Advertise on MozillaQuest Magazine Belkin-usb-switch_01-4-port_animation- MozillaQuest MQ Logo
MozillaQuest the on-line computer magazine
June 18, 2002
About Computers On-Line

RisingNet

EPIX Internet Services
MozillaQuest Magazine Front Page button

Internet & Web browsers button

custom Netscape & Mozilla themes & skins button

Digital Photography

Graphics

IRC - Internet Relay Chat - Chat button

Linux buttonLinux for Windows Users

Mozilla button

Multimedia

Netscape button
network articles

tutorial - help - how to button

Web Page Design

Web Tools

Windows button
..
..

Mozilla 1.0 Not Ready for Prime Time -- Close but No Cigar and No Brass Ring!


A Quick Look at Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Performance -- Speed, Stability, and Memory Hogging


Mike Angelo -- 18 June 2002 (c) -- Page 2


Article Index

Performance Logjam

Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite

Performance Issues

Conclusion

Resources

  • Mozilla 1.0 Runs at a Snail's Pace

One test box we use to evaluate the Mozilla browser-suite on a daily basis has a 300-MHz AMD K6 CPU with 128-MB RAM running on Windows 98 SE. Some tests were conducted on that box with the 31 May 2002 Mozilla 1.0 Windows test build, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5, and NetCaptor 7 running side-by-side. After the 5 June release of Mozilla 1.0, the results of these tests were confirmed by repeating them with the final Mozilla 1.0 release build.

There was no need to get out the stopwatch for these side-by-side tests. Mozilla was noticeably slower than both Microsoft Internet Explorer and NetCaptor. Moreover, our focus with this informal testing is the user-experience. If it takes a stopwatch to measure the performance differences, likely such difference will not have much of an impact on the user-experience.

Please keep in mind these tests were conducted on a 300-MHz machine. If your computer is faster than 300-MHz you might not notice any speed differences between Mozilla, MS Internet Explorer, and NetCaptor. When we ran these same tests on a 1-GHz box, the speed differences there were either not noticeable or not significant to the user-experience.

Just because performance differences between Mozilla, IE, and NetCaptor are not noticeable to the human eye on a high speed computer does not mean the reasons for those differences are not impacting overall system performance. For example, if those performance differences are due in part or in whole to such things as Mozilla taking more machine cycles and more memory than other browsers, then Mozilla is having an impact on overall system performance, even if it might only be a small impact. However, that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

The big difference is not so much the Web-page display rendering-time. Mozilla is sluggish in all its operations on the 300-MHz test box. Likely, in part, this is because the Mozilla 1.0 browser is a set of scripts and HTML-based components running on top of the Mozilla Application Programming Framework. However, MS IE and NetCaptor are compiled binaries running directly on the Microsoft Windows OS without an application framework in-between -- sucking up resources.

There also are some deeply-rooted bugs that slow Mozilla performance down too, such as the stuttering bug -- Bug 91643. If you notice the Mozilla throbber on the Navigation bar freeze from time to time during page downloads, you likely are seeing the stuttering bug in action, which is an open bug at press time. Link in the Resources section on Page 3.

  • The Mozilla, Internet Explorer, and NetCaptor Side-by-Side Tests

Overall, our browser side-by-side tests showed both Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Stylesoft's NetCaptor to be crispier and snappier than AOL-Netscape's Mozilla. Because Microsoft Internet Explorer and Stylesoft NetCaptor do not have e-mail client modules, there obviously are no side-by-side comparisons to make e-mail-wise.

  • The Mozilla E-Mail Snail

However, the Mozilla e-mail client on the 300-MHz box is intolerably slow. You might not notice that sluggishness if you have only one mail account or you use a fast computer. But, if you have several e-mail accounts and often switch from one mailbox to another, you will find yourself doing lots of thumb-twiddling and time-wasting waiting for Mozilla to switch from one mailbox to another, and from one message to another, on a not-so-fast machine.

When composing e-mail on the 300-MHz machine, we find it faster to compose the e-mail in AbiWord and then paste the message into the Mozilla e-mail composer. When replying to e-mail with in-line responses, it is faster to cut and copy the text in the Mozilla e-mail composer panel, paste it into AbiWord, add the comments/responses, and then copy and paste it back into the Mozilla e-mail composer panel. Additionally, AbiWord does spell checking -- the Mozilla 1.0 e-mail editor does not!

You should not have to leave the e-mail composer for any of these reasons. This sort of stuff is yet another reason why Mozilla 1.0 is premature and not ready for prime time.

  • Side-by-Side Test Procedure

In part the reason some applications are loaded prior to running the performance tests is to create a hopefully realistic system test environment. The testing presumption here is that most people do not use an application (in this case a Web browser) in a sterile, vacuum environment. Rather it's likely that most people have a variety of applications running as a matter of course.

That notwithstanding, in part these applications were loaded prior to running the performance tests because MS Word, AbiWord, and Notepad are applications used while running tests to make notes and write article segments. HyperSnap DX is used to make the screen shots while the tests are run. Free Cell provides the Free Resources data -- plus it's nice relaxation for an occasional quick break from the testing work.

Prior to running the informal side-by-side tests on the 300-MHz AMD K6 box, the system was freshly booted into Windows 98 SE. Then two Windows Explorer instances, Free Cell, Notepad, WS FTP Pro, HyperSnap DX, Microsoft Word 2K, and AbiWord were opened. At this point, the system Free Resources were 70%.

Next, the 31 May 2002 Mozilla 1.0 Windows test build or 5 June final Mozilla 1.0 build, MS Internet Explorer, and NetCaptor were opened with blank pages in the Web-page display panels. That brought the Free Resources down to 56%.

  • Side-by-Side Test Results

In the side-by-side Web-page Display from Cache test, each of the three browsers was taken from the blank page to the MozillaQuest Magazine Front Page (MozillaQuest.com). That served to place the page in each browser's Web page cache. Then the Mozilla 1.0 is Officially Out! article was opened in each browser.

Next, the back button on each browser was hit in quick sequence starting with the Mozilla browser. Both Microsoft IE and Stylesoft NetCaptor completed their display work before AOL-Netscape's Mozilla was done -- by several seconds.

However, in a few trials of Display from Cache tests run on a 1-GHz Windows 98 SE computer it appeared that Mozilla might have been just a fraction of a second faster than Internet Explorer. Nevertheless, on most trials of the Display from Cache tests run on the 1-GHz Windows 98 SE computer there was no noticeable speed difference.

Please note that Web-page Display from Cache tests do not directly measure performance of the rendering engine that a browser uses. That's because the user interface (UI) and other browser components are involved in the process too. A slow UI or other browser components could slow down the time it takes to display a Web page even if the underlying rendering engine is fast.

Figure 3. Menu, Tool, and Navigation bars from the three performance-comparisons test-browsers: Mozilla 1.0 top, Internet Explorer 5, middle, NetCaptor 7, bottom. Please notice that of the three browsers, NetCaptor seems to make the most efficient use of the Menu, Tool, and Navigation bar real estate.

The Mozilla and Netscape people claim the Gecko layout/rendering engine, which both Mozilla 1.0 and Netscape 6/7 use, is very fast. Yet our side-by-side Display from Cache tests show Mozilla to be slower than Internet Explorer and NetCaptor. Both IE and NetCaptor use the Internet Explorer rendering engine.

If the Mozilla and Netscape claims that the Gecko layout/rendering engine is so fast are true, but yet Display from Cache tests show Mozilla to be slower than Internet Explorer and NetCaptor, then that suggests that the bottleneck is in the Mozilla UI, other browser components, and/or the Mozilla Application Programming Framework.

Note: after this article was written, ZDNet News published an article AOL puts version 8.0 to the test By Jim Hu stating in part The AOL 8.0 beta comes bundled with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. So, now it appears that AOL might not even use the Gecko rendering/layout engine at all in its client software. Incidentally, that article frames AOL's use of Internet Explorer and Netscape in terms of the browsers for its AOL and CompuServe client software. However, it is our understanding that AOL uses only the IE and/or Netscape (Gecko) rendering engines in its AOL and CompuServe client software, not the entire browsers.

AOL, which owns Netscape-Mozilla, is in the process of deploying the Gecko rendering/layout engine rather than the Internet Explorer rendering engine in its AOL and CompuServe client software. Please note that AOL is in the process of deploying the Gecko rendering engine, not its Netscape browser or browser-suite, in its AOL and CompuServe client software. Could it be that AOL has decided that the Mozilla/Netscape user interface and/or the Mozilla Application Programming Framework are just too cumbersome and therefore has elected to use only the Gecko rendering engine for its AOL and CompuServe client software?

In these side-by-side tests, the task at hand was started on Mozilla first and then immediately started on the other browsers in quick sequence. The side-by-side test results are summarized in Table 1, below.

The next test was to compare how quickly each browser could be brought from minimized status to focus on the desktop. This was done by minimizing all windows so that only the Windows desktop and Taskbar were visible. Then each browser's icon on the Windows Task Bar was clicked in immediate sequence, starting with Mozilla.

The results of the side-by-side Up from Task Bar tests produced mixed results. On some occasions both MS IE and NetCaptor beat Mozilla by about a second. On other occasions, the speed differences were hardly noticeable or not noticeable at all.

Mozilla has two Web-page rendering modes, Standards-Compliance and Quirks. You can see what mode Mozilla has used to layout a Web page by clicking on View > Page Info. The MozillaQuest Magazine pages used in the tests are composed using Adobe GoLive 5, which does not compose 100% standards-compliant code. That means that Mozilla uses Quirks mode for those pages.

It takes Mozilla longer to lay-out Web pages in Quirks mode than in Standards-Compliance mode. So, as a control, the Display from Cache tests also were run using the mozilla.org Web page, which is standards-compliant. Internet Explorer and Net Captor also were faster than Mozilla when the mozilla.org page was used for the Display from Cache tests on the 300-MHz test computer.

Many if not most Web pages are rendered by Mozilla in Quirks mode. That means that user-experience-wise, rendering tests that force Mozilla to invoke Quirks mode are more relevant and real-world realistic than rendering tests conducted with Mozilla in Standards-Compliance mode.

As an additional control (in part to control potential multitasking, extraneous variables), Display from Cache timed tests also were conducted with only one browser at a time rendering a page. Internet Explorer and NetCaptor also outperformed Mozilla in these control tests.

Next up was the Open Sidebar testing. The Mozilla sidebar was opened and closed by using the F9 keyboard shortcut, which seems user-experience-wise to be the fastest way to open and close the Mozilla sidebar. The Internet Explorer sidebar was opened and closed by clicking on the Favorites icon on the IE Toolbar. For NetCaptor, the sidebar was opened and closed by clicking on the CaptorBar icon on the NetCaptor Toolbar. (The CaptorBar was set to sticky mode for this test.)

Here the sidebars were closed on all three browsers. Then the sidebars on the Mozilla and IE browsers were opened in immediate sequence starting with Mozilla followed by IE. Next the Mozilla and NetCaptor sidebars were opened in immediate sequence starting with Mozilla followed by NetCaptor. In these tests, the Internet Explorer and NetCaptor sidebars opened noticeably faster than did the Mozilla sidebar.

In similar fashion Sidebar Closing tests were run. There were no easily noticeable differences among the three browsers in how fast the sidebars closed.

Next side-by-side tests involving increasing and decreasing text size were conducted. Again, Internet Explorer and NetCaptor were faster than Mozilla. Interestingly, IE and NetCaptor accomplished the text size changes even before the Mozilla View > Text Size drop-down menu collapsed after clicking on the selected text size.

In the side-by-side Open Help > About tests, IE and NetCaptor again were noticeably faster than Mozilla. Incidentally, both Internet Explorer and NetCaptor responded to depressing the F1 key by popping up their in-program Help panels. Mozilla does not seem to do this. (Interestingly, the F1 trick works with Netscape 7.0-PR1 which is based on the Mozilla 1.0-RC2 code.)

The results of the side-by-side Close Help > About tests produced mixed results. On some occasions both MS IE and NetCaptor beat Mozilla by about a second. On other occasions, the speed differences were hardly noticeable or not noticeable at all. 

 Browsers Compared

Display from Cache

 Up from Task Bar

Open Sidebar

 Close Sidebar

 Increase Text Size

 Decrease Text Size

 Open Help >About

 Close Help >About

 Internet Explorer Compared to Mozilla

IE Faster

 Same or IE Faster

IE Faster

No Noticeable Difference

IE Faster

IE Faster

IE Faster

Same or IE Faster

 NetCaptor Compared to Mozilla

NC Faster

Same or Faster

NC Faster

No Noticeable Difference

NC Faster

NC Faster

NC Faster

Same or Faster

 Table 1. Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and NetCaptor Speed Performance Comparisons.

Overall, Internet Explorer and NetCaptor operate faster than does Mozilla.

(Tests conducted on a 300-MHz Windows 98 SE Computer.)

A side-by-side test run that is not shown in Table 1, is the Open Web Page from Local File test. In this test, the File > Open File menu was popped up and the MozillaQuest Magazine Front Page URL on our LAN (Local Area Network) was cranked into the insert box in the Open File panel in each of the three subject test browsers.

NetCaptor from Stilesoft is a pretty slick browser for Windows. It is a browser user-interface (UI) built around an embedded IE engine. NetCaptor has many neat features such as tabbed-browsing, a collapsible sidebar, ad-blocking, and more. Interestingly, NetCaptor had the tabbed-browsing and collapsible sidebar features before Mozilla and Netscape had them.

The NetCaptor download file is less then 1-MB and so is its footprint on your hard drive. NetCaptor seems pretty much to have captured the neat user-experience features of the Mozilla browser (before Mozilla had them) -- without the many Mozilla problems.

On the other hand Mozilla is a free download whereas NetCaptor will cost you $29.95 after the 15-day free trial period expires. Also, NetCaptor runs on MS Windows only whereas Mozilla runs on many platforms. Simply put, NetCaptor is pretty much everything that IE has plus more.

Nevertheless, for MS Windows users who do not mind paying $30 for a better browser, the NetCaptor browser might be preferable to the free IE, Mozilla, and Netscape browsers. You can try NetCaptor for yourself before you buy -- simply download the less than 1-MB NetCaptor free trial -- links in the Resources section at the end of this article on Page 3.

Next, the Open button in the Open File panel on each browser was hit in quick sequence starting with the Mozilla browser. Both Microsoft IE and Stylesoft NetCaptor completed their display work before AOL-Netscape's Mozilla was done -- by several seconds.

Opening a Web page from a local network location rather than from an Internet location is an important test because there are no extraneous influences due to Internet connection speeds, bandwidth problems, traffic loads, and so forth. Pretty much all the time it takes to get the page displayed is due to browser efficiency, or lack thereof.

Overall, our side-by-side comparisons appear to indicate that the AOL-Netscape Mozilla browser is noticeably slower than both the Microsoft Internet explorer and Stylesoft NetCaptor browsers on our 300-MHz Windows 98 SE test machine. 

You should not have to put up with sluggish performance. Nor should you have to buy a new, very high-speed computer just to use an inefficient browser-suite These sluggish performance problems are yet another reason why Mozilla 1.0 is premature and not ready for prime time.

However, CNET found Mozilla faster than Internet Explorer in three of four Web-page loading tests it conducted using Windows XP. Although, CNET reported the actual loading time differences were less than a second. From the CNET report it appears that CNET pretty much employed the same general sort of procedure we did in our Display from Cache test.

Interestingly, Mozilla loaded pages more slowly than did Netscape 6.2 in three of the four CNET page-loading speed tests. Could this mean that the Netscape 6.2 UI is faster than the Mozilla 1.0 user interface?

Netscape 6.2 is based upon Mozilla 0.9.4 code whereas Netscape 7.0-PR1 is based upon Mozilla 1.0 release candidate 2 (RC2) code. Unfortunately, CNET did not also report comparable test data for Netscape 7.0-PR1 and Mozilla 0.9.4. That makes it difficult to make inferences from the CNET tests as to whether the speed-performance differences between the Netscape and Mozilla browsers result from changes in the underlying Gecko rendering/layout engine from the Mozilla 0.9.4 code-base to the Mozilla 1.0 code-base -- or from differences in the user interfaces. 


Related Articles


Article Index

Performance Logjam

Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite

Performance Issues

Conclusion

Resources

Mozilla 1.0 Is Out! (includes release info and download links)

Turmoil in MozillaLand: Current Status of Mozilla 1.0, 1.0.1, and 1.1-Alpha

Mozilla 1.0 Browser Unofficial Sneak Release -- Mozilla 1.0 is unofficially out!


Year 2001 in Review -- Mozilla and Netscape Browsers

Is Mozilla Actually AOL-Netscape's Mozilla?

Netscape 7.0-PR1 Browser-Suite Released


MozillaQuest the Series: Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser


Mozilla's ChatZilla -- The Lizard Speaks: Real Internet Chatting & Communication



Copyright 2000-2002 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved


Recent Articles

A New Mug for Bugzilla - Version 2.16 on Its Way

Netscape 6.2.1 Browser-Suite Released

Belkin SCSI to USB Adapter for Mac & Windows - Add SCSI to Laptop, Notebook, & Desktop Computers

Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology Part I: A Simple Wireless Computer Connection for Home, Office, or School

Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology Part I: A Simple Wireless Computer Connection for Home, Office, or School

Mozilla Milestone 0.9.6 Browser-Suite Released

Netscape Communicator 4.79 Browser-Suite Released

Mozilla Roadmap Update - Mozilla 1.0 Set Back to April 2002

Netscape 6.2 Browser Source Code (Mozilla 0.9.4.1) Released

Mandrake Linux 8.1 Boxed CDs Available Now

SuSE Linux 7.3 Ships In North America

Red Hat Linux 7.2 Distribution Released

AOL 7.0: Good News for AOL Users & Microsoft - Bad News for Netscape & Mozilla

Mozilla Milestone 0.9.5 Browser-Suite Released

Mozilla Organization Opposes W3C (RAND) Patent Policy Proposal

Mozilla 0.9.5 Branched -- Buggier Than Ever

Patch Maker -- Mozilla Hacking & Patching Made Easy

SuSE Linux 7.3 Set for October 22 Release

Mandrake Linux 8.1 Released for Downloading

Belkin 4-Port USB Switch for Linux, Mac, & Windows

World Trade Center & Pentagon Aircraft-Bombings - Terrorism ? The Third World War - 11 September Massacre

Laptop & Notebook Docking -- Peripheral Device Sharing

Milestone 0.9.4 Delayed - Turbo Mode & Bugs Slow Mozilla Development to Snail´s Pace - Turbo/Quick-Launch Examined -- Is Mozilla Really Open Source?

Milestone 0.9.4 Delayed - Turbo Mode & Bugs Slow Mozilla Development to Snail´s Pace - Turbo/Quick-Launch Examined -- Is Mozilla Really Open Source?

Netscape Lays-Off Mozilla's Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mitchell Baker, & Others?

SuSE Linux Free for US High Schools

Mozilla Roadmap Update - Mozilla 1.0 Release Set Back to 2002 - Mozilla 0.9.4 Set for 7 September Release

Red Hat E-Commerce Suite - Open Source Software Plus Commercial Tools, Services, & Support

KDE 2.2 Released - Binaries and Source Code Available for Downloading

Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 - review

Caldera OpenLinux 3.1 - Open UNIX 8

Mozilla 0.9.2 Branches on Schedule, but with Many Bugs

Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6?

Is Netscape losing browser war

Red Hat Linux drops Netscape browser

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users #5: Simple Number Crunching, Word Processing, & Photo Viewing with the Windows-Like Desktop for Linux

AbiWord - A Free, Decent, MS Word Clone for the Linux, MS Windows, & Other Platforms

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: #4-- Getting Started Using the Windows-Like Desktop for Linux

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: #3 -- Making an MS Windows-Like Desktop for Red Hat Linux

Composer: The Netscape & Mozilla Graphical HTML Editor & Word Processor

Mozilla Milestone 0.8 Browser-Suite RPM Builds Released

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: #2 -Getting Started with The Linux MS Windows-Like Desktop

Triple-Boot Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, & MS Windows for Best of Three Worlds

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: Introduction & Overview

Meet Bugzilla -- Mozilla's Secretary of Bug-Busting & Feature Requests Lizard

Computer Connections at Home, Office, & School

Some Basics for Computing & Networking Novices

dual-boot Linux & windows for best of both operating system worlds

New Browser War Heats Up -- But It's Netscape vs. Netscape

MozillaQuest the Series -- Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser:Branding your Lizard

How to Download,, Install, & Configure Netscape 6.0 Safely

MozillaQuest the Series -- Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser:Skinning the Lizard

MozillaQuest Magic: Enabling Changes Made to Mozilla-Based Browsers & Applications Chrome -- A Tutorial

Mozilla's ChatZilla, The Lizard Speaks:- IRC