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Firefox 3.5 RC 2: Why I am not so impressed

Firefox has a new release candidate out, 3.5 rc2 with claims of serious speed. Jack Wallen seems to think these claims are a little over-hyped. Read on to see what Jack thinks about what Firefox has in store. And then, let us know what you think about where Firefox is heading.

I decided it was time to see what the developers of Firefox had been doing with my favorite open source browser. There has been quite a bit of hype surrounding this up-coming release. I downloaded it, fully expecting to be blown away. The verdict so far? To quote my 14-year-old:

"Meh."

Why the near apathetic response? Primarily because this browser is being hyped as "Faster Firefox" with "Amazing feats of speed." Maybe it was my recent foray into Google Chrome on Linux, but this Firefox doesn't seem fast. In fact, it seems slower than 3.0.  Of course I understand this is a release candidate and I am confident the official release will be much better. But so far, for a release that is getting so much publicity, it doesn't fit the bill.

This is a .5 release so it's not considered a "major release." Because of this, I think the developers are trying too hard to play catch up to Chrome. Let's look at the features:

  • Improved privacy tools including Private Browsing Mode.
  • New TraceMonkey JavaScript engine.
  • Location Aware Browsing.
  • Native JSON and Web worker thread support.
  • Geko improvements including speculative parsing.
  • HTML5 video and audio element support (and much more).
  • Offline data storage support.

When I look at that list of features I think they could have held off on a few of those features for a major release. The Private Browsing Mode should have been held off as should the Location Aware Browsing and Offline Data storage. These features, to me, should have been included in the 4.0 release. Why? So Firefox can release a 3.5 version that really stands up to their claim of being "fast." That is ultimately what they are up against with Chrome, because Google Chrome is hands down the fastest browser I have ever used. If there is something Firefox needs to catch up with it is that: Speed.

Features that make me say "meh" again

Firefox 3.5 claims to support audio and video with the help of Ogg and WAV. What does this mean? Not much to the new or average user. What does the new and average user do with their browser? They watch Youtube videos. Can these users watch Youtube videos with Firefox 3.5 out of the box? No. Flash still has to be installed. To these users "video and audio" support means Youtube (and other embedded) videos. This is one of those issues that keeps many users away from Linux - the hassle of having to monkey with their browser to get it to work with certain sites. A new user will see the claims coming out of Mozilla.com and think, "Yay! I don't have to do anything to watch videos anymore! Linux, here I come." Problem is, they will be sorely disappointed when they find out that, yes, they do still have to monkey with their browser.

There are other smaller features that are interesting and will probably wind up being lesser used features. One such feature is the ability to drag a tab from one Firefox window to another window. Unless you are a power user you will probably never see this feature in action.

Back up your claims

Firefox is my browser of choice. I will continue to use Firefox. And there are many users like me who will continue to use this open source browser, even if they don't back up their claim of speed for 3.5. But I do hope they come through on this. For the longest time the browser war had two camps and both camps were neck and neck. When a third party got involved, and showed up both parties by seriously following through with their claims of speed, the war became a bit lopsided. Chrome is the fastest browser available right now. Firefox should stop with the feature bloat and focus their energy on speed. Once they get that on par with the leader, then they can add a few more bells and whistles.

Avoid the forking

It's been shown, in the open source community, that when someone isn't happy with the route an application is going (and they have the means) they will fork an application into something of their own design. If Firefox continues to bloat like it is, this same thing will happen at the Firefox 3.5 release point. Someone is going to see how the features are standing in the way of the speed and reliability of the browser, so fork it off, and attempt to make it better. Does that mean they will succeed? Who knows. But the point is, Firefox should avoid giving the community a reason to fork. Find out what the community at large really wants from the application and focus on that. I would venture to say the majority of the at large community using Firefox would say to improve the speed would make the experience far better.

Final thoughts

Don't get me wrong, I use Firefox and enjoy it. I just want to see it continue to grow and improve. And at the moment the area where Firefox needs improvement is speed. What do you think? Do the developers of the Firefox browser need to focus on speed? Or do you think they are on the right path by adding new features and attempting to give speed a boost?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

99 comments
denchikus
denchikus

I dont think that FF is a best choice. I thoud so when i had using my alienware m9700 with 2 GB of ram, but now it works very very slowly on my duron 800 with 394 MB ram, and crashscreens appears several times every week. It use 150-190MB ram, is it normal? I dont think so.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Faster than FF, for me, in reading these TR forums and it offers more features than I use. I don't really care about add-ons to enhance my security in FF. I have some, don't use them and I'm still trouble free. Add-ons? Big whoopdedoo although I do frequently use StumbleUpon when I'm bored.

faisal_kaleem
faisal_kaleem

Dears, It should be faster than Safari 4. that is much speedy. Though I use Firefox for it's features (Add-ons) and few times I need to go to Safari for speed.

jackie40d
jackie40d

I run Linux and I have NO PROBLEMS with any site and I make the movies I add to youtube. . and can see them . . I use Ubuntu 9.04 and it just works with all the stuff out there Flash shockwave and all try this one http://www.lynns-store.com has lots of flash and movies

Jaqui
Jaqui

unless you install the support for that MALWARE, Flash. and any distro that includes the flash plugin "out of the box" is in violation of the GNU-GPL that covers 99% of the software they are using. guess that is strike 27 for Ubuntu

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I was under the impression that using a non-GPL'd software side by side with GPL'd software was NOT in violation of the GPL. I may be wrong, though. (it may be in violation of RMS, but he doesn't count)

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

double post sorry

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

while trying them out. If you get the big DVD they include a lot of EXTRA software packages you can add. The base install is the kernel and the basic OS itself. In some cases an early part of the install process is to go down a list of what you want installed, and the system is installed. In some cases the list is short and designed for you to choose servers, desktop, and stuff like that. Others the list is longer and you can choose applications to install at the same time - like Open Office, Gimp, VLC, nVidia drivers, Firefox, and other things like media players. In this case they are all loaded as part of the installation process. After installation (of either) you can start up and run an application like Add / Remove programs and select the other applications you want to install. Most GPL licences require the whole of what you release be open and GPL only. But a variant was made public a year or so ago which allowed for the inclusion of some closed source in the software covered by GPL with certain provisions to ensure it doesn't get accidentally incorporated. My understanding of the situation is: Essentially, you can't have closed source in the basic code for the OS but can include a stand alone closed source app IF you have the approval of the copyright holder.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

distribute under the GPL, and that means all you distribute as the base system has to be under GPL, so including non GPL in the base distribution is either a breach of the GPL or the copyright of what you added. Which is why a lot of the proprietary software is issued not as part of the base install but stuff that can be added a little later.

DHCDBD
DHCDBD

I actually prefer Slackware or compiled Debian over Ubuntu, however I had to standardize on something. That something was determined by the distro that required the least tinkering to make the machines mostly operable. The mostly is because most of the machines are portables. The servers run Slackware. Even so, with the U 9.04 release I had to spend nearly a month to make the machines mostly stable. If the 9.1 release is this unstable all the Linux machines will end up running Slackware.

rob.pilgrim
rob.pilgrim

I used to favour Firefox, but Chrome is considerably faster and much more 'stripped down' to basics. But it is the "?Firefox?s Invalid Security Certificate" box which comes up so regularly which has stopped me using it. So to improve it .... allow users to choose to turn it off

ahw
ahw

I'm afraid this is rather off-topic, but I'm finding that the downloadable language packs don't work on recent editions of FireFox and Thunderbird. For a linguist, this can be a considerable handicap. Even so, I appreciate what Mozilla is doing, and I greatly prefer the Mozilla offerings to the alternatives.

zclayton2
zclayton2

Is the sites that don't work with it. Hence my reliability vote for the poll. I just really get tired of a help desk telling me to use IE to access their site because it won't work with Firefox. It would if they used standards for the site, and FF should be fault tolerant an display it anyway with a note that it may not be perfect because the web designer got lazy and used m$ as the expectation.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

to work with MS crapware. I had fun one day with a medium size company who's answer was 'If you can't see our site because you don't use Internet Explorer, that's your problem fool.' I greatly enjoyed passing that message on to their regional manager and telling him that because we couldn't use their site to get prices on the products we wanted, their local opposition just got our $180,000 dollar purchase order, have a nice day. A month later they had a new web site up.

samir7399
samir7399

I feel its a perennial conflict for any piece of software between performance, features and reliability while offering the best of all 3 worlds. Falling short anywhere carries the risk of obliteration from the market. I often find users over-loading Firefox with plug-ins, add-ons and themes and then complaining that its slow... My instance of the browser runs with Adblock and a couple of add-ons and I find that the launch speed needs improvement. Other than that I am satisfied with the application.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Customer: "I want it fixed fast, cheap, and right!" Mechanic: "Sorry, sir. Pick two."

jkiernan
jkiernan

I found the 3.5 RC to be much slower than 3.0.11. When I removed it, it nuked my 3.0.11 settings and favorites despite my telling it not to.

francisvandenplas
francisvandenplas

I always keep a back-up of the whole lot, just in case and, especially, with FF. Even if you install 3.5 next to 3.0.11 as I do, you should always remember they both will use the same profile under User\XXX\Appdata\Roaming! A simple batch file does this for me when I shut down. On our fairly fast machines, believe it or not, a good old batch file runs blistering fast! It's only the selective copying that takes some time, but not much. If you use the same batch file to shut down your PC, you better allow for a one minute delay because (and this is also one of the FF nuisances) FF takes quite some time to terminate its processes!

matrixduke
matrixduke

My ubnutu updated my Firefox to the latest Version and it;s not stable and it does hang more frequently, not impressed as well

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I am looking for simply reliability before speed. FF 3.4 tends to have memory leaks and takes all processing power (mostly due to add-ons/extensions that aren't properly tested and debugged). IE also crashes frequently. I have to open and close IE at least 2 times before it starts working. I have always used FF and I always will, however, before speed, I think FF simply needs to clean up the code. Chrome may be fast, FF still is more useful to me with add-ons, such as the web-development add-ons, great for cleaning up your site.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Firefox sucks. use Seamonkey, it has the same rendering engine, and none of the Firefox problems. Then it also has Thunderbird email client built into it, Komposer simple html wysiwyg web page editor, chatzilla irc client, address book and far better UI design. mainly because it's the current incarnation of the Suite browser, as in Netscape Communicator Suite and Mozilla Suite.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I was hoping you would tell 'em to use lynx and mutt respectively :) On another note, have you looked into the ubiquity project? seems interesting at the least. http://labs.mozilla.com/projects/ubiquity/

Jaqui
Jaqui

ubiquity is focused on what I consider garbage. just like Flock, a useless ui model seems o be their goal. "extend the browser"? there should be no need to. the browser has the functionality to display ALL content built into it already. Anything that won't display, is garbage that shouldn't be on a website anyway.

Jaqui
Jaqui

E16 E17 is bloated.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

He doesn't use a GUI desktop / windows manager at all, except as necessary for some testing. CLI all the way. How'm I doing, J?

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I saw that coming, lets see what else I can find... :) btw, what de/wm do you use. I know it isn't gnome or kde, so what does it for you? (im an xfce fan, personally)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I guess I'm the only one who doesn't have problems with FF. I'm aware of the memory leak, but it's never impacted me. As to Seamonkey, I've no use for Thunderbird, Komposer, or Chatzilla. In my case this particular suite qualifies as bloatware; it may have utilities others use, but it's more than I need.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Palmetto calling "bloatware" on Jacqui? I think there's something coming over the horizon - yes, it's the four horsemen of the apocalypse! i kid ;-)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Say, what's that down there in the Ohio? You can just see it if you lean out a little further, Jack; just a ... little ... further ..." [nudge; nudge]

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

Actually I have never had any problems with ff on any platform up until now. On my windows xp box at work, ff crashes like crazy. I have no idea why. Works brilliantly on all other platforms, including XP elsewhere. Same download. Hell a vmware xp box on the machine in question has firefox working. very weird.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

noticeable memory leaks. The system has only 2 GB RAM - gawd ONLY 2 GB, I can remember when we were happy to have 2 MB RAM.

francisvandenplas
francisvandenplas

And I who believed that MS was the guy who had a "leak" problem, dating back to Word (for DOS) and running through all their GUI OS's. Sometimes it seems to go the other way around: try closing heavyweights like FF + OOo Writer (far worse memory hog than Word, by the way) and you end up with lots of more memory available than when you just opened Vista. Meaning that to free memory under Vista, you open and close a few memory hogs. My estimated guess is that Vista uses lots of memory starting up its numerous drivers, services and other paraphernalia, and only gives that memory back when you close the other apps... But, back to FF: for once, even, as stated elsewhere in this forum, IE also has a "leak" problem (well it's MS after all, isn't it?), it is not as heavy as the FF one. With FF I have often noticed, not just the use of "more memory", but up to 3 times as much "than it did when you first opened it" and this for one session (being fairly "Green" I always shut down my PC at night). That's really much isn't it?

Jaqui
Jaqui

seamonkey doesn't do that. and Palmie, when you install seamonkey, you only have to install the browser and "Personal Security Manager". the PSM only if you may need to visit an ssl site, like a proper login page on a site.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

i meant to add a :) anyway, yea, I really miss ad block and downthemall. but when ff crashes even opening the help>about menu, we have problems.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No insult intended. I figured you had, but thought I'd ask. I've tried Chrome a couple of times but there are a few FF add-ons I've become fond of (Adblock Plus, Feed Sidebar, Unhide Passwords).

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

hasn't this been around since the first tabbed firefox? and if i remember correctly, IE isn't any better. I like the sandboxing of chrome. I hope maybe the moz team takes sandboxing and runs with it.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

of course i did. I work in IT. I have tried stuff that most people don't. the only thing i haven't done is reinstall Windows (chrome is good enough, frankly).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If you open a new tab, the amount of memory used increases. If you close the tab, not all of the memory it used is returned. As you open and close tabs, the amount of memory not returned gradually increases. After a few days, even if you have only a single tab open to the same site you started with, FF uses more memory than it did when you first opened it.

francisvandenplas
francisvandenplas

I use FF primarily, but nothing changed : it' still a memory hogg (is that what you mean with "memory leaks"?). As I'm writing this, it's using 203.804 kB. This is unacceptable! Maybe my add-ons are partly responsible for this, but lots of them are not recognized yet, so?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

tried turning off all your plug-ins, or uninstalling and reinstalling FF.

noorman
noorman

I 'm not impressed at all with the displaying of photo's (pictures); htye seem to be displayed in a low colour resolution. I 've checked this by downloading some of these pics and opening them in my default viewer (Irfanview). Opened with that app. they were colourful again :-) I don't know what causes this, but this was already evident in the 3.5 beta's ...

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

I would like to see speed based on what makes Chrome faster, not to crash firefox when something in a tab does not process correclty but halts on just that tab, and more built-in capabilities, To run whatever IE will out of the box, play well with JAVA and all its versions better, auto install of flash and other media cablibilites needed on most web sites today. Less feature bloat, just support what is needed with most web sites, the more simple but usable the better.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

The worst is to have a bunch of tabs open in one window, one tab hangs, the entire window is useless...sure they can all be restored, but I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me. Each tab oughta be isolated, it's own thread or something, so when one tab hangs, the others can still be accessed, and the one troubled tab can be closed.

jon_saxon
jon_saxon

FireFox 3.1x seems to be posting an update a week lately. That concerns me. But more to the point, FireFox has an odd way of painting and repainting the screen where graphics are present. The text keeps wrapping around the graphic and it makes reading the page as the graphics are loading quite tedious if not impossible. I like Firefox and use it for most of my browsing that does not require IE. But it has some annoying behaviors that could be fixed before they worry about all these other features.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"A new user will see the claims coming out of Mozilla.com and think, ?Yay! I don?t have to do anything to watch videos anymore! Linux, here I come.?" I don't think the average user will equate Firefox with Linux. We know they're both open source, but to most users Firefox is just another Windows app. Millions of people have replaced IE with FF; a smaller number have replaced MS Office with OpenOffice.org. That doesn't mean they've tried (or even heard of) Linux.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I agree. just like you can use closed source software on Linux, you can have Open Source software on Windows, that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Now if people would actually read the Windows EULA and compare it to the GPL of most Linux Distros, we may have some progress. :)

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