Web Browser Grand Prix 5: Opera 11.50, Firefox 5, And Chrome 12

Three major released have landed since our last impromptu Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP4): Chrome 12, Firefox 5, and Opera 11.50. Can Chrome or Opera regain the WBGP championship? Will Mozilla Firefox ever overtake Microsoft's IE9 in the rankings?

If it seems like it was only weeks ago when we were compelled to test the then-new Mozilla Firefox 4 against the reigning Web Browser Grand Prix champion Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 in Web Browser Grand Prix 4: Firefox 4 Goes Final, that's because it was only a few weeks ago.

In an attempt to curb the siphoning of its user base to Google, Mozilla decided to keep pace with the frenetic development cycle of Chrome. Firefox 5 is now a reality. But will Mozilla also keep up with innovation like Google? Furthermore, will a higher integer finally allow Mozilla to overtake arch-rival Microsoft in our performance metrics? Can former speed-kings Chrome and Opera reclaim the dual domination of our WBGP crown, as they did in 2010?

We've tightened up our suite of benchmarks for this article, cutting the fat that was Google's V8 JavaScript Benchmark and the redundant two-pixel variant of the GUIMark2 HTML5 Vector Charting test. We also fleshed it out by adding Facebook's JSGameBench, as well as battery life and reliability testing. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's get caught up on the latest developments in the continuing browser wars.


  • 3/28/2011 Microsoft claims that IE9 is the most power efficient Web browser.
  • 4/14/2011 Safari is updated to version 5.05
  • 5/18/2011 Opera is updated to version 11.11
  • 6/14/2011 Google upgrades Chrome to version 12
  • 6/21/2011 Mozilla releases Firefox 5
  • 6/28/2011 Opera is updated to version 11.50


The release of Firefox 5 was met with harsh criticism for its apparent lack of anything new. It has been said that Firefox 5 should have been called Firefox 4.1 or 4.2. Or even 4.02.

There is also a growing concern over whether the new rapid release schedule jives with IT departments. Firefox became a viable choice for many companies during the version 2 and 3 days. Mozilla also offers the preferred development platform for most Web designers. Basically, Firefox gained the reputation of being the most stable choice. By mimicking Chrome's development cycle, Mozilla may have shot itself in the foot.

Smack Talk

Microsoft took a shot right across the bow of Google and Mozilla by announcing that WebGL is “harmful,” and that IE10 would not be utilizing the specification. Several experts came out in support of Microsoft's assertion, though it should be noted that Redmond may have a dog in this fight with DirectX.

Attacking Mozilla even further, the Internet Explorer development team sent the Firefox development team a cupcake to celebrate the release of Firefox 5. Mozilla also received cakes from Microsoft for the release of Firefox 3 and 4. Full cakes. Obviously, this is in response to the criticism that Firefox 5 is nothing more than a minor update to Firefox 4. The included note read: "Congratulations on shipping! Love, The IE Team". "Congratulations on shipping" might have been in reference to the frequent delays that plagued Firefox 4, which was eventually made available more than six months late. Now that's a classy way to rag on somebody.

Not missing a single opportunity to slam its competition, Microsoft also capitalized on the other major criticism of Firefox 5 when an IE developer boasted Microsoft's commitment to IT.

Mozilla shot back with a blog post addressing the IT issue, although in a very non-concrete way:

"We are exploring solutions that balance these needs..."

Not to be outdone, an Opera employee also had this to say in regard to rapid release schedule:

“Despite the version number (11.50), we've packed a lot of new features into it. While other browsers rush to release whole new version numbers with small tweaks, I think we've kept traditional versioning, while simply releasing a little faster.”

Obviously, this comes at an unfortunate time for Mozilla, but one cannot help but wonder if this comment was meant for Google. Opera and Google have gotten into it pretty heavily in the past, and, for a time (before IE9), Chrome and Opera swapped places on a semi-monthly basis in the performance charts.

Now that we're all caught up, let's take a look at the WBGP5 contenders.

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  • Rab1d-BDGR
    To give the IE team their credit, even though they are still the least standards compliant, they have really closed the gap. I think competition has been good for Microsoft.

    I'll be sticking with Firefox - Oh, sorry we're supposed to call it Firefox 5 now, aren't we? ;-)
  • enterco
    IE9 may be the most power-efficient, but I notice some delays when the browser does nothing, and that is happening without any big fat plugins, on dual-core and quad-core PCs running at more than 3 GHz. During this 'lag time' the browser does not respond to simple commands, such as scrolling up-down. I won't enable IE9 installation next time when I will have the occasion.
    For me, the most balance of usability and speed comes from Mozilla Firefox, and I would liked to see a 4.01 update instead of a 5.0 which leads to incompatiblity problems (Pagespeed plugin, for example).
  • Micropat
    I couldn't believe the reliability of FF5 where it got a perfect score. Since I upgraded to FF5 on my linux machines I've been plagued by page load errors and I'm now being forced to use chrome. Are mozilla abandoning linux?
  • ovd
    Firefox 8 Nightly rocks!
  • doive1231
    Thanks for reaffirming my move to Chrome after a virus using IE8. Gotta think about things like that.
  • tranzz
    would be nice if the list of test was also links to each test to allow easy testing of our own browsers for comparison purposes.
  • klimax
    Slightly unusual about those errors observed for IE9. AFAIK it might be caused by memory exhaustion with resulting timeouts.
  • Silmarunya
    MicropatI couldn't believe the reliability of FF5 where it got a perfect score. Since I upgraded to FF5 on my linux machines I've been plagued by page load errors and I'm now being forced to use chrome. Are mozilla abandoning linux?

    Strange. What distro are you using? I have never encountered problems on Ubuntu 11.04, Mint 11 and Fedora 15. That being said, FF's UI is extremely ugly on Linux, so I prefer Chromium (although there is a gorgeous GNOME 3.0 theme for FF 4 and higher that makes it far better on Fedora at least).
  • mactronix
    All that's well and good but what about some actual real world testing ?
    I know link me to a website using Chrome, like we do all the time in the Forums.
    I'm using Chrome now and you cant do it by right clicking on the bookmark like you do in almost every other browser i have used.
    If you can do it at all they are not making it easy or obvious how.