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WebKit browser engine aces Acid3 test, stakes claim to No. 1

By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld
September 29, 2008 09:34 AM ET

Computerworld - Developers working on WebKit announced late last week that the newest build of the browser engine, which powers both Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, has aced all of the requirements of an important Web standards test.

"WebKit is the first browser engine to fully pass Acid3," said developer Maciej Stachowiak in a post to the WebKit blog.

The claim was a follow-up to last March's boast by WebKit developers that the browsing engine had scored 100 out of a possible 100 in the Acid3 test. The test, which was approved last March by the Web Standards Project, is designed to check how closely a browser follows certain standards, particularly specifications for Web 2.0 applications, as well as standards related to the DOM (Document Object Model), CSS2 (Cascading Style Sheets) and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

Last Thursday, however, Stachowiak said that the newest builds also met Acid3's "smooth animation" requirement, something it had failed to do in March, by completing each test in under .033 milliseconds. When a browser finishes each test in that time or less, Acid3 shows the message "No JS [JavaScript] errors and no timing issues" in a pop-up window.

WebKit provides the core engine for not only Safari, but since early this month, also Google's Chrome . Google's browser, however, relies on a version of WebKit older than the one touted by Stachowiak.

Computerworld tested the newest WebKit, build r36882, in a virtual machine running Windows XP SP3 on an iMac powered by an Intel 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor. Although WebKit scored a perfect 100, it could not complete all tests in the required time in the virtual machine; one test repeatedly failed to meet the 0.33 millisecond cut-off.

However, when the most recent Mac OS X WebKit, build r37012, was tested on the same machine, it scored 100 and finished each test under the 0.33ms mark, confirming Stachowiak's claim.

Computerworld 's tests also confirmed his statement that no other major browser could match WebKit's Acid3 score. In the Windows XP SP3 virtual machine, all production and preview versions -- the latter indicated by build numbers or status in parenthesis -- scored less than 90 on the test.

Those results were:

WebKit, (r36882) -- 100

Firefox 3.1, (nightly) -- 89

Opera 9.6, (RC1) -- 85

Opera 9.52 -- 84

Chrome, (0.2.153.1) -- 79

Safari 3.1.2 -- 75

Firefox 3.0.3 -- 71

IE8 (Beta 2) -- 21

IE7 -- 12

The only other browser maker to stake a claim on Acid3 has been Opera, which said six months ago that a development build of its flagship application had also scored 100 .

In related news, Stachowiak also recently revealed that a major revamp in WebKit's JavaScript engine, dubbed "SquirrelFish Extreme," was more than twice as fast as its predecessor, and over three times faster than the engine included in the current production edition of Safari.

Stachowiak's comments followed similar claims by Mozilla last month, when the company spelled out massive speed gains from its TraceMonkey project . Mozilla plans to add TraceMonkey to the next edition, Firefox 3.1, due to ship sometime later this year or in early 2009.

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