Browser

The current (and poor) state of Firefox

Jack Wallen pulls no punches with his thoughts on the current release of Firefox. Will bugs and bloat bring the flagship open source browser to a screaming halt?

Firefox 7 was recently released. That's right, less than a month after the release of Firefox 6 comes numero 7. But why? Why would one of the most popular browsers out there put out major releases so close together? Could it be the fact that 6 was so bad they wanted to call "do-over!" to try to make things right?

It's possible. But is it accurate?

The truth of the matter is, I've abandoned Firefox for Google Chrome. Firefox has become one of the most bloated and slow browsers available. And release 6 only made things worse.

As a writer, I must use social networking tools. One of the most popular social networking tools is Facebook. If you've given Facebook a go on the Linux version of Firefox 6 you will completely understand when I say it's a complete and utter disaster. Every time you load the page your CPU spikes. I know this for fact (on my machine at least) because I have a Shuttle PC and the fan quite literally screams at me every time I open up Facebook on Firefox 6.

Well, this morning, I check my Ubuntu updates to find out Firefox 7 is already available. My first thought is,  "Hey, maybe they've fixed the issue with Facebook! Better give it a try." So I run the upgrades and, when it's all done, fire up Firefox. After the extensions are upgraded, I am on the Firefox 7 splashpage ready to test out the new release. Nothing seems to have changed on the outside ... so I assume all the changes are deep within. Here's the actual feature list:

  • Improved memory handling
  • Bookmark and password changes now sync almost instantly when using Firefox Sync
  • The "http://" URL prefix is now hidden by default (just like Chrome)
  • The WebSocket protocol has been updated from version 7 to version 8
  • Fixed several security and stability issues
  • added a system for users to send performance data back to Mozilla

Okay, that first bullet point seems promising. So, I click on the olE Facebook bookmark and log in.

CPU fan goes nuts! I reload the page. CPU fan goes nuts. I click on Facebook Messages...CPU fan goes equally nuts.

Now, is Facebook a fair test for a browser? Just a few short years ago I would have said there is no one website that should be used as a litmus test for browser performance. That is not the case now. Thanks to the enormous popularity of Facebook, if a browser can not function properly on that site, that browser is going to have issues. Not only is that browser going to have issues, that browser is going to lose users. Sites like Facebook own the internet and if Firefox can't seem to get its memory issues under control, it will very quickly lose is user base.

But so badly is the memory usage of Firefox that even with 7 claiming to address memory issues, said issues are still bad. It's like saying, "Yes your Chevy Super Sport was getting horrible gas mileage so we changed the fuel lines." Well, guess what, it's still a Chevy Super Sport and will always get horrible gas mileage unless you fundamentally change the car.

Firefox has reached a state of bloat and needs a major makeover. At one point fingers were all pointing toward Microsoft for doing nothing but adding features and not fixing problems. Guess what? That title might well now belong to Mozilla as Firefox has had memory and bloat issues since Firefox 4. I don't see these issues going away any time soon, so in the mean time I'll be sticking with Google Chrome.

I realize there really isn't an easy fix for this. In the world of technology it seems everyone is in a race to win over users, have the coolest new features, and release, release, release. Problem is, with that model, software developers are going to be consistently producing poor releases that aren't ready for public consumption. I would like to see Firefox retract versions 5-7 and get a major Mulligan. Fix the memory issues, cut back on the bloat, and give users a browser that browses without causing our CPU fans to scream at us as if they were being attacked by a million zombies.

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.

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