Microsoft dismisses artificial JavaScript benchmarks and the JavaScript performance race

Today, our core team revealed our entry into the JavaScript speed race with Carakan. We have no intentions to be left in the dust when it comes to performance. But what does Microsoft have to say about this? …

Their response is to mostly dismiss the whole thing:

In an interview earlier this week when the company launched IE8 RC1, senior product manager James Pratt criticized such tests. He described them as "microbenchmarks" that place an emphasis on scores as a "drag race" that Microsoft isn't about to enter.

"We looked at when users load real Web pages," Pratt said, adding that the company tested what he called the "top 25" sites on the Internet. "We looked at where IE spends its time when it shows those pages." Only 20% of IE's time is occupied rendering JavaScript, Pratt said. "To say that a browser engine is just a JavaScript [engine] doesn't match the reality of how the Web is built today," he said.

I must admit that Mr. Pratt has a point. Today's JavaScript benchmarks are mostly marketing tools that measure bragging right, and they test a tiny part of a bigger picture of what makes up a "normal" Web page today. From what I can tell, most performance issues have other causes than JavaScript.

That does not mean that our JavaScript people do not intend to ace these artificial benchmarks as well, and there is also a bigger picture that Mr. Pratt seems to be unaware of: While today's Web based solutions mostly don't require an insanely fast JavaScript engine, tomorrow's Web technologies will probably very different.

Microsoft may simply be in denial on this one. What we are seeing here at Opera is that more and more application development is taking place using Web technologies. The browser is becoming the application platform of choice, especially in the mobile space where technologies like Opera's Widgets can be used to develop applications with a short time to market, and with less development effort.

Indeed, the upcoming Palm Pre smartphone is an innovative device in that its operating system, webOS, uses open Web technologies for application development. This is a step up from Opera's widgets. It takes things to a whole new level. No, really, massive Kudos to Palm for this move! And thanks for helping us push Opera's message 🙂

In an environment where open Web standards become the application development of choice, it goes without saying that increased performance is needed. More and more people will also be accessing the Web from limited devices, which means that even small performance increases on a PC can have a major impact on lower-end platforms.

From this perspective, things are looking bleak for Microsoft. Their response to the performance race is to dismiss it, and their response to a new generation of groundbreaking mobile browsers like Safari, Opera and Fennec is to build their "new" mobile browser on technology which is nearly ten years old.

Insane JavaScript performance might not be that important on today's real Web, but it will be important to push the browser as a development platform. So it is not just because of bragging rights that we started work on Carakan. The future is coming, fast, and Opera will be at the forefront of pushing Web technologies to their limits.

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4 thoughts on “Microsoft dismisses artificial JavaScript benchmarks and the JavaScript performance race

  1. Microsoft's somewhat in the same "browser as a development platform" boat as well with their Vista/Win7 Sidebar. They should definitely be more concerned with IE's JavaScript performance.

  2. I guess the Opera Platform was way ahead of its time 🙂 But it's easier to push widgets right now since they can run on top of whatever the OS is. A lot of major deals may not have been made if the customer had to replace their whole OS to run Web based applications.

  3. It's a pretty common tactic, to dismiss whatever your competitors do as 'unimportant' unless you've got something even better. If your solution is different or not yet ready, or if you're caught by surprise, you simply say "We don't believe in that sort of thing."Microsoft are pretty good at spinning these things.Opera's got my vote.

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