I have been very keen on tracking the different browsers lately, basically because I am stuck with Opera 9.6 and awaiting the beta of Opera 10, because the current 10.0 alphas are too broken for my everyday use (that means they crash more than 5 times in 8 hours).

Still, I see features in the alphas that I love, such as the spell check which is built in – I am a fantastic speller, but a lousy typist, and I never learned by touch, so I frequently mistype letters – the spell check gives me a red underline where it thinks I’m wrong, and unless the word is a contraction, I usually am wrong. Opera 10 alpha doesn’t understand contractions of any type, but otherwise works very well.

But back to the fantasy  –

As I looked through the sites I go through every day or so, I came upon Download Squad‘s story relating the idea that Microsoft believes its IE8 browser is the fastest currently available. Well, I certainly get the idea that we all like to believe something we have fashioned is the best available, but most of the time, it just is not so. So this made me wonder if Microsoft was simply blinded by pride, skewing the tests, or lying to save face.

It seems the second explanation is the correct one  –

There have been a lot of speed claims lately when it comes to web browsers – when Apple released Safari 4, I put half a dozen options through the paces to see who came out on top. IE8 didn’t appear in my chart, because it handled the benchmarks so badly that I canceled them before its JavaScript engine seized up completely and cracked the block.

I haven’t run formal tests, but I knew that IE8 was not as fast as Opera 9, or Safari, it is, however, the only remarkable thing about Windows 7 x64 – there it is very fast (relatively) and makes browsing better than IE7 on any machine ever has.

“Hey, wait just a gosh darn minute!” shouts Microsoft. “We ran our own tests, and they showed that our browser is the fastest!” On a related note, I’ve done my own testing that conclusively proves that I am, in fact, the all time leading goal scorer for the Detroit Red Wings. Sorry, Gordie Howe!

Ah, the old saw ‘Figures Don’t Lie, but Any Liar Can Figure’  rears its ugly head again

But really. Come on, Microsoft, are we supposed to take this seriously or is this some halfhearted attempt at humor like the recent news about Firefox conquering one entire continent (Antarctica)?

Put simply, IE8 is a dog. What kind of dog? A very slow, old dog. Though apparently one that manages to squeak out enough decent load times on a particular bunch of websites for Microsoft to sneak a chart in at the end of a 14-page report showing it to be the browser speed king.

To be totally fair, IE7 is the dog, IE8 is a fox, much faster, but still not a gazelle, to continue the animal metaphor.

Let’s take a look at the sites Microsoft chose to include in the report: Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Ask, Mozilla, Blogger. None of these are really giving the browsers a workout, especially if it’s only the landing pages that were being tested. How much time do you spend on Facebook’s initial page when you visit? Barely any, I’ll wager. It’s just not a compelling way to measure how fast a browser is or isn’t.

Of these, the only ones I ever visit are Google and (rarely) Yahoo, IE8 was so much faster, on these, than IE7,  I was stupefied, and perhaps the guys at Microsoft were, too.

Try it yourself and give your browser a challenge. Send it to a more intense site like Compfight or twitter.peoplebrowsr.com, and the difference is obvious: IE8 is simply outmatched when it comes to the heavy lifting.

There are things that IE8 does well, and Microsoft should be emphasizing them better – rather than pointing to internal tests and singing drunken choruses of We are the Champions.

I’m sorry, Microsoft, but I can tell the difference between shine-ola and the other stuff, and I think our readers can, too. If you’d like a bigger whiff of the report, you’ll find it in the MS Download Center.

Other stuff? Could that be… no, of course not. He really means the other fine competitors in the browser arena.

Shinola black shoe polish or fertilizer AKA Bandini mountain

There’s only one real Shinola, can you tell the difference?

Obviously, I haven’t seen the Gazelle browser, but it must be better than IE8, so perhaps Microsoft should waste no time propagandizing IE8 and use that effort on bringing Gazelle to market.

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There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. Marshall McLuhan

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