Google offers new browser benchmark for WebApps

RoboHornet goes beyond JavaScript benchmarks to test other Web application components

Recognizing that developers are working with an increasing number of browser technologies to build their Web applications, Google engineers, along with contributors from other companies, have posted a new test suite for browsers.

RoboHornet, posted as an alpha-stage Internet service late Monday, tests how quickly a browser can execute the components that are increasingly used in complex Web applications, including HTML5 associated technologies such as the Canvas tag, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and the localStorage browser-side storage mechanism.

"RoboHornet isn't like other benchmarks because it encompasses all aspects of browser performance and everything that matters to Web developers, like performance of layout and localStorage," said Alex Komoroske, who is the Google project manager for RoboHornet.

Microsoft, Facebook and Tilde, among others, have also provided development help for the project. RoboHornet's keepers hope that, with this benchmark in place, browser makers will concentrate on improving the performance and eliminating the bottlenecks that the test suite highlights.

Although RoboHornet has a number of tests for JavaScript, the developers aimed to test a broader array of technologies than just JavaScript, given the number of JavaScript testers that are already available, such as SunSpider.

As a result, "The RoboHornet Suite now better represents the web app developer communities' biggest priorities for performance," wrote Google project contributor Paul Irish in a blog post.For instance, the suite benchmarks how quickly a browser can render tables, carry out mathematical operations, and make sense of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and the Web page's DOM (Document Object Model).

"As a general rule, it is rare to have benchmarks that all major players agree on, so if indeed this effort is supported by folks like Microsoft and Google then it is an opportunity to move the Web forward," wrote IDC applications development software analyst Al Hilwa, in an e-mail message discussing RoboHornet.

The RoboHornet developers do face additional challenges, Hilwa cautioned, such as working with mobile devices and getting more parties on board, most notably Apple.

"Generally speaking if a browser test takes hold in the industry it does more than measure performance, it tends to unify the behavior of different browsers and ultimately begins to dictate how various ambiguities in the specification of Web standards are interpreted," Hilwa wrote.

The project developers have posted the RoboHornet code on GitHub and are looking for additional contributors.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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