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Opera creates new JavaScript engine

Opera creates new JavaScript engine

The new JavaScript engine - Carakan - runs two and a half times faster than the original, and could scale up to fifty times the speed.

After its embarrassing showing in the next-generation browser speed tests carried out by ZDnet last week, Opera is keen to reassure users that it won't be accepting the results lying down.

According to a report over on CNet, Opera is planning a replacement for the Futhark JavaScript engine that featured in the build of Opera 10 Alpha that was tested as part of ZDNet's benchmark suite with a shiny new engine dubbed Carakan – and it should boost the performance considerably.

Many were surprised that the minority browser, often considered one of the fastest and most standards-compliant around, scored so poorly in the benchmarks based around the SunSpider JavaScript tests – especially when the results showed it taking nearly three times as long as its nearest competitor, and only being beaten to last place by Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

The good news is that the poor performance should be fully resolved by launch, with Opera boasting that the new engine will run JavaScript around two and a half times as fast as Futhark – bringing the speed in line with competing next-generation browsers, and leaving Internet Explorer 8 all on its own as the slowest performer by far.

In a post on Opera's blog, programmer Lars Erik Bolstad claimed that the company has “taken on the challenge to once again develop the fastest [JavaScript] engine on the market.” With a variety of optimisations under its belt – including native code generation capabilities, register-based bytecodes replacing Futhark's stack-based set, and automatic object classification – Carakan is looking good, but the Bolstad warns that the code “is not yet ready for full-scale testing,” citing some compatibility problems with the native code generation system.

The potential for even greater speed boosts is there: without the native code generation system, the JavaScript performance is boosted by around two and a half times; when the system is able to be used it shows an improvement of between five and fifty times when compared to Futhark. Now that's performance worth boasting about.

We're unlikely to see Carakan before the launch of Opera 10, but it certainly makes the next release one to watch – and should have Firefox, Safari, and Chrome worried.

How important is JavaScript performance to you? Would you consider switching browsers just to get a speed boost when browing script-heavy sites, or is functionality more vital than raw speed? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

14 Comments

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severedhead 6th February 2009, 12:07 Quote
Thats a relief. I've not been usign Opera for long, but I'm really starting to like it. I don't wanna be stuck with IE-standard speeds!
Leitchy 6th February 2009, 12:13 Quote
How does this fair against Chrome's engine considering that was only just released?
<A88> 6th February 2009, 12:18 Quote
I've just switched from Opera to Chrome almost entirely for speed reasons, so it'll be nice to see how the new engine stacks up :).
azrael- 6th February 2009, 13:12 Quote
Where do they get these codenames from? Sounds like randomly combined syllabels... :)
mclean007 6th February 2009, 13:12 Quote
I wonder to what extent Caraken has been "inspired" by Chrome's V8 open source JavaScript engine?
Cupboard 6th February 2009, 13:30 Quote
I wonder why they didn't just use the open source V8 engine
perplekks45 6th February 2009, 14:41 Quote
Because it's easier to do marketing for something YOU developed. If the core is the same and nobody knows... fine.
Redbeaver 6th February 2009, 16:18 Quote
buddy of mine got this alpha version, and it's bloody fast...
r4tch3t 7th February 2009, 00:18 Quote
Javascript disabled here (except for bit-tech and other frequented sites) These speed improvements mean nothing.
Gremlin 7th February 2009, 04:38 Quote
As a dedicated opera user this is definitely great news it used to be faster than everything a few years ago but its speed hasn't increased as much as its competitors so i'm glad this will change it
ssj12 8th February 2009, 04:34 Quote
ill stick with firefox.
Chocobollz 9th February 2009, 07:43 Quote
In my own opinions, after using Firefox (and being an Opera haters) by 4 years, and then using Opera exclusively since Opera 7, I will surely go with Opera, it is so much better than any other browsers. Even Firefox 3 can't beat Opera 9.x for its functionality.

Just FYI, I've already tested both browser on my crappy connection and if matched against FF2, Opera is 300% faster than FF2 (about 800 - 1000% faster than IE6!!), though with FF3, it's just 10 - 20% faster, not much, but still faster. I've done the test on a 256 Kibibit/s connection (3G network) and the browser were tested in a worst case scenario; the browser must open a webpage full of pictures while there's no bandwidth left on the connection (by downloading a file with Internet Download Manager; with 8 download threads). And tell you what, an approx. 800 KB webpage has 100% opened by Opera in like 1 minute! FF2 comes in 2nd place in 3 minutes and IE 6 in 3rd place in 8 minutes (!). You'll surely thinking that was a lie, so do I if I'm not have witnessed it myself! At that time, I was shocked and thinking, WTF is this? This must be just a coincidence and so I've been redo the test and no matter how I do it, the result is still the same! And ever since that time, I've been only using Opera (well sometimes I use FF3 too because some moron web-designer made their website to support only FF). I myself, when doing web-design, I usually do the test on IE or Opera, then on the FF.

And Opera don't hog your system as much as the other browser do. Right now, I'm working with 70 windows (with 1000+ open tabs!!) simultaneously open in Opera 9.63 and tell you what, it's working flawlessly. Yes, it becomes slower to scroll but still, it works. And the memory footprint is only 1.3 GB for all the windows, while in FF2, opening about 20 - 30 tabs simultaneously has draining a whooping 800 MB of memory!! I know FF2 has a serious memory-leak bugs but since that time, I've been keeping myself away from FF, I don't know about FF3 but I won't bother trying because Opera is so much more convenient than FF3. The UI's so much cleaner and so much more user-intuitive. I do think that FF3 default UI have a lot fewer buttons (or menus, etc.) but I think they overdo it. A minimalist UI is good but if you're doing too much than it'll more bad than good.

I will stick with Opera. Absolutely the best browser!

// Just my 2 cents
r4tch3t 9th February 2009, 13:26 Quote
Wow dude, how much porn do you need? 1000+ tabs, what do you have open?
perplekks45 9th February 2009, 13:49 Quote
^ What he said.

Also, yes, FF needs a bit too much memory for my liking but it never went over 250MB for me and with 2GB that's not too much. Although Photoshop showed me I need a RAM upgrade... badly. :(
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