What’s in the latest Chrome update? A JavaScript jolt from the new Sparkplug compiler

Google is claiming that Chrome 91, the version that launched May 25, is up to 23% faster than its predecessors thanks to a new JavaScript compiler dubbed “Sparkplug.”

The speed improvements made to Chrome will also apply, if they haven’t already, to other browsers that  rely on the Chromium project’s technologies, including the V8 JavaScript engine. Microsoft’s Edge is the most popular non-Google browser based on Chromium.

“An important component of delivering a fast browser is fast JavaScript execution,” wrote Thomas Nattestad, product manager for Chrome, in a May 27 post to a Google blog.

According to Nattestad, the new Sparkplug compiler has been inserted between the two previously-existing — Ignition and Turbofan — to break through a performance stalemate. (The byte code interpreter Ignition began executing JavaScript as soon as possible; meanwhile, the Turbofan optimizer generates high-performance machine code, but required information available only after Ignition started executing JavaScript.)

“Sparkplug strikes a balance between Ignition and Turbofan in that it does generate native machine code but does not depend on information gathered while executing the JavaScript code,” wrote Nattestad. “This lets it start executing quickly while still generating relatively fast code.”

In effect, Sparkplug can’t craft code that matches the performance of Turbofan’s but starts doing it sooner. Elsewhere, Google called Sparkplug a “non-optimizing JS [JavaScript] compiler,” to further differentiate it from Turbofan.

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