browsers

Chrome, Firefox edge IE in browser reliability test

Recent versions of Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox are measurably less prone to crashes and errors than Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10, a new analysis by applications testing firm Sauce Labs has found.

If this looks like another stick to beat Microsoft's browser with, it is worth pointing out that the firm's study of around 55 million tests run using the Selenium platform found that all browsers showed extremely low levels of errors, in the order of 0.12 percent or lower for the "worst" performer, Apple's Safari 6.

On the same scale, Opera 12 scored 0.08 percent, IE10 at 0.05 percent, Chrome 27 under 0.02 percent, with Firefox was so low it effectively achieved a remarkable zero, that is to say no errors at all. IE lagged its main rivals but at levels that were already extremely low.

As interesting as the reliability figures was the level of improvement shown by these recent versions, some only months or even weeks old.

Internet Explorer 6 (released in 2001 with XP) and 7 (2007) had previously been the worst performers on 0.3 percent each, behind Firefox on Opera 10 (2009) and Firefox 7 (2011) and IE8 (2009) on just under 0.25 percent. It is remarkable that all of these are still used by small percentages of global browser users, but they are also aging software vulnerable to issues more serious than how often they might crash.

"Half of the browser versions we analyzed had error rates lower than 0.07 percent. That's pretty low, and suggests that browsers are getting more reliable as more versions come out," said Luren Nguyen of Sauce Labs.

Despite lagging slightly, IE had also shown major improvement over time.

"Microsoft has really been pushing their new version of Internet Explorer as the most modern and high-performing version of IE. You've may have seen their nostalgia-tinged IE 10 commercial. The data we have on browser error rates suggests that their claims may have quite a bit of merit," she said.

The absolute level of errors in these tests is an imperfect way to measure browser reliability some might argue (can the errors be proved to be the browser's fault and not the testing suite's?), but the comparative measurement won't be coincidence. Errors, which usually result in a crash of some kind, are caused by bugs in the browser code.

Do error rates really matter? Only when they occur, which seems to be rarely these days.

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