The Performance Edge: Can The Little Taxi Make It Up The Hill - A Performance Review Of The iCab Browser

You have no doubt heard of the new iCab browser for the Mac from a small German software company of the same name. iCab is a work in progress. It is currently in preview version, with scheduled final release in late summer to early fall. When it is finally released there will be both a pro version for $29 and a free version. It is inspiring to see a small software company go up against the behemoths of Netscape and Microsoft. How they plan to market themselves, as a niche player or real competitor, will be interesting to see. At the moment they have a very serviceable, if incomplete, browser. iCab has received a lot of buzz because of its small system resource footprint - the stuffed browser can fit on a floppy. Below we compare the iCab to the current browsers from Netscape and Microsoft in terms of System resource usage and performance.

System Requirements

Browser RAM Requirement Hard Drive Space Required Download Size Minimum OS
iCab 1.6a 4MB 2.5 800KB 7.5
Communicator 4.6.1 16MB 14MB 13MB 7.6.1
Explorer 4.5 8MB 8MB 8MB 7.5.3

For the performance tests below four tests were run on a iMac/233 over a Pacbell ADSL connection. Web graphics download, Web text download, complex Web page download and render, and downloading the Starwars trailer from Apple's Web site tests were run. The tests utilized a stopwatch and each test was run three times. Then the lowest score for each test was chosen. The Browser's caches were set to zero and the Browser was relaunched after each test. Scores are relative to the iCab browser which receives a score of 100%. Shorter bars are better.





Actual Download Times

Browser Web Graphics Download Web Text Download Complex Web Page Download Star Wars Trailer Download
iCab 1.6a 11.01 seconds 20.13 seconds 14.18 seconds 43.80 seconds
Explorer 4.5 8.38 seconds 39.95 seconds 28.33 seconds 41.45 seconds
Communicator 4.6.1 7.72 seconds 14.04 seconds 11.11 seconds 37.66 seconds

Keep in mind that this is how iCab looks today and it may be somewhat different when it is in final release - we will take another look at that time.

The advent of the iCab browser brings some questions to mind:

1) How will it find a place for itself in the current browser market?

2) What will make users choose or switch to iCab

3) Will iCab remain small and light in future releases? (Remember Navigator started out that way as well and look at it now.)

It's a gutsy thing to spend time and resources to bring another browser to market at this time. We welcome another choice of browser, but wonder if iCab will turn out to be little more than a boutique browser relegated to be a niche player? What do you thnik - Does iCab have a chance? Post your ideas on our community bulletin board.

iCab Facts

System Requirements Minimum 4MB free RAM System 7.5 or better MacTCP or OpenTransport ThreadManager (not needed in OS 8.X) InternetConfig 1.2 (or Mac OS 8.5) Other recommended software DragManager (not needed in OS 8.X) Apples MRJ 2.0 or better for Java support in iCab (2.1 recommended) QuickTime (3.0 recommended) for media playback on the internet Special features in iCab HTML 4.0 support Tag recognition for specific Netscape und Microsoft HTML enhancements
(i.e blink, marquee, multicol and more). Flexible image filtering (for example banners) Flexible cookie filtering iCab can "bookmark" individual frames outside of their parent window iCab can generate an error report indicating syntax mistakes in the HTML source . This feature is especially interesting for those individuals who design their own web pages. iCab can automatically reload web pages as soon as they are edited in a separate application . This eliminates the need to constantly switch to a browser to see the results in an edited web page. Auto-complete URLs in the address field Display Java-Applets with the help of Apples MRJ 2.0 or better. iCab can search through HTML files on your local hard drive or cache A special search mode can display the c't rom CDs by Heise-Verlag Multiple search engines are available directly from the internet search option in iCab Import web archives (and cache) from Internet Explorers 4.X Download Manager Hotlist (Bookmarks), History MacOS 8.5 Appearance savvy Support for Navigation-Services, Contextual menus and proportional scrolling (MacOS 8.5) and much, much more... Planned features (for the final release) Cascading StyleSheets Level 2 (CSS2) JavaScript Create web archives in ZIP-Format (download complete web sites)



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