Back in August, Mozilla took the WBGP crown with Firefox 7. Can Firefox 9 retain that title? And how are the top Web browsers doing in Mac OS X? We used a Hackintosh last time. This time, we're testing on the world's first Ultrabook, the MacBook Air.
Last August, we ran the Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP) in an entirely new venue. The title was Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion, and we used the same desktop test system we always use, but Hackintoshed. Despite the fact that an OS X browser took first place in nearly one-third of the tests, some of the more, er, enthusiastic Mac fans weren't very happy with our platform choice. They set down their Starbucks double venti caramel macchiatos to complain, “But Adam, that's not a real Macintosh, so of course OS X on a PC is going to suck compared to Windows” and “why didn't you run it on a MacBook with Parallels?” and (my all-time favorite) "it's not fair!"
The short answer is that we don't have a ton of Macs in our PC-centric labs. Nevertheless, we went out and bought a brand-new 11” MacBook Air specifically to satisfy the folks who want to see browsers tested on their native platforms. Welcome to Web Browser Grand Prix VIII, the Mac rematch!
But before we dig our heels into this Mac versus PC Web browser battle royale, let's get everyone caught up on the latest events and ensuing drama. More than two months have passed since we published Web Browser Grand Prix 7: Firefox 7, Chrome 14, Opera 11.51, and a lot has happened in the browser wars since then.
October 9th 2011: On this day, Chrome briefly became the world's second most popular Web browser (according to StatCounter).
October 11th 2011: Opera floats the idea of replacing the scrollbar with set length pages which can be turned, like e-books.
October 15th 2011: Google announces that Chrome has reached 200 million active users.
October 26th 2011: Google releases Chrome 15.
October 28th 2011: Mozilla and Microsoft team up to launch a special version of Firefox with Bing as the default search provider.
November 1st 2011: Opera releases an impressive WebGL demo code-named Odin, requiring a WebGL-capable browser.
November 3rd 2011: Chrome finishes October just shy of 25% overall Web browser market share (according to StatCounter).
November 7th 2011: Mozilla releases Firefox 8.
December 2nd 2011: Google Chrome overtakes Mozilla Firefox in market share to become the second most popular Web browser, behind Internet Explorer
December 6th 2011: Opera releases version 11.60
December 14th 2011: Google updates Chrome to version 16.
December 16th 2011: Windows Update now auto-updates Internet Explorer to the latest version. Meanwhile, Chrome 15 edges out IE8 as the most widely used Web browser version, although Microsoft claims IE9 holds that title (when only looking at Windows 7 installations).
December 16th 2011: Mozilla releases a developer preview of Apps project and hints at Firefox as a gaming platform.
December 20th 2011: Mozilla releases Firefox 9.
December 21st 2011: Mozilla renews its search bar deal with Google for another three years, at three times the cost of the previous arrangement. There has been speculation that the increase is due to a bidding war with Microsoft Bing.
January 4th 2012: Use of IE6 drops below 1% in the US, and Microsoft is thrilled. "IE6 has been the punch line of browser jokes for a while, and we’ve been as eager as anyone to see it go away," writes Roger Capriotti, director of Internet Explorer marketing.
September 26th 2011: Google launches a prime time television commercial for Chrome featuring Angry Birds.
Google Chrome: Angry Birds
September 30th 2011: Microsoft Security Essentials mistakenly classifies Chrome and Firefox as malware.
October 11th 2011: Microsoft concocts a browser security test in which IE9 is “proven” to be more secure than both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Apple Safari and Opera were left out of the testing.
November 4th 2011: Alex Faaborg, the lead UI designer of Firefox announces that he is leaving Mozilla. He is the third high-profile employee to do so in 2011. Another Mozilla developer admits Firefox needs to support importing of Chrome bookmarks. Also calls Add-ons for the Windows version of Firefox “awful.”
November 15th 2011: Mozilla adopts three endangered Red Panda (Firefox) cubs and yet again sets up a live 24-hour feed of their pen on Firefox Live. This time the site contains a a warning for users of competing Web browsers.
December 12th 2011: Google funds a Web browser security study in which Chrome is found to be the safest browser. Apple Safari and Opera were left out of the testing.
December 27th 2011: In response to the renewal of the Firefox/Google search bar deal, Chrome developer Peter Kastings says in an interview that “the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible.” Firefox product manager Asa Dotzler counters that “This is Google's business, they sell ads...”
Wow, what a couple of months! Mozilla seems to realize that Chrome is the real threat, as Google becomes the number two Web browser, and all of the top three continue with their antics. Meanwhile Apple remains silent on the browser front, and Opera has some really big changes in store for 2012.