Internet Explorer 8 Versus Firefox

Category: Browsers

Should you use Internet Explorer version 8, or the new Firefox version 3.5? Which is better, faster, easier to use? Read on for my comparison of the latest versions of the two most popular browsers...

IE8 versus Firefox 3.5

Comparing Internet Explorer 8 to Firefox v3.5

The browser wars are endless, as Internet Explorer and Firefox continually improve, add features, crash, and improve again. The current state of things is IE version 8 and Firefox version 3.5. Both browsers take you to the same Internet, and have pretty much the same feature set. Both let you open multiple windows or tabs, both have a "private browsing" mode and each browser has a full-featured set of bookmarking and privacy tools.

Neither can leap tall buildings in a single bound, or stop a speeding locomotive. So how do they compare when it comes down to speed, quality of Web page rendering, configurability, and user-friendliness?

Time Trials: IE 8 Versus FF 3.5

Speed, when speaking of Web browsers, refers to how fast the browser renders a Web page; that is, how quickly it figures out the HTML code, Javascript, and other programmer's instructions in a Web page and displays what it's supposed to display. (How fast a Web page is delivered to your browser is a completely unrelated issue, since that's a function of the remote Web server's efficiency and Internet traffic between you and it.)

In speed tests, IE 8 is slower than Firefox v3.5, most testers agree. Neither is as fast as Opera or Google Chrome, but those second-tier browsers lack many handy features that IE 8 and Firefox v3.5 pack. However, if you are thinking of upgrading your operating system to Windows 7, you will find that IE 8 renders significantly faster while Firefox actually runs slower than it does under older versions of Windows.

It's hard to make blanket statements about which browser is faster, because there are a lot of factors that come into play when judging browser speed. The complexity of the page, the number of images, how much Javascript is involved and probably a handful of other things will affect page rendering speed. You might spend most of your day at one website, handling email. If your browser is faster on that site, then that's all that matters to you.

Page Rendering Quality

The quality of Web page rendering can be defined as how faithfully the browser displays what the Web page designer intended. It's partly a function of how good the programmer is, of course; bad HTML renders poorly on any browser. But it's also a question of laziness. Some programmers write and test pages only for IE, ignoring the roughly one-third of users who browse with Firefox.

Firefox has always maintained that pages should render according to the standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). But Microsoft has long been castigated by the Web community for not adhering to those standards. So as long as Microsoft goes its own way, there will always be Web pages that look great in IE and horrible in other browsers, including Firefox. There is a workaround for this, however.

The IE View addon for Firefox will launch IE and display a Microsoftian page in it at the click of a mouse key. You can also tell IE View to always display a given page or all pages from a given Web site in IE. So when something doesn't look or work right in Firefox, try it with IE View and IE 8.

Browser Features and Configurability

Some users like to configure a Web browser exactly to their personal tastes, while others don't want to bother tweaking lots of settings. Firefox has thousands of configurable options, though it works just fine with the default settings. IE is more restrictive; there are things you cannot turn on and off, such as the display of warning notices if you choose to surf with minimal security on.

Another area where Firefox has a big advantage is addons. There is a huge library with thousands of Firefox extensions, themes and plugins, created by Firefox users. These addons enable new functions that are not available in the base product, and are extremely important to the success of Firefox in the marketplace.

IE8, on the other hand, has Accelerators and Web slices, two new features not found in Firefox. Accelerators can speed up certain tasks, and Web Slices will automatically notify you if content you're keeping tabs on has been updated.

Some people prefer Firefox, simply because it's not a Microsoft product. I share that feeling to a certain extent, but mostly I feel more secure with a browser that's not so closely bound to the operating system.

Tell me which browser YOU like best, and why. Post your comments below...

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Most recent comments on "Internet Explorer 8 Versus Firefox"

(See all 40 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Bob Holley
29 Oct 2009

Why use one browser? Almost everyday, I use four. IE is good for putting the new tabs next to the tab where I clicked the link. Firefox loads additional tabs much faster. It also gives the option to load all my favorite sites when I open it. I've had up to 70 tabs open in Firefox without crashing my system.Chrome is very fast and loads pages more quickly. It also open the browser automatically to where I was when I quit. Safari for Windows prints things better than the other browsers. I used to also use Opera, but I'm finding too many sites that are incompatible with this browser.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

Regardless of which is a bit faster, Firefox has so much more flexibility than IE that comparison is futile. Ever forget a website password? In Firefox, you can display all your saved user ID's and passwords. Priceless. And Firefox has the AdBlock Plus plugin. With that installed, news websites come up much faster than even Chrome, with no annoying ads. Again, priceless. There are more reasons, but just with these two, that's enough to use Firefox.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

A primary factor in many firefox accusations as being slow is due to Microsoft's addons. The very first thing I do on a new build with a fresh install of Fox is disable any and all Microsoft “DRM” addons.

Firefox > tools > addons > also disable “.net assistant” and “Win Presentation Foundation.” Additionally, disable prefetching. In fox type “about:config" You will get this message “This might void your warranty!" Click I'll be careful, I promise! to continue to the about:config page.

In the about:config page, search for
Observe the Value column of the network.prefetch-next row. If it is set to false then do nothing.
If it is set to true, double-click on it to set it to false.

Restart Fox. You will be surprised just how FAST fox really is without MS addons slowing your surfing! Works on all versions of Windows.

Posted by:

Rick Bradley
29 Oct 2009

I've been an Opera user since it fit on a diskette but lately I'm using Firefox more often largely because of the NoScript add on. The timely updates are also an important factor. Once a month for security updates just doesn't cut it.
As for sites that don't render properly in Firefox, too bad. A mistake on the designers part does not warrant extra effort on mine.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

X-marks, formerly known as Foxmarks is the selling point for me. I love having all my bookmarks be the same on my laptop, desktop and work computer. I am a longtime Netscape to FF user. Never much like IE, regardless of speed.

Posted by:

Ben Kemp
29 Oct 2009

A long-time Firefox(/Mozilla) user, I've been dragged across to IE8 for one reason (which probably won't apply to most of you) - support for my new dual-touch screen, something that I couldn't get working properly on Firefox. As a non-power user there aren't too many Firefox Features I miss, but I wouldn't have said that about IE7. I miss the added confidence of surfing with a program that isn't deeply integrated with my operating system, but the convenience of dragging, flicking and spinning stuff on my laptop has won out.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

I prefer Opera. Especially as both IE and FF still have security issues.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

I've always found IE slow, though IE8 has improved. I far prefer Opera (my default browser), which makes browsing an easier and more comfortable experience for me, Chrome or Firefox. However, Firefox has a better ability to cover web sites that aren't geared for Opera, and it's my second preference. I only use IE for sites that are only rendered for IE, or for MS downloads.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

Firefox is by far my browser of choice given only the 2 options.
IE Tab is the extension for viewing pages that only fully load in IE - like most pages.
My favorite add-on is from which makes icon/links for my most viewed pages, allowing me to have the address bar, search engine & direct links to all my favorites in a single (1 line) toolbar instead of a third of my screen's real estate being taken up by multiple toolbars.

Posted by:

Ray DeJanitor
29 Oct 2009

I prefer Opera, but many of the pages I deal with render best in IE and some can get by with Firefox. I'm going to try the IE View feature to see if it will give me full functionality in Firefox, which will make my life considerably easier.

I've installed Chrome but haven't played with it much.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

Good article.

But, like other commenters, my preferred browser is Opera: fast, cross-platform, safe (best record, sp. compared to IE), and like a fine restaurant instead of an cafeteria where you have to serve yourself (Firefox and its unendingly upgrade-in add-ons).

If you are of the tweaking type, Opera can handle customized CSS AND user JavaScript (including GreaseMonkey), with ease and grace.

Also, if you use IMAP for email, takes care from any platform all your email needs.

"Second tier"? "[L]ack many handy features that IE 8 and Firefox v3.5 pack"? Opera has routinely pioneered most of the features later emphasized by reviewers in other browsers, and indeed in email services. (Think GMail's labels.)

Thanks nonetheless, but I'm sticking with Opera, keeping IE and FF as a second tier for testing and when unavoidable due to non-standards compliant sites.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

I prefer Firefox but I do use both browsers. For MS downloads and updates I use IE8 and for pretty much everything else its Firefox. I really like all the addons available for the fox and although it doesn't launch as quickly as IE I think it does a faster page rendering job. IE8 is certainly the best version of the MS browser to date however.

Posted by:

29 Oct 2009

I have IE, Firefox & Chrome on my PC. I use IE rarely, if ever. Firefox's IE tab does the job for Windows updates & any page that doesn't render on Firefox. My main browser is Chrome for the speed of it. The only time I have to switch to Firefox is online banking at WaMu (actually, I believe the new Chase site doesn't have that problem) when I try to click a calendar date to initiate the transaction I doesn't change the default (today's) date on the billpay page. So looks like Chrome wins. If they ever offer a IE tab option in Chrome neither IE nor Firefox will get any use on my computer. Except that Chrome doesn't show up for my wife on her start menu- haven't figured out that one yet. Probably a simple fix?

Posted by:

Karl L. Wuensch
01 Nov 2009

I usually use Firefox because it is more stable on my computer than are IE and Chrome. For whatever reasons, my computer is more likely to freeze up when using IE or Chrome. I do like the speed of Chrome.

Posted by:

michael egerton
07 Nov 2009

After reading browser reports I stay with IE8

Posted by:

steve gilbert
27 Nov 2009

Up until now I've always used IE in its many forms, largely 'because it's there'. I recently upgraded to Win 7 from Vista, and after that IE8 was all over the place - slow, pages flicking between sizes, unscheduled errors of all kinds. A friend suggested that I try Firefox, which I did, and everything has been fine. A lot quicker to load and faultless in operation.

Posted by:

Allan P Small
05 Feb 2010

FIREFOX is most desirable 4 me--"hands-down!"
IE 7 is better than IE 8 (from what I read..)

Posted by:

Rakibuzzaman Ashik
20 Oct 2010

I think, IE 8 is the most secure web browser and i use it. I used Firefox and Google Chrome. But the security of Firefox and Google Chrome is lower than IE 8. So, I think it is good to use the most secure browser to browse safely. IE 8 is the perfect web browser for that.

EDITOR'S NOTE: "The security of Firefox and Google Chrome is lower than IE 8" -- because you say so? Is that just an opinion, or do you have some study you can cite?

Posted by:

12 Apr 2011

I have been using Firefox for quite some time now and like it very much. It seems to be a lot safer than IE. I just read that IE is going to release fixes for another 17 (yes, 17) security problems and it seems that this has to be done quite often with them, so No Thanks IE, I am sticking with Firefox!!

Posted by:

09 Jul 2013

I had so many crashing,freezing screen problems with IE, so when Firefox was suggested, I went for it. Not ONE crash/freeze since! I LOVE FF brings up more websites than Google searches and it isnt picky about spelling. NOW I am bummed to see it's security is low..Oh, what to do... Maybe beef up my anti-virus program? or have them both?...Dont know, I hate the idea of having crashing/freezing sites again. Such a waste of time to restart/...

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