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Will JavaScript decide the future and ultimately the winner of modern browser wars?

by MK on March 23, 2009

netapplications_browser_share_2-09 The Internet is fast growing from a Web made of static pages into a Web that also includes applications that perform computational tasks and that people interact with. In other words, browsers of future have to process data as well as load pages at a much faster speed and in a more efficient manner.

Microsoft’s dominant browser share – 67 percent according to Net Applications figures reflects the current usage of IE but will Microsoft be able to maintain this market share in the future? That is the million dollar question and will depend on a number of different events that will unfold in future. Lets discuss some of the possibilities here -

Is performance the key area?

All the major browser players consider JavaScript performance as a major part of their competitive attack, even to the point of naming their JavaScript engines built into their browsers: Chrome’s V8, Firefox’s TraceMonkey, Opera’s Futhark and upcoming Carakan, and Safari’s newly branded Nitro, which is Apple’s version of WebKit’s Squirrelfish.

Though IE lags all these rivals in JavaScript performance, Microsoft does care about performance overall and JavaScript performance specifically. Even as Microsoft launched a brand-new browser version, Internet Explorer 8, on Thursday, however, it’s also clear the company has a big difference of opinion about the matter.

We’re going to keep making the script engines faster (but) right now it’s not clear how many people are gated by script performance,” said IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch in an interview. “JavaScript comprises a small portion of how fast a Web page will render. It is a piece, but by no means the holy grail.

Because it’s easy to measure, JavaScript performance has “become shorthand for browser performance,” Hachamovitch added. Microsoft has begun touting its new test of page-loading speeds in which IE 8 fared better overall than Firefox 3.0.5 and Chrome 1.0. A supporting slow-motion video (click “Case Study Videos, then Performance Testing) shows page-loading speeds down to the hundredth of a second.

sunspider_tests Likely not coincidentally, though, Google offered its own propaganda the day before the IE 8 launch. Google launched its Chrome Experiments site to tout what can be done with high-performance JavaScript and to promote its browser. While Chrome generally runs sites’ applications with aplomb, that isn’t the case for IE.

The faster we make JavaScript, the more interesting and interactive the Web becomes,” said Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s director of Firefox.

JavaScript in Chrome almost reaches the speed of Flash,” said programmer Mr. Doob, who wrote Chrome Experiments called Ball Pool and Google Gravity, in a blog post about them this week.

What about the cross browser issues?

In an interview, Mr. Doob – a Flash programmer who learned JavaScript just for the Chrome Experiments and declined to give his real name said JavaScript is about three quarters Flash’s speed. There are weaknesses, though. For one thing, he found JavaScript developer tools to be primitive. For another, JavaScript varies from one browser to the next.

The main benefit of ActionScript is that it will look exactly the same in any browser and in any version of the browser, even on IE6! With JavaScript it depends on which features the browser supports so you would spend more time making sure the project looks good in all the browsers than actually developing the project,” he said. To make his Chrome experiments work on other browsers, “I’ll have to introduce some hacks which will slow down performance and will dramatically affect the user experience.

For now, performance is the top priority. At least until JavaScript gets fast enough that other problems move to the fore.

All it took was a little competition to get other companies focusing on this problem,” said Darin Fisher, a Chrome engineer at Google. At some point, “Suddenly this problem won’t be a problem anymore and we can move on to the next issue.

So what happens in future is a thing to wait and watch I guess.

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Article by M K

M has written 115 awesome articles for this blog.

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