As CNET's Ina Fried reports, Microsoft is trying to downplay Internet Explorer 8's performance deficiencies, arguing that "in most cases, the difference could literally be measured by a blink of an eye."
I guess that it depends on who's blinking. Walt Mossberg, the noted personal-technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, rebuked IE 8's performance in an All Things Digital post, noting that in his tests, the new version of the Microsoft browser was slower than Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, and Google's Chrome. All of them. Considerably slower, in many cases.
Microsoft claims IE 8 is very fast, but in my tests, speed and performance were its worst attributes. Using two computers, one running Windows XP and one running Windows Vista, I timed the loading of a half-dozen popular Web sites, plus two folders containing numerous news and sports sites. I repeated the test in IE 8, and in Firefox, Safari 4, and Chrome. In every case, IE 8 loaded the pages and folders more slowly than most of the other browsers, and in most cases, it came in dead last.
In some instances, the differences were tolerable--a few seconds. In others, primarily the folders containing 9 or 21 sites, respectively, IE 8 took two or three times as long as one or more of the other browsers to complete the task.
Speed, of course, isn't everything, and some, including the Practical Technology blog, tip their hat to Microsoft's other innovations in IE 8, such as its management of tabs.
But these are all somewhat secondary to the biggest reason to use an alternative browser, and specifically Firefox: community.
Ironically, it is community that has made Microsoft so dominant on the desktop, but which is arguably its greatest failing in mobile. Microsoft keeps trying to do IE by itself, while Mozilla gets the help of a global, diverse development crew, one that creates exceptional add-ons like AdBlock Plus and more.
Microsoft will almost certainly fix its performance problem in IE 8. The real question is whether it can fix its community problem.
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