Perception Of Performance

Google is pervasive about associating Chrome with being fast. It’s was their primary pitch when they first announced it. Back when Firefox went 1.0, it wasn’t so much about speed but “not sucking” as all the geeks liked to say. Given IE 6 was the competition, that was likely the best marketing on earth. Sure it was faster, but sucking fast wasn’t nearly as good as not sucking. Not sucking encompassed the missing features, broken rendering, crashing, constant parade of security problems. It summarized the product surprisingly well for not being an official slogan by any means.

Google now launched Chrome for iOS. On the desktop Chrome and Safari both use WebKit, Chrome applies it’s own touches to make things faster. Notably they have their own JS engine. Safari also has it’s own JS engine. This is the secret sauce of performance. In the iOS world however Apple being the totalitarian dictator decided that iOS will provide WebKit and JS. If your app has any web browser functionality it will utilize these API’s and not implement it’s own engine. Verbatim:

2.17 Apps that browse the web must use the iOS WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript

Google Chrome for iOS however is Google integration into a reskinned experience of Safari. It’s the same browser. Just a new UI bolted on with some Google features integrated in. It’s not a separate browser. It’s a UI.

That however doesn’t stop Google’s marketing machine (I’d argue Apple marketing’s top rival) from putting “fast” as the second word:

Browse fast with Chrome, now available on your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Sign in to sync your personalized Chrome experience from your computer, and bring it with you anywhere you go.

It goes on to clarify:

  • Search and navigate fast, directly from the same box. Choose from results that appear as you type.

So Google isn’t truly misleading. It’s just very strategic wording.

The truth of the matter however is that Google Chrome on iOS is substantially slower than Safari. Safari uses Nitro to accelerate JavaScript, which powers most of the complicated websites that will slow down a browser on any modern device. Apple however restricts Nitro to Safari, and doesn’t let third party apps like Google Chrome use it. This is still the case as of iOS 5, and I believe is the case in iOS 6, though I haven’t personally verified that.

How much slower is Google Chrome on iOS in comparison to Safari? Well Here’s a SunSpider test I did on my iPad 3:

Safari

============================================
RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
--------------------------------------------
Total: 1817.9ms +/- 0.2%
--------------------------------------------

3d: 214.7ms +/- 1.1%
cube: 72.3ms +/- 0.7%
morph: 57.9ms +/- 0.9%
raytrace: 84.5ms +/- 2.2%

access: 224.9ms +/- 0.6%
binary-trees: 44.4ms +/- 1.7%
fannkuch: 96.2ms +/- 0.6%
nbody: 56.0ms +/- 0.0%
nsieve: 28.3ms +/- 2.7%

bitops: 141.0ms +/- 0.4%
3bit-bits-in-byte: 23.4ms +/- 1.6%
bits-in-byte: 29.5ms +/- 1.3%
bitwise-and: 37.8ms +/- 1.5%
nsieve-bits: 50.3ms +/- 0.7%

controlflow: 15.7ms +/- 2.2%
recursive: 15.7ms +/- 2.2%

crypto: 123.3ms +/- 0.6%
aes: 70.5ms +/- 0.5%
md5: 29.4ms +/- 1.3%
sha1: 23.4ms +/- 1.6%

date: 274.4ms +/- 0.7%
format-tofte: 139.8ms +/- 1.1%
format-xparb: 134.6ms +/- 0.7%

math: 175.1ms +/- 0.3%
cordic: 61.5ms +/- 0.8%
partial-sums: 74.4ms +/- 0.7%
spectral-norm: 39.2ms +/- 0.8%

regexp: 70.8ms +/- 0.6%
dna: 70.8ms +/- 0.6%

string: 578.0ms +/- 0.5%
base64: 78.3ms +/- 1.9%
fasta: 68.1ms +/- 0.9%
tagcloud: 109.5ms +/- 1.2%
unpack-code: 207.5ms +/- 1.2%
validate-input: 114.6ms +/- 0.7%

Google Chrome

============================================
RESULTS (means and 95% confidence intervals)
--------------------------------------------
Total: 7221.0ms +/- 0.1%
--------------------------------------------

3d: 802.7ms +/- 0.2%
cube: 230.9ms +/- 0.6%
morph: 297.3ms +/- 0.5%
raytrace: 274.5ms +/- 0.1%

access: 1112.0ms +/- 0.2%
binary-trees: 98.4ms +/- 1.1%
fannkuch: 609.6ms +/- 0.2%
nbody: 247.9ms +/- 0.2%
nsieve: 156.1ms +/- 0.4%

bitops: 957.2ms +/- 0.2%
3bit-bits-in-byte: 210.4ms +/- 0.6%
bits-in-byte: 232.9ms +/- 0.2%
bitwise-and: 188.5ms +/- 0.4%
nsieve-bits: 325.4ms +/- 0.2%

controlflow: 129.5ms +/- 0.3%
recursive: 129.5ms +/- 0.3%

crypto: 493.3ms +/- 0.2%
aes: 214.3ms +/- 0.4%
md5: 140.2ms +/- 0.3%
sha1: 138.8ms +/- 0.5%

date: 381.1ms +/- 0.3%
format-tofte: 214.2ms +/- 0.2%
format-xparb: 166.9ms +/- 0.5%

math: 770.7ms +/- 0.2%
cordic: 316.6ms +/- 0.2%
partial-sums: 243.2ms +/- 0.3%
spectral-norm: 210.9ms +/- 0.4%

regexp: 1340.2ms +/- 0.2%
dna: 1340.2ms +/- 0.2%

string: 1234.3ms +/- 0.6%
base64: 175.7ms +/- 0.5%
fasta: 205.6ms +/- 0.2%
tagcloud: 284.0ms +/- 2.3%
unpack-code: 370.1ms +/- 0.9%
validate-input: 198.9ms +/- 0.6%

Quite a bit slower.

So really, if you’re using Chrome on iOS, it’s because you absolutely love the design and integration with Google’s services, and are willing to trade off considerable JavaScript performance for those perks.

That however doesn’t stop many people from thinking it’s fast. Just in the past few minutes I’m able to find these Tweets among the thousands streaming across the web. I won’t mention or link to them directly (you could find them however if you wanted):

“Chrome for iOS is FAST, takes the mobile browsing experience to a new level.”

“I like it! It’s fast and can sync with Chrome desktop, which I use all of the time.”

“Liking #chrome on #iOS very slick, fast and clean looking”

“using chrome on my iphone right now.. cant believe how fast it is”

“That chrome for iOS is freaking fast but so basic. No tweet button, no add-on. Man I kinda disappointed. I give ‘em 1 ‘fore the update”

“Chrome for iOS? Hell yes!! So fast! #chrome”

“Google Chrome for iOS is fast.”

“Holy hell Chrome is fast on the iPad.”

The most touted feature isn’t actually a feature. It’s technically not even there. The numbers and the technology insist that it’s not (they prove it’s actually slower). But that’s what everyone is ranting and raving about. You could argue Google’s UI is faster, but I’d be highly skeptical that Google’s found Cocoa tricks Apple engineers haven’t. Perhaps a UI transition or two makes you think it’s faster or more responsive, however even that I can’t find any evidence of.

All the hard work the Google engineers did squeezing their services into a compact simple to use UI are ignored in favor of this non-existent feature. And as a developer who can’t ignore such a thing, I will say they did a great job with their UI.

I present to you, the power of marketing!

Price Manipulation On The Web

And in today’s ecommerce news:

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has found that people who use Apple Inc.’s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.

The idea being that Mac users, which tend to be of higher income are more willing to spend than their PC counterparts.

It’s important to note that this sort of manipulation is nothing new. Websites regularly optimize content based on the user. If you live in an affluent city like New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, as determined by your IP address you may be offered a different (often more expensive) price. Repeat customers (cookies help here) may not see all the price cutting someone coming in from a search engine might. Search referrers might be offered a lower price since they are already looking at competitors.

Then of course is the obvious problem with travel sites. They are based on systems like SABRE which have a long history of bias (and rules against them have since expired in the US as far as I’m aware). Expecting a travel site to reliably offer you the lowest price is like expecting a tiger to leave the helpless gazelle alone. They are for convenience, not the best deal.

This would have been slightly ironic had it been Expedia, who was originally a division of Microsoft.

CES And Reality

CES is always a mixed bag for me. As someone who loves gadgets, CES coverage is addictive (my coworkers at CNET do a great job covering it every year feeding my addiction, however the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own). A select few things fascinate me, a few more interest me. The rest really leaves me wanting more. From my perspective it breaks down like this:

  • 25% – Things that will never come to market – These are ideas that are either just totally impractical for technical or commercial reasons, or just products that are so poor the company comes to their senses early. I don’t mind when products are impractical to bring to market, at least at the current time. CES is a gadget geek’s auto show. Concept cars are awesome. So are concept gadgets. I like love seeing prototypes. Things that just are so poorly received they never materialize… well obviously boring.
  • 50% – Mundane – “OOh, you made a TV 0.5 mm thinner. Clearly the CEO of this company is the next Steve Jobs. A visionary that will change the world. Lets all throw out our TV’s and buy this.” I always wonder what Steve Jobs thought when he read about what was announced and demoed at CES. Lots of what gets fanfare is of the level that Apple releases silently releases with nothing more than taking the Apple Store down for maintenance and a small press release. It’s not just TV’s, phones do the same thing. Being a smartphone in 2012 is just status quo.
  • 10% – Things I’d like to try – I’d be unlikely to justify the purchase, but I wouldn’t mind playing with things in this elite category. They include the MakerBot Replicator, I’mwatch, Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Netgear Range Extender. I’d never be able to justify a MakerBot, but I’d like to play with one. I suspect I may hate the I’mwatch, but it seems like it would at least be fun to try. Teathering is a major turnoff however. The X-Pro 1 seems quite expensive for what it is, but I love this high end non-SLR level we’re seeing now. I don’t have a real (read: $90) need for it, but Netgear’s range extender sounds like a good product for those areas where WiFi signals are a little degraded.
  • 14% – Me too’s – This year’s “me too” category is the ultra portable laptop. The MacBook Air clones. Unfashionably late, and offering little imagination. Next.
  • 1% – Could eventually change the world – I love this elite category. Ion Proton Sequencer is one of these. This particular model may go nowhere, but it’s a great example of where this stuff is headed. It will eventually change and save lives. Read up on it if you haven’t. Amazing. The other device is the Raspberry Pi (they have no booth). I’ve been following it since they announced it. I’ll order a few as soon as I’m able. Being able to make a full computer that small and affordable will change the world. For $25, I can put a computer I can write real software for in a situation where it may not survive or was previously not practical. It’s a giant step forward for computers everywhere. One way or another this will change things. This could change Linux usage.

So that’s my breakdown and what interests me personally so far. I’d be curious what others think of CES announcements this year.

Indented Leg Advertising

Advertising Imprint On Womans Legs

An ad agency put down “indented plates” on benches so when “people” (I assume “women” is the intended word) sit down, the plate leaves an advertisement impression on the back of their legs.

Clever, a little creepy, but most of all, I can’t imagine this working nearly as well as the picture shows. First of all people move, so I doubt the impression is that clear. I also doubt that they are anywhere as centered as the picture shows. It’s a bench, not a seat so people aren’t necessarily centered over the plate correctly. Nor are all legs the same width. I also suspect most people who sit on it look anything like the picture. Also, some wear pants.

[Hat Tip: Consumerist]

“Single?” Lawn Signs Revealed

Some obsessed blogger figured out who is behind all those “Single?” signs you see when driving around. It ends up it’s a massive coordinated effort by a multi-million dollar company, not just a bunch of uncoordinated “I can make a website too” entrepreneur.

Having seen them on the side of the road, I’ve always wondered if that was actually an effective business, but never to the level of doing the work to find out. I assumed it was no different than that “Make $5,000 from home” signs you see.

Apple Software Update Results

I presume everyone remembers the whole debate about Apple misusing Software Update to push Safari to iTunes users. For those who don’t, I’d suggest reading John Lilly’s blog post on the topic. Several prominent Mozilla bloggers spoke out about that practice.

It did help their market share according to Net Apps, though we’re talking 0.07 for Safari 3.0 vs. 0.21% for Safari 3.1. Not major, but still noteworthy that it did get installs.

To put this into a little more perspective, Apple has over 35 million iTunes installations (thanks mostly to the iPod). How many of which use software updater, I can’t find any way to accurately guess.

As of the latest release, Apple now separated software updates from installs in their updater, but still keeps it checked by default. It makes me wonder how many people realize it, and how many just find the strange icon on their computer. This could backfire in the long run and become thought of as crapware when it’s not in fact a “free trial” but legitimate fully usable complete software.

I suspect this will be a topic of discussion for several months to come in the software world.

Browser Wars On Google

If you search for Firefox using Google you’ll see this ad towards the top:

Firefox Adwords Campaign

Look over to the right side and you’ll see this:
Microsoft Adwords Campaign

Here’s a larger complete screenshot for anyone interested.

Interesting eh? They aren’t threatened though. Here’s another tidbit. A search for “Safari” brings up a Microsoft ad as well. A search for “Opera” or “Opera Browser” does not. A search for “Browser” will. A search for “linux” will bring up a few Microsoft ads as well as a Firefox ad.