Friday, 17 August 2007

What happened to Firefox?

Firefox... what happened to you? Consuming gross amounts of memory, slower and slower as releases go by. You were supposed to be a slim browser usurping Mozilla by virtue of simplicity, shedding the feature creep and lack of engineering that had convoluted the Mozilla suite. Now you have become the very thing you were created to kill: a bloated browser.

I installed Opera today. It may be closed source, but it's a breath of fresh air - fast, snappy, simple. Innovative features (speed dial, notes) and a clean, minimal UI. In general it just works and is a lovely UI experience.

Another option in Ubuntu/Gnome is Epiphany but it just doesn't have the polish that Opera has.

I originally posted these thoughts in the Ubuntu forums here.


Jason said...

Sorry, but DUH. Welcome to my experiences with every gecko based browser since Netscape 6.

Gecko has been and continues to be a buggy, bloated steaming pile of crap that I cannot fathom how it continues to be such a media darling... especially since I'm consistantly able to crash it on most any hardware and most any OS in under 20 minutes.

If I wasn't a web designer, I'd not even be wasting my time on having it installed... but because I'm a web designer who takes the time to test for all four major engines (gecko, presto, trident and khtml/webkit) I'm stuck using it for >8 hours a day.

...and killing it's process and restarting it every 15-20 minutes.

Paul said...

Maybe Opera is faster and it may well be the best option. But why won't you compare firefox with its real contender (not on open source, of course - neither is opera btw) - the horror bluf - internet explorer?
There is no worst browser than ie. Removing ie from the browser market, diminishing its share, is my best wish as a web developer.
Please, review internet explorer so we all have a good laugh :)

I'm running firefox on ubuntu 64, no problems at all. All my problems with firefox were on windows, but that's gone now.

Happy coding ... in any browser.

Charles said...

Gentlemen, if you want a sleek, FAST, non-bloated browser that also looks good: may I suggest Safari? It's based on Webkit (formerly KHTML) so it should be in alignment with your open source sensibilities.

Steve Howard said...

I absolutely agree. I run Linux at home, and Windows on the corporate laptop. Maybe it is a Windows thing, but I *consistently* find firefox using 98% of my CPU (on a variety of pages from different sites), when I'm not even using it.

It has become a pile of garbage, and I too, cannot fathom why people (mostly in the media) continue to hawk it. I have (gasp) gone back to IE on the laptop, because it has given me no problems.

I may check out the other browsers (such as Safari) that others have mentioned.

Blaise said...

Safari may use an open source framework, but the browser itself isn't open source - is it?

'Techie' Jim said...

I think some of you are too critical. I agree with paul, there is a browser even more cynical than FireFox. I have not had any major problems with FireFox on linux. The only problems I see is when using particular plugins/extensions such as Acrobat for Windows or Flash for Linux. They are both buggy as hell and crash the browser.

As for memory, while I do agree it would be good for them to go back and look at their code and try to clean it up a bit, computers today are getting more and more memory. Taking up a little more is what all programs are going to do as time progresses. You can't expect all programs to suck up 10kb for the rest of eternity do you?

HachiJuhachi0 said...

Try lynx or w3m

Steve said...

Steve Howard said: "I absolutely agree. I run Linux at home, and Windows on the corporate laptop. Maybe it is a Windows thing, but I *consistently* find firefox using 98% of my CPU (on a variety of pages from different sites), when I'm not even using it."

I find that difficult to believe unless you're running dozens of tabs. I use Firefox 2 with fully 10 Add-Ons, it it's only using 65M of RAM even with three tabs open; which is less than 13% of my 512M RAM. I can only conclude you're using buggy Add-Ons, an obsolete version of Firefox, or you're deliberately exaggerating to bash Firefox.

BTW, I tried Opera 9 a few weeks ago. Color me unimpressed.

AnthoMacP said...

I very much agree that Firefox can be a very bloated browser but I think that it is only bloated if the user makes it that way. I'm currently running the Gran Paradiso alpha 6 and it's using only 27MB memory with 3 tabs open compared to iTunes running aswell right now at around 70, even WLM is currently using around 40 so I think when it comes to general applications its at the lower end of memory usage. Maybe a browser could take up even less and be completely barebones but I think really for most users firefox does a very nice job provided you have no extensions installed. Opera may be the way to go but I haven't given it a second chance since it had built in ads. I also have Safari 3 beta installed and I don't find it all that amazing, I find it uses equal to or more resources on Windows than firefox.

Ian said...


Since Opera 8.5, their are no bannera ads or ads of any sort. Opera browser for computers is completely free.

Richard said...

I'm not that concerned with memory consumption as memory is relatively cheap these days - and my machine only has 512MB whereas a lot of machines today come with 1GB.

My complaint about Firefox - and I run the latest release or one release behind (until openSUSE's repositories catch up) - and it does get bogged down on some sites with heavy JavaScript and it does seem to slow down seriously when it is in use for a long time.

However, I have to admit that it doesn't seem to crash as much or have as many memory leaks as it did a few releases ago.

I download a LOT of images from the Web (the nature of which I won't go into!), and Firefox used to be ridiculous. Download a few hundred images and watch it slow to a crawl from memory leaks. That seems to have improved enormously over the 2.x releases.

I have about 13 extensions installed, mostly for video and other downloading and image grabbing, so I can't be sure whether some of the stability problems are related to those extensions. I guess that's the price we pay for having extensions.

While Firefox is better than IE, it's only on a par with Opera due to its extensions. I use both browsers at once when downloading large files, so that Opera handles the downloads. I've had problems in the past with Firefox on Linux not being able to work well with certain download Web sites like Rapidshare. Those problems appear to be cleared up now, but I still use Opera simultaneously in case problems occur.

All in all, it's good that Firefox is around - to keep us from being locked in to a disaster like IE, or have to make do with a more limited browser like Konqueror on Linux.

But Firefox developers - like ALL developers of OSS OR commercial software - need to concentrate on rock solid reliability over "featuritis". "Featuritis" is the WORST "feature" of the current software industry because it leads to bloat, insecurity and unreliabiliy.

Adobe, Intuit, HP, Microsoft - they're ALL afflicted by this. When installing an HP printer means you have to download 750MB of software - when all you want is a PRINTER - something is seriously wrong with the industry.

web said...

RE: Safari
I have been a Mac fan since ordering my 128K Mac in 1983.

Safari is a piece of CRAP! It crashes more often than any browser I have ever seen, including IE!

Lorenzo said...

I've installed Safari on my company PC laptop ( I use a Mac at home). It's still quite buggy but is quick and provides a nicer look than anything else IMHO. But I'm biased

PusRob said...

I agree with the OP. Firefox become slow, buggy, has more security holes than ever, etc...
I have both Linux and Windows one my computer.
On Windows I just can't use Firefox, because it crashes too frequently. To be honest, only IE works on my Windows, because everything else crashes too (what a piece of s**t!). IE7 does throttle my CPU (100%!) when accessing some web pages (youtube for example), opening a new tab(!), closing a tab(!!), and in some other cases. IE is not secure. Why? Because after I use it for a period of time (not too much), adaware finds some nasty things (data miners in most cases) on my comp. The conclusion: IE is good for nothing.
I have a celeron m 1,3, so you can't say, that I have a very very old machine, and because of this IE throttles my cpu.
On my linux (mepis 6.0) I have a firefox version 1.5. And guess what: I am happy with that! When firefox 2 came out I found it slower than 1.5. It was more buggy, because on every 5th page it crashed. Its better now, but I think it's still too slow and memory consuming both on linux and windows (i have mepis 6.5 with firefox 2 too). On mepis 6.5 I decided to kick firefox, and use something else. I looked for alternatives.
The first was Konqueror. Yes, Konqueror, the default filemanager application for KDE, which is a web browser too. Not too long time ago I wouldn't choose it, but now, it is a considerable choise. Why? In old times Konqueror had many issues opening some webpages, but now, it seems that most of those problems (but not all of them) disappeard. It has many features (tabbed browsing, browser identification cloning, embedded stuff, plugins, etc), but still it starts fast and doesn't eat away much memory. It is really a lightweight browser, not like it is described in the firefox linux packages, that firefox is "a lightweight browser based on mozilla" or something like that. Firefox is not lightweight browser any more!!! I don't know why do people still advertise it as a very good browser. It is not any more. It was good until the release of version 2. I am really disappointed in firefox 2. Really. I think you remember, when I wrote "I looked for alternatives". The other alternative is Opera. The last time I used opera, when there were the version 8 series. In those times I didn't use it for a long time, since it couldn't handle a very important site. Now, I gave opera 9 a try, to check if it can handle that particular site of mine. It can! So I left it on my comp. I started to check what features opera has. I was stunned. The speed dial thing is really cool. It is. I don't know if any other browser has such a thing. It has a trash can for closed tabs. Does the others have such a thing? The other thing I like is that opera is a web browser, download manager (even torrents are handled(!)), mail client and IRC client. Everything in only 1 app! It really evolved to a really usable, powerful, and easy to use browser.
If firefox continues this path, it will start loosing its hardly gaind user base, which will be hard to get back.
The conclusion:
Firefox did start to be worse, than the previous versions, which is bad.
There are very good free (some are closed sourced) alternatives to it, and it only depends on time when users will start to see what firefox has become to.
IE sux in any way/version.

Thomas said...

Firefox really crashes on Windows? I'm using and I only have some of the problems the author mentioned; ie bloating. But for me it's dues to the cool add-ons that are offered.

I installed Opera because of some of the comments I read here, but it crashed when trying to go to Yahoo mail. Maybe there are too many scripts there or something.

Anton said...

Firefox is certainly a memory hog, and I often ask myself why it is using the processor at all when I am not doing anything with it (ie, I've been using another programme for the last 25 minutes...) but quite frankly it is streets ahead of anyone else in my view.
But let's be honest - if you don't have the plugins it just ain't worth it. So that leaves IE and FF. IE7 is ok, and the only MS browser I have used for a very long time, but I can assure you that I only use it while developping. And then only on one site I *co*-develop, and then only because it doesn't work with FF (I don't have the 400-800 hours spare to make it compatible, much as I would like!). For some reason I just find IE7 to be very much slower than FF. Opening a new tab just takes too long! And I never get above 6 or 7 tabs, and I regularly have similar memory usage to FF, where I regularly get up to 25.
FF may not be exactly what you want - use something else - I can assure you that for the greatly vast majority of people it provides the best overall browsing experience!

CelloFellow said...

Swiftfox, a version of Firefox with processor-specific tuning for Linux, is my primary browser. It is one of the many Gecko-based non-Fox browsers. All of them are faster than Firefox.

There is K-Meleon for Windows, Camino for OS X, and Epiphany for GNOME. Sorry, no KDE Gecko browser. Konqueror or its brother Safari are good choices.

While I prefer Swiftfox and the extensions it offers like FireBug and Google Toolbar on my main computer, I prefer the speed and stability of K-Meleon on other computers, most of which are Windows. I've toyed with Opera and like some of the features, but it doesn't offer Firefox's powerful extensions. Opera to me is good for general purpose browsing.

When I need to just quickly look at a page I normally just fire up Dillo or xlinks2, which are wicked fast.

Cipherfusionist said...


I've been using linux full time at work and at home for 4 years now. Cannot get enough of it. Ubuntu rocks, but can recommend CentOS, OpenSuse and Mandriva. I love Firefox, I love the layout, ease of use, extensions. But alas, I miss the speed and stability. The Firefox on Ubuntu Dapper was rock solid. I could open 30 tabs and my PC still ran fine. Now with Feisty I must say it's very dissapointing. I don't blame the OS as everything else run's very well. My Firefox regulary locks up and has to be stopped. Luckily enough 95% of the time it does start up and request to resume the tabs and sessions that where open. But still i think they need to spend a little more time on stability, speed and memory improvements instead of new features. Don't slip up Mozilla, keep it lean!!!

Anonymous said...

OK I'm not quite sure how to take most of these posts, so to avoid getting into flame wars, I will just list some quick points.

All broswers have serious problem
with crashing on windows..... does
this reflect on the browser
companies or MS?

I have Firefox on one of my ubuntu
machine. It has the following
plugins, 3 Tabs open one of them
a running video... and
it is only using 60-80 MB.

Colorful Tabs
Download Status Bar
Speed Dial
Split Browser
Well Rounded

As for Opera... I LOVE ITS
AND MOUSE GESTURES... but it's an
unstable beast of a program. It
crashes on every linux distro.
And I'm not talking about doing too
much at one time either.
I'm talking NON-STOP even when you
don't use it!

This is toooo bad, however Windows
users shouldn't suffer from these
problems. That being said, with
just a little browsing of the
extensions you can get all of the
same functionality and more in

stinkinrich88 said...

yeah, thanks, I made the switch to Opera yesterday, not looking back now! I tried it while ago and ddn't like it, but its improved a lot since!

Andrew said...

You can't just slam Firefox for being bloated without any evidence and tell everyone to use a propitiatory browser instead.

Personally I can't wait for FF3 to come out. The new bookmarks features in FF3 is exciting alone.

Charlie said...

Andrew: I'm not telling anybody to use Opera - I'm just describing my experience with Opera as currently better than my experience with Firefox. That's an entirely reasonable statement.

Christopher said...

Thank you for saying what needs to be said. I use Konqueror whenever I can help it, though I presume its quality comes from already having most of the libraries loaded from my KDE setup.

Anonymous said...

I know I am late at posting on this blog but I found it today as I was looking for an answer as to why Firefox has gone slow, why I have had to reinstall it several times in one week (usually have to reinstall once a month but since the I don't use a ton of extensions (7 at the most inc. themes).

I am thinking of ditching it altogether after today (great, how do I get the Fx stickers off?) and Opera is a very nice browser, even IE7 is better these days, any worries and I just Sandboxie it.

I used Fx - no viruses, my daughter uses IE - no viruses, both my sons use Fx, one no viruses the other... infested - due to lack of common sense.

Fx Browser may be *safer* but not when common sense goes out of the window..

James Maxwell said...

Firefox has so many changes. Newer versions are coming and they are really good. Sometimes Firefox may crash because of viruses or any other. We can fix it by using some tips. Here they are -

Tips for Firefox crash problem