Techworld

Chrome 24 vs. Firefox 18 - head to head

  • (Network World)
  • 11 January, 2013 22:53

With major new releases of both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox happening within days of each other, it's been a big week for the browser market. Chrome 24 began to be rolled out to stable channel users via Google's automatic background updater on Thursday, while Mozilla announced the release version of Firefox 18 on Tuesday.

FURTHER READING: Google revs up Chrome, crushes bugs

FIREFOX 19 BETA: Firefox getting built-in HTML5-based PDF viewer to improve security

But which browser got the biggest upgrade? Who's the fastest? The safest? The easiest to use? We took a look at Chrome 24 and Firefox 18 to try and find out.

CHROME 24

Both Google and Mozilla highlighted performance boosts in their latest releases. Google said during Chrome 24's beta phase that the browser had achieved a more than 26% improvement in JavaScript speed over the course of the past year, and Chrome has always had the reputation of being snappy and responsive.

But that isn't all that's been added to Chrome 24. New support for MathML, or math markup language, means that it's a lot easier to display mathematical notation on web pages, and a Flash update will keep that plug-in working on Chrome for the near future. (It should be noted that MathML has been natively supported on Firefox for some time.)

Google made a number of security updates in Chrome 24, as well -- 11 out of 24 of which were rated "high" risk by the browser's security team. Three of those highly rated vulnerabilities resulted in bug bounties for their discoverers, with one prize of $4,000 and two of $1,000 handed out.

FIREFOX 18

One of the knocks against Firefox has long been its supposedly poky performance compared to the fleet Chrome, but Mozilla is apparently working to change that in Firefox 18 -- the new IonMonkey JavaScript compiler should provide a 25% speed boost compared to the previous JavaScript engine used by the browser. Whether that's enough to close the gap on Chrome isn't clear, but it's still a substantial improvement, if Mozilla's figures are correct.

Firefox 18 also packs several new features like support for Retina display resolutions on sufficiently recent versions of OS X, and the underpinnings of support for the developing webRTC standard, which is designed to enable real-time communication via the Web.

SO WHO'S ON TOP?

Broadly, it's still a matter of personal preference -- Chrome's cleaner design, blazing speed and instant updating will be more attractive to some, while Firefox's flexibility and customization options will tempt others.

In this latest round of updates, however, it seems like Firefox has received more of a boost -- the new JavaScript engine should help address one of the most common complaints about the browser, potentially giving it a more compelling user experience.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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