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Bring on the Browser Wars

Sep 19, 2008 Michael Wurzer

FBS works very hard to support as many browsers as we can. We believe browser choice is key to the web promise of access to your data anytime, anywhere, and on any computer. Sometimes supporting multiple browsers is a real pain. One of our lead web developers, Brandon Medenwald, has written about this before on the FBS Blog in regards to the hoops and hacks we have to jump through for Internet Explorer, which often does things just different enough to cause headaches. Given this, the introduction of a new browser could be seen as just another headache to support. Further, there’s no lack of browsers out there now with IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera, so the release by Google of their new Chrome browser has some scratching their heads.

Regardless of Google’s reasons for entering the browser wars, I think this is great news for the web generally and especially for users of flexmls Web and FBS’s development. My primary cause for celebrating Chrome is speed and the competition Google’s provided with their V8 javascript engine. Our flexmls Web application relies heavily on javascript both in the browser and on the server. A good example of javascript on the client side is in our search results. When you scroll down, the system automatically goes and gets more listings and we use javascript to render the new listings into the list view.

This process works far faster in Chrome than it does in Internet Explorer. Here are some average timings for the rendering time (lower numbers are better; these test are anecdotal as they were run only on my computer; we may do more serious speed tests later):

IE7 & IE8 900 ms
FF3 290 ms
FF 3.1 with JIT enabled 242 ms
Google Chrome 183 ms
Opera 178 ms

Now, consider: (1) about 70% of our daily users still use Internet Explorer on our system; and (2) searching is the most commonly used function on flexmls Web. By switching to any of these other browsers, users will see a noticeable difference in performance of search results. In fact, the rendering time in Internet Explorer takes significantly more time than actually going to the server to get the data.

This leads me back to my mention of javascript on the server. A few years ago, we added SpiderMonkey support to our application server. At the time, running Javascript on the server may have seemed like a wacky idea, because it wasn’t mainstream.  Now, however, with the big investments Google is making in improving Javascript performance with V8 and the speed war being waged with Mozilla and Apple for Javascript speed supremacy, FBS and our customers are going to benefit from being able to leverage these now core technologies. This is the real reason I’m so excited by Google releasing Chrome. They’re putting tons of money and talent into Javascript and, over the long term, that will make flexmls Web faster both on the server and the client.

We’re very excited to start working with some of these new JS engines on the server side and will be back later with a post on what we find. In the meantime, download Chrome (or Firefox) and check it out. We don’t officially support Chrome yet but we’re excited by it and and expect to add official support for both Chrome and Safari in the near future in addition to our current support of IE and Firefox.