After my post on Thursday about why I was sticking with Firefox, Peter Gurevich, the Performance Product Manager for Internet Explorer, left a comment on my blog asking me to get in touch with him to see if he could offer any pointers on how to make IE 7 faster.
So, figuring that facts would help -- and having been a Customer Support Engineer in a previous life -- I ran some tests. Happily, after claiming in public that Firefox was faster at loading, I wasn't hallucinating. Here are the results, which I've sent along to Peter:
I’m running on a Dell Dimension 9100, 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 with 1 GB of RAM. The OS is Windows XP Service Pack 2 (5.1.2600 Service Pack 2 Build 2600) with all critical Microsoft Updates installed. I ran Disk Defragmenter two days ago, and ran these tests after a cold boot with no other applications running (other than background tasks such as McAfee Security Center).
I’m connected to the Internet via Comcast cable modem; according to a test I ran on Vonage this morning, my download speed is 8.42 Mbps and my upload speed is 731 kbps.
The version of Internet Explorer is 7.0.5730.11; the version of Firefox is 2.0.
I have 5 tabs set up as my “home page”: Boston.com, NYTimes.com, Google.com, Ephblog.com, and BurtonGroup.com. I tracked the time elapsed between my double-clicking on the desktop icon and all five pages being ready (in IE, the twirling circles being replaced by the web site icons in the tabs; in Firefox, the dotted circles being replaced by the web site icons in the tabs).
After a cold boot (boot from the power button, rather than a restart), when I initially started IE and Firefox, they both started up slowly, I’m assuming due to non-caching. I ran this test twice for both IE and Firefox: IE took about 30 seconds (31 seconds, 28 seconds), while Firefox took about 20 seconds (18 seconds, 23 seconds), or 2/3 of the IE time.
Once I’d opened IE and Firefox once (and then closed them again), I reran the test three times for both IE and Firefox. IE took about 13 seconds to open all five pages (12 seconds, 13 seconds, 13 seconds), while Firefox took about 5 seconds (4 seconds, 5 seconds, 5 seconds), or 8 seconds faster.
So in my specific case, Firefox is definitely faster at loading than IE. I wouldn't be surprised if my experience is due to having five sites as my "home page." But hey, if tabs are available, why not use them?
Based on similar tests comparing Firefox 1.5 with Firefox 2.0, Firefox 2.0 is slightly faster than the earlier version, but not by much, perhaps half a second.
I've read a blog saying that Firefox 2.0 is buggy and crashes, but I haven't experienced that. IE 7 hasn't crashed on me, but twice after I closed it it said it had a problem and did the reporting thing back to Microsoft.