Do you have a favorite browser? If so, what makes it so appealing? For some people, it might be the availability of plugins and extensions; others might like to use a browser that guarantees their privacy.
For a lot of users, however, the most important aspect is speed.
But what makes one browser faster than another? You can break it down into technical aspects and user-controlled aspects. Keep reading to find out more.
The Technical Aspects
Every browser is coded differently by its developers. The different approaches to coding can affect how long it takes a web page to load.
The browser engine is a key component of every browser. It is responsible for lots of tasks, including parsing the HTML and CSS code, displaying it on your computer screen, and enforcing security policy.
At the very least, the browser engine can display HTML and XML documents and images, and establish font, color, and text size. Depending on the browser you’re using, it might also be able to display PDFs and other documents.
Common Browser Engines
Several browser engines exist, but there are four commonly used ones that you’re likely to encounter: Blink, EdgeHTML, Gecko, and WebKit.
Blink is a cross-platform engine developed by Google, Opera, Adobe, Intel, and Samsung. You will find it in both Chrome and Opera. It started life as a fork of WebKit, which itself was a fork of KDE’s KHTML and KJS libraries. It has a free-to-use GNU LGPL license.
EdgeHTML is Microsoft’s proprietary browser engine. It’s specifically made for use in the company’s Edge browser. EdgeHTML replaced Trident (found in Internet Explorer) in 2015. Theoretically, it is fully compatible with Blink and WebKit.
Gecko is Mozilla’s offering. You’ll find it in the Firefox, Thunderbird, and several lesser-known browsers. (Check our list of tips for speeding up Firefox if it’s your browser of choice.)
Finally, WebKit is Apple’s browser engine. It is used in Safari, the Amazon Kindle browser, Tizen smart TVs, and Blackberry OS. Until 2013, it was also Chrome’s browser engine.
Other browser engines you might stumble across include Goanna (a fork of Gecko) and Servo (an experimental Mozilla engine).
In the 2000s, the browser engine was arguably the most critical factor when determining whether one browser could load pages faster than its competitors.
However, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, the importance of browser engines is diminishing. It is no longer the most important technical aspect regarding performance.
It has two code compilers: Full-codegen (a fast compiler that creates unoptimized code) and Crankshaft (a slower compiler that produces optimized code). Code runs though Full-codegen first. If Crankshaft decides it needs optimizing, it steps in.
(For ways to speed up Safari, check out our guide.)
The User-Controlled Aspects
Some aspects of why one browser seems faster than another one fall under the user’s control. Here are three of the most common issues that you can address right now.
We’ve mentioned this before: you should ensure you’re always running the most up-to-date version of your browser.
Aside from extra features and security enhancements, the under-the-hood technical aspects continually improve. If you haven’t updated in a while, you might see some substantial speed gains by merely hitting the update button.
2. Extensions and Add-Ons
Plugins, extensions, and add-ons can make your browser far more functional. But they can also be a significant drag on its resources; they chew through the available CPU power and RAM.
We know it’s tempting to keep adding more, but you shouldn’t run more extensions that absolutely necessary.
3. Browsing Data
Browsers collect an enormous amount of data about your usage patterns. That includes your browsing history, cookies, download logs, and more. It also creates an increasingly large cache.
Cleaning out all that data could result in a notable improvement in speed; the browser has to spend less time digging through files in the background to find what it’s looking for.
We wrote about all these issues and more when we covered little-known factors that could affect your browser speed.
Other Ways to Speed Up Your Internet Experience
The browser is just one part of a fast internet experience. Aspects such as your router, Wi-Fi network, ISP, and geographical location can all play a role too.