Nitro, WebKit’s JavaScript interpreter used in Apple’s Safari, is about to get a lot speedier as Apple is seemingly looking to close a speed gap between its browser and both Google Chrome’s V8 and Mozilla Firefox’s SpiderMonkey engines.

The vast majority of today’s web applications use JavaScript for interactivity and other purposes so any improvements in a browser’s JavaScript performance would normally trickle down to the end-user level, resulting in snappier web browsing…

MacRumors editor Eric Slivka passes along a report by InfoWorld explaining that Apple’s work on boosting JavaScript performance in Safari stems from the inclusion of so-called accelerator upgrades in recent builds of WebKit, a web rendering engine Apple developed and later open-sourced to the public.

Specifically, Apple is toying with so-called FTLJIT upgrades to WebKit’s Nitro JavaScript interpreter, also known as JavaScriptCore.

Basically Apple’s own JavaScript interpreter, FTLJIT is based on a common optimization technique known as just-in-time compiling which translates human-readable JavaScript commands to machine code at execution time, thereby making JavaScript run nearly as fast as native code.

InfoWorld explains:

FTLJIT is still considered experimental, so although it’s being made available in the OS X port of WebKit by default, it’s not actually turned on yet – it has to be enabled through command-line flags.

The AreWeFastYet JavaScript benchmarking website has found FTLJIT markedly faster than Chrome on 64-bit OS X, although Firefox running asm.js versions of the same benchmarks “still consistently beat WebKit”.

One attribute that could make FTLJIT stand out from the pack all the more is how well it runs JavaScript code that is not specifically optimized for [Mozilla’s] asm.js.

Every JavaScript engine will run asm.js code, but only Mozilla’s SpiderMonkey honors asm.js-specific optimizations, and right now no other browser maker has elected to follow Mozilla’s lead.

As FTLJIT is currently being prototyped, there was no word on when the technology might ship in the consumer version of Safari.

A mobile Safari edition used in iOS includes the Nitro Javascript interpreter but, curiously, not the embeddable browser available to developers. That said, we do expect to eventually see the FTLJIT speed boost applied to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices, in addition to Macs.

Perhaps FTLJIT will make its way into OS X 10.10 and iOS 8?

June 2 can’t come soon enough…

  • OtterWithKids

    I’ve almost always found Safari to be the fastest, anyway. Chrome and Firefox occasionally come out ahead, but Safari tends to be the fastest on the most sites I use regularly.

    • I know of some cutting edge sites it has issues which, while Chrome doesn’t which is odd since they’re both Webkit browsers. But yeah at least it’s not as a bad as the garbage browser called Firefux.

      • Carlos Gomes

        Chrome’s (layout) engine isn’t Webkit. Not anymore, unless we’re talking about the iOS version.

      • Perhap I’m confused there’s even a difference, I usually just refer to the two different rendering engines as a whole. I just hate Firefox for how crappy I have encounter it is. At the moment my cutting edge experimental music site’s visualizer is only working on webkit. But the previous version of that visualiser made firefox weeped while webkit was just running it all very smoothly. (I could go on and on..)

        I thought webkit was going to become better and called Blink. So as far as I know Chrome’s still running on the same (superior to Firefux) engine..

        Not that this all matters that much. I’d just rather see Firefox sucking less so I can update my visualiser so every visitor can enjoy the experience. *grumpy face*

      • @bill_do:disqus: Ah that is right though.

        (And for anyone else, I am refering to Mac OSX browsers, not iOS since that’s far too limited because of Apple.)

      • Hm seems Blink is driving Chrome since v28, currently v38
        I just never noticed the difference…
        Still nice enough the way it is.

  • Sim

    Clippers had an epic comeback against thunder yesterday

    • Nicolas Cage

      Damn u Sterling!

  • Safari’s speed is not a problem. The visual looks old and is not as intuitive as Chrome or Firefox.
    Personally, I can’t stand using Safari.Maybe with a new look it will call my atention.

    • Hoping for that too. Certain bits of the UI just annoy me. Only use it because of Reading List.

  • Sachin

    Safari is the best on iOS according to me. Chrome is fast too but i prefer safari.

    • Dee

      The best browser on iOS is a draw between iCab Mobile and Mercury Pro. If you’re jailbroken download Nitrous on Cydia to make Nitro work on ALL browsers.

  • sriram varadarajulu

    Ummm… What’s on June 2nd?

    • Tony Trenkle Jr.

      WWDC….lol duh!

  • Stayo

    Hey i know this is not the place for this, but dose anyone know to downgrade iOS 7.1.1 to iOS 7.0.X???

    • Ninja Banana

      That’s not possible right now, sorry buddy.