Chrome – the Most Popular Browser?

Well, it finally happen!  Chrome is now the most popular browser surpassing Firefox.  This happen in March.   This is the first month that Chrome passed Firefox.   Of course, I'm not surprised since every time you do a Google search you see the Chrome download button.

I remember a developer friend of mine that fell in love with Chrome when it first came out, and couldn't stop gushing about it, yes, I'm referring to you, imperialWicket.  He claimed Chrome's development tools matched Firefox.  I'm not so sure.

The March Statistics for Browser Usage as reported by W3Schools in percentage of users was:

Chrome  37.3%,
Firefox  36.3%,
Internet Explorer  18.9%
Safari  4.4%
Opera  2.3%

There is a perception that Firefox is slower.  Let's take a look at some performance specs.  These specs were generated by    The numbers are approximate, as I interpreted them from lifehacker's graphs.

Which browser loads from scratch the fastest

Chrome  17                 2.0 seconds
Internet Explorer     3.5 seconds
Opera 11.61               4.0 seconds
Firefox 10                  4.25 seconds

Which browser loads tab pages the fastest?  In a test of loading 9 tab pages linked to different URLs.

Opera                        6 seconds
Internet Explorer   16 seconds
Firefox                     17 seconds
Chrome                   21 seconds

In loading a new URL from scratch when you hit the enter button.

Chrome                      0.25 seconds
Internet Explorer     0.65 seconds
Firefox                       1.35 seconds
Opera                         1.35 seconds

JavaScript performance in number of runs per second with the higher being better

Chrome                      1200
Firefox                         800
Internet Explorer      650
Opera                           610

In DOM/CSS performance, i.e. how fast can the browser format the page in runs per second and load the DOM, the higher the better.

Opera                         7200
Firefox                       2700
Chrome                      2500
Internet Explorer    1900

Finally, let's look at memory usage with 9 tabs open, the smaller number at the top is better

Firefox                       220,000
Opera                        260,000
Chrome                     330,000
Internet Explorer    350 000

Base Memory Usage

Chrome                      42 MB of RAM
Opera                         48 MB
Firefox                       63 MB
Internet Explorer    63 MB

Memory Usage with extensions added with 9 tabs and 5 extensions

Firefox                300,000
Opera                  500,000
Chrome               650,000

Let's put this all in English.  Chrome is the faster when first starting up and loading the first page or a new URL, but if there are many tabs pages to load Chrome is slower than other browsers.  As a developer, you usually have many tab pages open at any time.  Opera is fastest in reloading tabs, or previous content.

All these specs are well and good, and one would think that its time to make the switch to Chrome from  Firefox.  But hold on here, what prompted this article is a little problem, I've run into at work with Chrome.

We have a fairly complex web app that loads four drop downs using Ajax.  The first drop down is a very long list of company data, about 2000 records, for the user to select from, and then after the selection, the information is processed to populate the next drop down, and so fourth until all the drop downs are populated without reloading the page.  The application runs perfectly in Firefox, but when I select the drop down button in Chrome, only half of the first list loads.  Firefox loads the entire list.

No biggee, right, it works in Firefox, so it must be a memory or cache issue.  I'll just configure the Chrome browser and give it some more memory.  Wrong.  And here's we start to see some real differences between Firefox and Chrome.

To configure almost everything in Firefox, all you do is type about:config in the URL space and you can change memory size and cache size, or most any browser parameter there is in Firefox.

Chrome has no way to configure memory or anything under the hood.  It has a very limited settings menu, and I mean limited, by clicking on the wrench and going to settings, that's it.  In looking at the above specs, Chrome uses the most memory especially with many tabs in use.

Now, look at the memory set aside by each browser on initial download .

Private Memory: Chrome: 40,820K    Firefox: 337,012K
Shared Memory:  Chrome: 10,728K    Firefox:  62,880K
Total Memory:    Chrome: 51,548K       Firefox: 399,892K

Virtual Memory
Private Memory:  Chrome: 32,704K    Firefox: 327,760K
Mapped Memory:   Chrome: 59,998K    Firefox: 184,412K

OK, who cares Chrome loads fast, right.  But one would think that there may be some applications where it might be helpful to give Chrome a little more memory, like the one above.   Chrome has the smallest amount of memory, that is not configurable, yet uses the most memory.   C'mon Google.

What do you say to your boss who tells you to fix Chrome, when everything works in Firefox.  It's not like IE, where you need to just change some CSS.  Google won't let configure Chrome.  Big hint Google!  Allow us to configure your browser, and like with Firefox, we'll promise, to be careful.

And one more gripe.  Despite the protestations of my colleague, imperialWicket, I don't find the development tools in Chrome near as easy to use as the tools in Firefox.  If you load the Web Development toolbar in Firefox, everything is one click away.  I'm not saying Chrome doesn't have these tools, but to me, Firefox's tools are easier to work with and are laid out much better.

To me, Firefox is suffering from old man on the block syndrome, which is unjustified, and quite frankly has very little advertising compared to Chrome.  Google has pushed Chrome onto the masses on every search they do.  With that type of advertising, you knew eventually Google would get Chrome to number one.

Fast loading, is not everything in a browser, there are other features that weigh heavier in my mind, so sorry, Goggle, but I'm staying with Firefox for web development.


Chrome – the Most Popular Browser? — 2 Comments

  1. Ha!  I still use Firefox everyday, but I do more of my development work in a Chrome window.  The latest Firefox releases are getting better and better in terms of developer tools, and even supporting an Incognito-like option (which is great for development, because it’s easy to ensure no browser cache is present).

    Chrome has had a nice rising trend, but I won’t yet count Firefox out.