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Google, Mozilla to collaborate with Apple on fresh Webkit browser benchmark

The lions shall lie down with the lamb on 'cross-industry' Speedometer v.3

Apple, Google and Mozilla are teaming up to develop a new version of the Speedometer browser benchmark that they say will score web browser performance in a novel way: one that reflects user journeys, not under-the-hood streamlining. 

Speedometer was originally released in 2014 by Apple's WebKit team and measures web app responsiveness; version 2 was released in 2018. The WebKit, Chrome and Mozilla Developer teams confirmed in tweets they're now collaborating on version 3.

The Speedometer project's page states that its goal is to build a benchmark in which higher scores indicate an actual user benefit. "Historically benchmarks haven't done a great job at this and have actively competed for attention with the needs of real sites," Mozilla's developer account said in a tweet. 

Speedometer originally included implementations of todo apps in vanilla Javascript as well as the Ember, Backbone, AngularJS, jQuery, Flight and React frameworks. Version 2 added support for additional modern JavaScript frameworks and libraries. 

The WebKit team said browser engineers had been optimizing their engines to meet Speedometer standards "as a proxy for real-world use" of various frameworks "for a number of years." It said this in 2018 - now nearly five years ago.

"Speedometer 2 was a leap forward when it shipped in 2018, but it's time to update it to test real user journeys from online life today," Mozilla said. The Chrome team, in turn, argued for Speedometer's joint governance model, which it said will "drive browser performance in ways that help users." 

It's not entirely clear what that will entail, but the Chrome team did say it's looking forward to Speedometer being updated to include "representative modern workloads" like JavaScript frameworks. 

Changes that are made will have to go through that aforementioned governance program, which states anything beyond a "trivial change" (defined as one that has no effect on the actual benchmark) requires the approval of at least two other participating browser projects.

As of now, Speedometer's documentation says that Blink/V8 (Chromium's rendering and JavaScript engines), Gecko/SpiderMonkey (Mozilla's equivalents) and WebKit/JavaScriptCore (Apple's equivalents) are the participating projects.

It's not unheard of for the world's big web browser makers to collaborate on improving each other's products by designing a shared standard - they did the same thing, along with the addition of Microsoft and software consultancies Bocoup and Igalia, earlier this year to make Interop 2022. It was the first time all the browser vendors had come together in such an effort, Google said.

The Interop benchmark is all about how web standards are implemented across browser vendors and includes analyzing things like cascade layers, color spaces and CSS color functions, scrolling and the like. 

If you're wondering where Microsoft Edge is in the Speedometer collaboration, it also uses Blink/V8, and as such is presumably covered by Google's participation (we've asked, but Microsoft hasn't confirmed it).

There's no good reason to include Internet Explorer, either - it's scheduled to be permanently disabled on Windows 10 systems on February 14, 2023, via an Edge update that will finally and forcibly cut off remaining holdouts.

"Nobody intentionally builds a website that lags or stutters," Mozilla said, adding that it had plenty of ideas on how to improve the general state of user experience on the web, but that most require collaboration and a shared understanding of what matters for internet users. 

"Building [Speedometer 3] will be hard work, and working together gives us a chance to build the best version to help make the Web faster for years to come," the Firefox maker said in a tweet. 

Speedometer 3 doesn't have a release date, and its description on Github only says it is "in active development and unstable." Interested parties can follow along with development on Github, where the project hasn't been updated in three weeks. ®

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