Saturday, September 27, 2008

Javascript speed, the browser wars, and the death of IE6

Over the past year the FireFox, WebKit, and now Chrome teams have been going back and forth with faster and faster Javascript engines. Shortly after each update a number of blogs run all the engines through the benchmarks. When Internet Explorer is included it is always in last place. Not just by a little bit but by a significant amount. It is so slow that it is often just left out of the graph altogether. The IE team is working on it and the latest beta of IE 8 is three times faster then IE7, but it is still three times slower1 than Firefox 3.0.1. And sense that article FireFox and everyone else have gotten even faster engines, not just by a little, but by a significant amount. This isn't about IE8 or IE7, but about IE6 and its market share. IE6 currently has around 35% market share which is a huge number of users to fight for. All of the Javascript wars is about making those AJAX and heavy Javascript applications run faster. With developers using fast computers with Firefox one can see what is going to happen when someone on a 800Mhz computer and IE6 tries to load the site. Already I have heard of developers migrating users off IE to FireFox because it would take the user several minutes to just load their Javascript heavy site. In the next year as developers take advantage of the new speed this huge swath of users will find themselves feeling more and more pain. Developers might try speeding up a thing or two, but the speed difference between the engines will only allow a developer to do so much and many developers will simply ignore the problem. Sure users can still *use* the site if they are willing to wait, but eventually they will hear about how their friend doesn't have the same problem with FireFox/Safari/Chrome/Arora and upgrade. While tabs and add ons have caused a downswing in IE's marketshare it might be javascript performance that will be the tipping point for the end of IE6. When FireFox got tabs you could still browse the web with IE6, but when FireFox gets a much faster Javascript engine you might not be able to browse the web with IE6.

1 comment:

John said...

One can only hope!

IE6 is a nightmare when it comes to javascript, css and w3c compliance. I can't wait until everyone gives up on it!

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