WebKit releases SunSpider 1.0 benchmark to chart the future of JavaScript performance

Apple logoSunSpider was initially released with the goal of measuring how quickly a JavaScript engine can perform a balanced variety of tasks, with the goal of profiling how effective new advances will be.

JavaScript is the programing language of the web, handling tasks ranging from numerical calculations to date and regular expression manipulation to object oriented programming tasks that have, collectively, turned the originally simple web browser into a platform capable of hosting feature-rich web applications.

JavaScript is also used to power interactivity outside of the web browser, such as in iOS' iAd, the interactive widgets used in iBooks and in developing dynamic content in iTunes including iTunes LP albums and iTunes Extras for DVD-like, interactive menus for movies and related bonus material.

Apple's new iAd Producer 4.0 (pictured below) provides tools to develop all three types of non-browser, JavaScript powered content.

SunSpider 1.0

In the five and a half years since SunSpider 0.9 was released, it has documented a more than 30x improvement in JavaScript performance from a typical 2.33 GHz computer of 2007 running Safari 3 to a modern 2.2GHz i7 MacBook Pro running Safari 6.

The new 1.0 version just released "fixes a number of bugs and aims to further increase test accuracy and repeatability," taking into consideration the much more sophisticated design of modern JavaScript engines.

Tracking the progress of JavaScript engines to power HTML5

Back in 2007, when the SunSpider benchmark first appeared, the execution of JavaScript hadn't changed dramatically since its introduction by Netscape in 1995 as a way to perform basic calculations within a web browser on the local client side (rather than remotely by the web server).

After SunSpider appeared, an intense new push to drive more programatic sophistication into dynamic web pages resulted in dramatic new leaps in JavaScript technology, first under the term "Ajax" (relating to web pages that can update themselves within the browser without needing to be redrawn by the server) and increasingly related to the promise of "rich web apps" related to HTML5 (see also: "Why Apple is betting on HTML 5: a web history").

In 2008, the WebKit team announced a rewriting of the original JavaScriptCore as a direct-dispatch register based, high-level bytecode virtual machine named "SquirrelFish." Mozilla subsequently announced its TraceMonkey engine for FireFox and Google acquired the V8 engine to accelerate JavaScript performance in Chrome.

Before the year was out, and before SquirrelFish even made it into a shipping version of Safari, the project was enhanced further under the name "SquirrelFish Extreme," which accelerated JavaScript execution using a Just In Time compiler to turn JavaScript into native machine code as an alternative to generating bytecode.

In 2009, Apple applied the enhancements to Safari 4 under the brand "Nitro," noting that the new implementation could run JavaScript up to 4.5 times faster.

The next year, it subsequently released new SquirrelFish Extreme enhancements in Safari 5, boosting JavaScript performance on the Mac another 30 percent over the previous Safari 4. In 2011, the company added Nitro to mobile Safari in iOS 4.3, boosting JavaScript performance by 200 percent on Apple's mobile devices.

Source: AppleInsider

Tags: Apple, browsers, WebKit

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