9 reasons why Internet Explorer 9 is much slower than Chrome 10

In my personal browser benchmark test Internet Explorer 9 turned out to be much slower than Chrome 10.

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Mon, March 21, 2011 - 28 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

Microsoft listens to their customers. Or perhaps I should say they listen to what the media tell their customers. Every week or so, another computer magazine or blog posted a new browser benchmark where Internet Explorer always came off as the slowest browser. The times of browser benchmarks are now history. Since Internet Explorer is now by far the fastest HTML viewer and JavaScript executer, no one needs those benchmarks any more. It is boring if Microsoft wins. They always do. Well, almost always.

Internet.Explorer.9.Logo Google.Chrome.Logo

As far as my browsing experience is concerned, Chrome is still a lot faster than Internet Explorer 9. When it comes to browsing speed, the performance of the rendering or JavaScript engine is negligible. I have said that many times before, and I won’t get tired of repeating it. For a knowledge worker like me, other features are by far more important to speed up my daily work on the web.

1 Bookmarking

One of the things I do most often with a browser is to bookmark pages. I need to do this as quickly as possible so I won’t lose my focus. With Internet Explorer, I need three clicks; with Chrome, just one. That makes Chrome 10 three times faster than Internet Explorer 9.

2 Bookmark star

Often, before I finish work, I check all open tabs to see if there are any pages that I might need the next day. Sometimes I don’t remember if I already bookmarked a page or not. This also happens if I again stumble across a useful page. In Chrome, the star icon beside the address bar tells me immediately if I already bookmarked the page; a click on the star shows me which folder the bookmark is in. In Internet Explorer, I have to browse through my hundreds of bookmarks first for this purpose. This makes Internet Explorer a hundred times slower than Chrome.

3 Search in bookmarks

Again, the bookmarks. Well, they are important for a knowledge worker. Now, tell me, am I just blind or did the IE developers really forget the search function in the Favorites sidebar? I don’t have to tell you how much time it can take to browse through all favorites until finally finding the important one I bookmarked last month, deep down in a folder where it doesn’t really belong. How many times slower is Internet Explorer here? I don’t know. Maybe indefinitely, if I don’t find the bookmark at all.

4 Title bar

Okay, this is a minor issue. But it still bothers me. To place the tabs bar at the top of the browser was a very smart idea of the Google developers. Why was Microsoft too anxious to steal this feature and did just waste this valuable space in the title bar? Yes, it means only little additional space for the web page. However, if you work on laptop or netbook this little extra page can be very valuable, especially if you use web apps often. Scrolling a web page up and down to interact with the web app can get on your nerves and can slow down a browser considerably.

5 Tabs space

The size of the available space for tabs in Internet Explorer is much too small. It usually takes about 20 minutes on a normal work day before I have so many tabs open that I can no longer distinguish them in Internet Explorer simply because the visible part of the HTML title is too small. You can show the tabs on a separate row (right click a tab). However, this takes away even more valuable screen space. Since the default tab bar configuration is no option for a knowledge worker and taking into account the wasted space in the title bar, I have considerably less space available for the web page than with Chrome. These simple layout differences boost Chrome’s performance with many web apps on devices with small screens and this without the need of fancy hardware acceleration.

6 Extensions

Browsers have become platforms. No, I am not talking about web apps. I don’t really like those and you know that by now. I am talking about add-ons or extensions. I think, the number of available extensions is essential for the success of a browser. Microsoft is usually quite good when it comes to creating an ecosystem around a software product. Somehow they have problems with Internet Explorer here. The availability of just one add-on can be a killer feature if you can’t find something comparable for an alternative browser (Internet Explorer). I don’t really know how far ahead Chrome is here. But if I search for SEO add-ons for Chrome, I get about 100 hits. If I do the same for Internet Explorer, I get about 0 hits. There is no doubt that many of these little browsers helpers save me a lot of time which increases browser speed considerably.

7 Superbar

I don’t really find the Windows 7 Superbar so super and in combination with Internet Explorer, it really gets on my nerves. Every time I switch back to the browser window, the Superbar shows me my myriad of open tabs and expects me to find the page by just looking at those super-tiny thumbnails. In most cases, I just want to access the last page viewed anyway. If I can’t find the page in the thumbnails immediately, I just click any tab and then try to find the right tab in IE’s tab bar. So this extra click-click-click game with the Superbar costs me significantly more time than in Chrome and often is the reason that I lose the focus on my work.

Update: This "feature" can be disabled: Internet Options > Tabs: Settings > Show previews for individual tabs in the taskbar*

8 InPrivate browsing vs. Incognito

InPrivate browsing in Internet Explorer and the equivalent Incognito feature in Chrome are useful features. I don’t just use this feature if I want to browse a site without being recognized. Usually, when I log on to security-sensitive sites, I open the web site incognito so none of the many plugins I use gets a chance to snoop my password. What I miss here in Internet Explorer is being able to start InPrivate browsing by right-clicking a bookmark or a link in a web page. Yes, I can copy the URL, open an InPrivate window, and then paste the URL. In Chrome, this procedure can be accomplished with just a click. This is what I call browser performance.

9 Zoom

I read a lot and try not to strain my eyes too much. This is why I zoom almost every web page I open. Chrome definitely has the better and faster zoom function. It takes two "clicks" with the mouse wheel until the web page reaches the ideal size—that is, when it uses all available space of the browser window. With Internet Explorer 9, it usually takes much longer to get the font size I prefer. Again, Internet Explorer 9 came off last in an important browser benchmark discipline.

I am still a Microsoft fan boy. But it is not my fault that the Google guys just understand the web better. So I’ll just wait for Internet Explorer 10 and see if it will be as fast as Chrome 25.

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28 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. RaFi says:

    #9: you can always use CTRL + mouse wheel

  2. RaFi, that is what I am talking about. CTRL + mouse wheel is much faster in Chrome.

  3. Christoph says:

    I have to add my 2 eurocents here:

    The Internet Explorer has always been a stable, reliable browser where the majority of the business related websites, webinterfaces and basically every *.ht* known to mankind worked or at least produced a decent result.
    I do not want them to compete in speed and other hip measurements these days. Yesterday I tested the final version of firefox 4 just to find out that suddenly two of our security appliances or better their webinterfaces (using javascript and PhP) no longer work (they did with 3.6.15).
    There is a market for lean, fast browser. There is a market for huge behemoths with tons of plugins and there also should be a place for a browser that should just work with everything especially in regard to the business field.
    I need to be able to connect to a 5 year old ILOM webinterface in a sun/HP server or I can not use your marvellous “I score over 9000 in the acid 7 bench” product.

  4. Christoph, I absolutely agree. I just described the way I use a web browser. For most people it doesn’t really matter which browser they use. But I still think that in a corporate environment Internet Explorer is the only option.

  5. Serge Nikalaichyk says:

    4 Title bar: IE9 > Right-click on any tab > Show tabs on a separate row;
    7 Superbar: IE9 > Internet Options > Tabs: Settings > Show previews for individual tabs in the taskbar*

  6. Serge, I mentioned the possibility to show the tabs in a separate row in the article. It has the disadvantage that it reduces the size of the available space for the web page.

    Thanks a lot for the hint about the previews for the superbar! I updated the article.

  7. Thom says:

    I still think Favorites/Bookmarks are a neglected feature in all browsers. Chrome is good but not quite there yet. IE hasn’t changed much in this area since version 1 but I much prefer how auto-suggestions are arranged when typing in the address bar. This negates the need for a separate search box for favorites as it can be done straight in the address bar.

    I actually prefer the way thumbnail previews are shown for each tab in the superbar. If I want to quickly navigate back to the browser I can CTRL+click to open the last viewed tab immediately

  8. Thom, auto-suggestion in IE is a good feature, but it can’t replace a genuine search function for bookmarks. For instance, sometimes I use the search feature to re-organize my bookmarks.

    I think the thumbnails just distract from your work. Switching from task to task should be possible with one click. Every additional millisecond can destroy your focus. Good thing is that this IE feature can be disabled as Serge mentioned.

  9. Andreas Erson says:

    “Since the default tab bar configuration is no option for a knowledge worker and taking into account the wasted space in the title bar, I have considerably less space available for the web page than with Chrome.”

    Michael, if you use a VGA monitor I could agree with “considerably less space”. Though I’m guessing you don’t. :)

  10. random_reader says:

    I have to agree with you. Chrome does a better job in bookmarking compared to IE but FF does it best. FF has a true drag&drop functionality directly from within the menu (as in IE6) + you can right click a bookmark and select “Delete” and the Bookmark menu would still remain open. This makes FF a thousand times more convenient than any other browser especially if you have nested bookmarks and you want to quickly organize them from within the browser without opening a separate window.

    Also with FF, when you point a bookmark, its URL immediately appears in the status bar unlike IE/Chrome where you have to wait for a tool tip to appear.

  11. Andreas, you won’t believe it, I always work on a laptop because I am travelling a lot. For me, more space for the web page is essential. Of course, it makes no difference on your 27-inch screen. ;-)

    random-reader, the bookmark menu also remains open in Chrome. They changed this a while back. I agree that this is also an important feature.

  12. Andreas Erson says:

    Michael, I concede… and wish you a high-resolution LCD on your next laptop. :)

  13. High-resolution doesn’t do the trick because it decreases the font size on a small screen which I hate even more than scrolling. My hope is that Microsoft learns to understand how important it is that the browser gets out of the way as much as possible. This is it what makes Chrome a better browser. Considering that more and more people are surfing on small screens, I believe it is one of the main reasons why Chrome’s user base is growing so quickly.

  14. Andreas Erson says:

    Ok, I can handle 1600×900 on a 14″ and 1920×1080 on a 15.6″ without any trouble. But I realize that those resolutions aren’t for everyone.

    Regarding the top space I see that at least my Chrome version (latest beta) doesn’t remove the title bar until you go full screen. And unless full screenm, Chrome actually takes a few pixels more space than IE9 with dedicated tab bar.

    I also the victim of the too-many-tabs-syndrome. With IE9 you can always hover of the IE-icon in the taskbar to get a full list of open tabs, something which you cannot with Chrome.

    Personally I use IE9, Chrome and Firefox. Just going by best browser I would probably choose Chrome as my favourite but I also have a strange attachment to IE that is hard to get rid of. I think it’s the best choice for the most casual web surfer that just want something to browse the web and doesn’t know what a browser is.

    How is Chrome coming along regarding support for group policies, deployment and so forth? One area that IE is particularily strong in.

  15. Andreas Erson says:

    And yes, I can confirm that the font size zoom in Chrome is much fast than in IE9, not to say the one in IE9 is slow by any means.

  16. I didn’t use Firefox for quite some time.I think this browser has already seen its best times. Microsoft is serious again about their browser because of Google. It is now a battle between the big animals. Little foxes don’t have much of a chance anymore.

    When it comes to deployment and remote management, IE still has no match. Thus in a corporate network deploying another browser than IE is a no-no.

  17. Andreas Erson says:

    You should try out the just released 4.0. It uses only 2 more pixels in the top than Chrome when maximized and it has star in the url-field for bookmarks as well.

    I use all three to keep tabs on them (no pun). We only support IE but users can select to add Firefox and/or Chrome if they want.

    I also think that Firefox will have a hard time in the long run. Chrome will certainly continue to steam ahead throwing out new major versions as fast as they can and it looks like MS is increasing their pace as well with IE10 already under way. Hoping to hear something about IE10 on the upcoming MIX’11.

  18. Ben L says:

    Great article. I completely agree about the overall points. I was so happy when I tried IE9, but ended up not using as an everyday browser due to these “ease of use” problems. Firefox4 is great after customizing and add-ons. I think chrome is the best overall for simplicity of use and general performance with the default install. IE needs to be better in its default install because most IE users aren’t allowed to, aren’t inclined to, or shouldn’t be trusted to install extensions or customize the layout.

  19. Lowell says:

    1. Bookmarking – Actually in Chrome 10 it’s at least 2 clicks. Click on the star, then click Done or click somewhere else… more clicks to place in a particular folder. With today’s modern wide-screen monitors (even on laptops) I usually dock the Favorites bar so it’s just a matter of dragging the link into an existing folder… one click.
    2. Bookmark star… That’s more of a personal usage/preference of course.
    3. bookmarks – Actually, in IE9 you just type into the browser address bar and it will automatically come up with results both from the web, your favorites, and your history. That’s better than a separated search function unless you’re doing very specific tasks once in a while like you mention above.
    4. Title bar… In actuality, Chrome’s top section is about twice as tall as IE9′s. Which means IE9′s way better here than Chrome.
    5. Tabs space… This isn’t much of a difference. Especially when you compare with #4 above and see that Chrome is taking double the vertical space on each of those tabs. And for knowledge workers, most are working on wide-screen displays whether desktop or laptop… though some don’t have as much vertical resolution, so that’s where IE9 does better. It provides more vertical usable space and taking advantage of today’s modern wide screens.
    6. Extensions… It can easily be argued that add-ons slow browser speed but *may* increase your productivity. They also often introduce security vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, indeed there aren’t many add-ons yet for IE9; it just came out. Historically there weren’t many for IE8 either so your point mostly stands here. However, IE9 does have an awesome add-on test/diagnostics that helps you determine whether or not the benefit of the add-on outweighs the introduced delay.
    7. Superbar… This is definitely a personal preference, and from all high-productivity folks I’ve interacted with they’ve welcomed the added functionality. IMO this makes Chrome *less* efficient. If I’m working in a different app and need to refer back to a web page I can mouse over IE then over the web page, then mouse back over to my app without switching to the browser at all. No clicks. With Chrome you need to click on the icon, find the tab, click on the tab, then click back to your app or Alt-tab. That’s a lot slower.
    8. InPrivate browsing vs. Incognito… again, a personal preference that I’d suggest doesn’t apply to a large section of the population. However, for your usage, a valid point.
    9. Zoom… This again is a very personal preference. I much prefer that IE zooms at a more granular rate than with large jumps. Not really a point in favor of browser speed.

    And beyond that… IE9 groups tabs together and colors them so it’s very easy to track your browsing “rabbit trails”, or close entire groups at a time, as it did with IE8. Can’t find that option in Chrome.

    Finally, IE9 provides the feature to “dock” favorite sites in your taskbar with site-specific tasks available. This is especially neat because when you launch that session of IE9 it appears as a separate “app”, not grouped in with your existing IE9 tabs. This makes it easier to get to the most common sites you’re leaving up all the time.

  20. random_reader says:

    “the bookmark menu also remains open in Chrome. They changed this a while back.”

    Ok I just saw that however, dragging a bookmark to re-arrange it sadly closes the menu and I still have to wait for a tool tip when I hover over the bookmark to show me where it is point…This is annoying.

  21. Link48010 says:

    I think I should add some features of IE9 you missed.

    1. Tabs can be given their own row so you have more space for them.

    2. Using that dandy feature Aero Peek, you can see what tab you will open before you ever open it.

    3. You can zoom in web pages in IE9 by holding control and scrolling with your mouse wheel or by hitting the + or – keys on the keyboard.

    4. The main address bar in IE9 works not only as a URL/Search bar but will also search your favorites. Just type in a term and you get results in the order of History, Favorites, and Search suggestions if you have them turned on.

    5. You can turn on InPrivate browsing in IE9 by pushing Ctrl+Shift+P at any time and simply open up a bookmark in the window.

    Now, look at some of the features IE9 has over Chrome. For one, it works with just about everything. There is rarely a web app that doesn’t work with IE. Second, Tracking Protection. And thirdly, much better Windows 7 integration.

    If you wonder why I am one-sidded, let me say now I am. I am not at all a fan of Chrome at all. Firefox or IE9 are my browsers of choice.

  22. Lowell,

    you are right. What I described in this post are my personal preferences. It will be interesting to see if the majority of web users has similar preferences. At the moment, it doesn’t look good for IE.

    Link48010, I am sorry, but your arguments didn’t convince me either. I addressed some of it already in the article. As for the zoom feature, IE is just much slower here. Search through the address bar is a nice feature but certainly can’t replace search in the bookmark sidebar. What I really need is a way to open links in InPrivate browsing. IE doesn’t have this feature. And Firefox? Haven’t used it for a quite while. I doubt that they can can catch up with Google.

  23. Link48010 says:

    “And Firefox? Haven’t used it for a quite while. I doubt that they can can catch up with Google.”

    That’s the great thing about firefox. No matter what it is you want to do, you can either find an add on or easily code one of your own.

    In IE, bookmarks sidebar, Press ALT+C and click the Arrow in the top left of the sidebar.

    If you are willing to do it, you can browse the entire internet by learning keyboard shortcuts and actually speed up your browsing experience depending on the browser. The mouse is the slow mans way to working with browsers really, or at least in the case of browsers that have established hotkeys for just about everything like IE or Safari (Apple programs always have a strong keyboard shortcut setup). Newer browsers like Chrome were not designed in an a time when many users still used keyboards for a lot of their interactions with a computer, of which older browsers still hold over.

    In short, Chrome was designed ground up for a mouse UI. IE was designed originally with mouse and keyboard in mind.

  24. AlexIz says:

    #3 Search bar is now combined with address bar. And Yes, it searches through Favorites too. And results are grouped by Category so it’s easy to find anything You want
    #4 Title bar in Chrome – is the Most awfull thing I’ve ever seen. No titles can be read if there are many of them. And in IE they are more informational and can be scrolled.

  25. John K says:

    Great post.

    I just got a new laptop and i’m using IE again for the first time in a couple of years. I find it ABSURDLY slow, given the silky interface I’ve become accustomed to with Chrome, and the highly intuitive user interface, I’m stunned by the number of missteps Microsoft has made with the browser (And yes, I’m using IE9).

    And, despite what some say, the difference in load times in quite noticable. I’ve just ran a quick test on a few pages and Chrome was consistently faster, sometimes by a few seconds.

    Given the horsepower in the machine i’m using – i7 processor, 8 gig memory – waiting for pages to load on a high speed network is unacceptable. It’s as though IE9 is a half-step (often more) behind what Chrome is able to do.

    If the browser is the next battleground in the Great Tech War, then Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up.

    Back to Chrome I go…

  26. Max says:

    I think Google should give you the GVP (Greatest Valuable Professional) as reward, did they?

  27. Max, I agree, but I think they are in a huff because of this.

  28. Rs says:

    IE9, Chrome? Are you kidding? Why do the pickle heads that like a browser with NOTHING dictate what the rest of us will get? A totally functionless browser like IE9 and I guess, it’s template chrome! Hey: Try browsing within a command prompt… Now that’s what I call a no frills browser experience. After 3 days of windows 7 and IE9 I’m ready to toss my lunch! I know, how about a blank page and no borders? Very clean! IE9 and apparently Chrome SUCK! Unless your a MAC geek.

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