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Firefox 23: Cheerful, cluttered, and a bit too eager to please

Nathan Alderman | Sept. 2, 2013
Firefox 23 has some worthwhile features, but when it comes to performance it can't keep up with other browsers.

The gap between Firefox and its rivals wasn't quite as pronounced in HTML5 bitmap graphics, but that's not saying much. Though it scored just a hair faster than version 14, it was still only about half as fast as any other browser tested.

In HTML5 text rendering, Firefox 23 just barely outscored Opera, but ranked behind Safari and Chrome. Version 23 turned in a notably slower score here than version 14 did, too.

Firefox 23 did claim a surprise victory in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, though, running about 4 percent faster than second-place Chrome and Firefox 14, and a little more than 13 percent faster than last-place Safari.

It didn't do as well in Google's Octane JavaScript test, beating Safari by a comfortable margin but still placing a relatively distant third overall. Firefox 23 did, however, score nearly twice as well on this test as Firefox 14.

Those results repeated themselves when I tested Firefox 23's HTML5 standards compliance. The browser thumped Safari, but lost out to Opera and Chrome. That said, it bested Firefox 14 by more than 60 points on the test's 500-point scale.

Benchmarks: Firefox 23
Best results in bold. Reference browsers are in italics. HTML5 Vector, Bitmap, and Text test results are in frames per second; higher is better. The Octane JavaScript test results are scores; higher is better. The SunSpider JavaScript results are in milliseconds; shorter times are better. The Acid3 result is a score out of 100. The HTML5 Compliance result is a score out of 500.

Bottom line
I can't ignore Firefox 23's largely lackluster performance, or its crowded and increasingly clunky interface. But Mozilla and its developers show impressive attention to detail in each individual feature, and for all their excesses, it's clear that they're thinking hard about how people might use their browser. That's more than I can say for Chrome, and it gives Firefox more personality (for good or ill) than the latest version of Opera.


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