Browser Comparison 2017

Browsers are probably the single most often used application we use in our computers and hand held devices. Internet Explorer from Microsoft, Apples’ Safari, Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox have been the mainstay for a long time.
We reviewed browsers a long time ago here .

Then we reviewed the then new Edge Browser in 2016 here.

We have been using Firefox for most of our work despite its inherent limitations – its propensity to crash when multiple windows were opened and its outrageous use of memory. We found that in its portable avatar, it was easy to move the work from one machine to another without breaking into a sweat. When they introduced a completely revamped version – Firefox Quantum, a couple of days ago, we had to take the plunge.

Firefox Quantum has really come a long way from the earlier version – at the first glance. It loaded pages faster and gave a smaller memory footprint. Nearly 33 % of users have 4 GB in their computers, 22 % of users have 8 GB, according to the statistics culled from Mozilla’s hardware metrics here.

The above statistics confirmed our suspicion that the vast majority of users haven’t drastically upgraded their memory. This implies that browsers need to reduce the usage of memory for a better user experience. This is all the more important as many sites tend to open additional resources in a new tab/window – thus increasing the overall memory consumption.

Browsers Comparison : Safari Vs Chrome Vs Firefox Vs Internet Edge:

Anecdotal evidences are not enough to judge what makes a Browser fast or how much memory it occupied. We needed some sort of reliable benchmarking system to compare the browsers we want to test. So we used the to benchmark the browsers. We used Speedometer which measures the responsiveness of web applications.

Browser memory usage Comparison Chart

This is what Browserbench says about the speedometer : ‘
Speedometer measures simulated user interactions in web applications.
The current benchmark uses TodoMVC to simulate user actions for adding, completing, and removing to-do items. Speedometer repeats the same actions using DOM APIs — a core set of web platform APIs used extensively in web applications — as well as six popular JavaScript frameworks: Ember.js, Backbone.js, jQuery, AngularJS, React, and Flight. Many of these frameworks are used on the most popular websites in the world, such as Facebook and Twitter. The performance of these types of operations depends on the speed of the DOM APIs, the JavaScript engine, CSS style resolution, layout, and other technologies.’


When the tests were running, we also noted down their memory usage and prepared the charts as shown here.


Internet Edge Browser result
Chrome Browser result
Firefox Quantum Browser result
Safari Browser result
You will find that Edge browser has the edge over other browsers here when it comes to having the lowest memory foot print – it just took 15 MB. Chrome continues to impress us as it came next with 67 MB of memory and despite its low usage of memory, Chrome performed better in terms of speed, only second to Safari browser in this line up. The new Firefox Quantum slurped the highest in this line up – 124 MB – still a lot lower than the earlier version 55.0.3 which gulps down a massive 724 MB. Apple’s Safari browser which comes with the High Sierra performed the best in this lot – 88.


Browser Speed Comparison Chart
For actual real life usage, Safari outperformed every other browser. We find the FF Quantum and Chrome fast and stable with at least 10 windows open – something we couldn’t even try in the FF version 55.0. It is interesting to see that things haven’t much changed in terms of memory usage from the time we reviewed the browsers about 9 years ago.

High Sierra Features and Issues

Apple has launched the new MacOS High Sierra on 25th September 2017. We took the plunge of downloading and installing the OS with as much expectations as trepidation. If you are one of the first installers, you end up ironing out lots of bugs. We worried that some apps won’t be compatible with the new OS.

But our experiences till now turned out to be pleasant. Our Mini performed well without any sign of distress. We had to sort out a runaway process called as Photoanalysisd which tends to use up plenty of CPU resources and in the process slowing your computer to a crawl. You can read about how we resolved this issue later.

MacOS High Sierra

Installing High Sierra: It took us quite a bit of time to install the OS – about 45 minutes. It would have been more if it had installed APFS. Since we had a hard drive, the installer retained our HFS+ file system. The download was around 9 GB in all and once you agree to the usual T&C, it went on without any further inputs from us.

The first boot took a long time – not unusual for most OS. And then we took the system for a quick test. It turned out that Apple has made a significant change inside the OS. The graphics performance has increased perceptibly. Even the humble test we did using Novabench confirmed our perception. It gave a GPU score of 131 as against the earlier score of 43.


High Sierra Score

We show the old score for comparison.

High Sierra Score

APFS: (apple File System) is enabled only if you have a flash drive or SSD. If you have an old fashioned hard drive or a Fusion drive, the installation proceeds without installing the new APFS. You will not be able to capitalize on the features of APFS.

Features of APFS:

1. Comes with built-in encryption. The whole disk can be encrypted which enhances the security.
2. You can take snapshots at any point in time – highly useful if you want to roll back to a previous time.
3. It has a kind of dynamic space allocation : Apple calls it as Space-sharing which renders the operation of resizing the partition.
4. The replaced file system HFS+ was started in the year 1998. It is a bit long in the tooth and could manage only a certain storage capacity and number of files. The APFS now can manage upto a maximum of 9 quintillion files on a single volume.
5. It also tends to offer faster throughput compared against the outgoing HFS+. Copying of files is faster with APFS.

Metal 2 : Apple’s Graphics API useful for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). According to Apple – ‘Now Metal 2 not only takes the visual experience to the next level, but also adds capabilities like machine learning, virtual reality, and external GPU support for entertainment and professional creative apps.

Built-in Support for newer media file formats: Apple introduced space saving and better compression in graphics and media with iOS 11. So as a corollary, it has provided native support to those file formats.
High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) is a new format for video and High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) is the new format for images. In recent iPhones, Apple allows you to save your photographs in HEIF format rather than the JPEG format, thus saving quite a bit of space. But thoughtfully, Apple recodes the image files to the ‘normal’ JPEG format if you share them with others. Now with High Sierra, these HEIF and HEVC file formats are natively supported.

HEVC, also hitherto known as H.265, offers 40 % smaller file sizes compared with the previous standard video format, H.264.

Safari 11: Safari is what Netscape was many years ago – slow to change but stable. In all these years, personally we never replaced Safari in our Mac.

Safari 11 Browser


The new version Safari 11 is fast and stable. It has many features:

1. Option to turn off media auto play
2. Intelligent Tracking Prevention
3. Improved Performance.
4. Always-on Reader mode
5. Persistent page zoom
6. Notification controls

Photos: Apple always offered things – hardware as well as software which are intuitive to use. It is not complicated outwardly. But on the inside, under the hood, you have the finest technologies available. MacOS High Sierra’s Photos App appears simple enough. But click on the Edit button and it takes you to one of the most advanced image editors I have seen outside PhotoShop. You can adjust a whole gamut of options on the image.

Apple Photo App

But it has a serious flaw: If the photo app is not running, it spawns a process called as photoanalysisd which quickly takes up a lot of system resources. This can slow your computer very badly. It was designed to analyze your Photo collection and depending upon your collection of Photographs can run for days. We tried to kill the process many times all in vain. It respawned itself. But when we opened the Photo app, it went off. At the moment it is the only simple way to keep the process under control.



Prevent RansomWare Attack

The world witnessed a massive cyber attack on 12th May 2017 – specifically known as WannaCry Ransomware which encrypted files in over 225,000 computers worldwide. It was based on EternalBlue exploit of Windows OS implementation of Server Message Block (SMB protocol). The vulnerability was first ‘discovered’ by NSA and Microsoft released a security patch in March itself.  It spread like a wildfire but collected comparatively little money in Bitcoin for the perps. It looked like a dryrun for an eventual assault on computers in specific targeted countries.

Ransomware Attack

There is no reason to conclude that such assaults on the Windows system would be self limiting as it happened in this case in future. It stands to reason that unless you take all due diligence in securing your computers, you might find your computers rendered useless at any time.


decrypting files

Protection of your system hinges on how you treat your system. No amount of Anti-virus, anti-Malware software is going to replace a well designed proactive plan to secure your system. This article is borne out of decades of years of experience in securing computers.

1. Periodic Backup : Depending upon the usage, create a backup at least everyday. If your files are mission critical, it is essential to have monthly, weekly and daily backups.

When you use a backup, make sure that the backup is read only. Other things being equal, I would choose a Linux file server for one of the backups. Linux provides several options to lock down using a combination of permissions and mounting. This way we can ensure that once the backup is created, it can’t be written again preventing data corruption.

2. Ensure that the OS and the software you are running are current and patched. If you are using Windows – make sure that at least Windows Defender is enabled and active. if you are on Windows 10, make sure that the service Windows Update is set to automatic and not disabled. Many power users disable this to prevent undue latency. Windows Defender will not update its virus database if this service is disabled.

3. There is a saying in the espionage industry – ‘Trust No one’. It applies to us as well. Things are not what they seem. If you are on Windows, take the first step of checking file extensions from Windows Explorer. Windows tries to hide the file extension in a default installation. You need to enable it to view file extensions. This helps you see if a file masquerades as a document file with the extension of .doc while it has a real extension of .exe: sinister.doc.exe
Whilst at it check the type column for probable file type as what Windows thinks. Don’t take the word of Windows for it.


Reveal file name extensions

Do Not count on email service providers to check your email attachments for Malware. There are dozens of Malware masquerading as genuine attachments which can pass the peremptory scrutiny of the generic anti virus software of the email service providers. Make a mental note to delete a mail as per the rules below:
Rule 1 : If it purportedly comes from people you know – when they have no need to attach any attachments.
Rule 2: If it purportedly comes from some celebrities. It may temporarily boost your ego to get mails from Celebrities, but chances are they don’t know about you and the mails actually come from hackers who use social signals to smuggle in their nefarious payloads. I have been getting ‘mails’ from all – from the Pope himself down to the President of the US.

Use a separate computer for potentially dangerous activities: -like checking emails, browsing unknown sites, socializing activities. Before you do all that, make a clone of the OS and store the disk separately. Every few days, just purge the existing OS from this computer and recreate the OS from the clone. This computer has no privilege to connect to the main computers. If affected by any Malware or virus, it can’t spread to other computers.

If you have only one computer that needs to multitask, create a Virtualbox and install a Windows in the Virtualbox. Once the Virtualboxed Windows is working as per your needs, copy the .ova file in a separate directory. You can purge the existing Virtualboxed windows at regular intervals and recreate another instance from the .ova file.
This way you have a Sandboxed computer that can’t mess up your precious regular Windows. Remember – a really Secure Computer has no connection to outside world.


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