crab Test Flash performance
Chrome scored best here, as it did on the Mac Shootout!, in fact even better than in the Mac shootout. Safari posted second, as it did in the Mac Shootout!, with a score that was very close to the Mac number it set. This is good news for Windows users, as Chrome and Safari, using technology that originated on the Mac platform, perform as well or better on Windows.
The rest of the results are about the same, with the Mozilla derivatives and Opera not doing so well, and with Internet Explorer and it’s associates scraping the bottom.
The Acid3 test is a gauge of html standards compliance. Theoretically, if you write good markup, your web page should appear the same to everyone, regardless of web browser. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of sucky web browsers, and web developers need to include targeted markup to address some of the shortcomings of web browsers. Ok, I’ll quit beating around the bush: Internet Explorer is a horrible, non-standards compliant piece of crap. If you’re using it, go find a new browser.
Webkit browsers, as they did on the Mac, aced standards compliance with 100s across the board. Browsers based on newer revisions of Mozilla almost made it. Opera scored in the 80s, which is strange because on the Mac it nailed a 100. Older Mozilla browsers can claim superiority over IE based offerings, which scored a pathetic 6-13 out of 100.
Flash performance numbers were pretty even. The two exceptions were K-meleon and Lunascape running Webkit with uninspiring numbers.
Not included in the Windows version of the Web Browser Shootout! are the AVE and 15 tab tests, which measure cpu utilization of the web browser. The reason for this is that there aren’t any Windows PCs here at the Lankton Casa. Only Mac and Unix boxen here. This evaluation was run in a virtual machine on an 8 core Mac Pro with 14 gigs of ram. Since I have no way to reliably track an individual Windows process’ cpu utilization in Mac OS, and the cpu utilization numbers that Windows Task Manager reported were too similar for all browsers (80-99% most of the time), I discounted the tests.
What is the state of the web browser on the world’s most used operating system?
Lunascape is an interesting choice, because it allows you to select from the three predominant html rendering engines. I see this appealing more to developers who work on the Windows platform than Joe User, but it’s a nice browser.
The Webkit browsers are just as great on Windows as they are on a Mac. Chrome could very well become the dominant browser in a short time. I liked it very much, better on Windows than on the Mac. That is probably because there are more options on the Mac, and I am accustomed to them. On Windows, where the options are a little more limited, Chrome really stands out. I have to declare it the winner of this Shootout!.
Apple’s Safari is a world beater, both on Mac and PC. Don’t be afraid to use Safari just because it comes from the Mac world. It is an outstanding browser; the PC version no less than the Mac version. From no browser to industry leader in six years. Good job Apple, you’re runner up.
Opera is very good on a PC and should be included for consideration. Honorable mention.
The only bad choice for the Windows surfer is Internet Explorer or anything based on Trident. The only reason to run IE is if it is your only option. The only reason this browser still exists is the ActiveX plugin architecture, which gives Windows sysadmins a means to regulate what their users can and can’t do in their web browsers. That is it’s only selling point, as it flat out sucks as a web browser.
You can’t make too big a mistake going with any Mozilla or Webkit based browser. Go find one with features you like and enjoy a better web surfing experience.