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Firefox Is Lagging Behind, Its Co-Founder Says 646

sopssa writes "Firefox's co-founder Blake Ross is skeptical about the future of Firefox. He says that 'the Mozilla Organization has gradually reverted back to its old ways of being too timid, passive, and consensus-driven to release breakthrough products quickly.' Within the past year Chrome has been steadily increasing its market share, along with the other WebKit-based browsers like Safari. Meanwhile Mozilla's (outgoing) CEO says that while Firefox is more competitive than ever, they're looking forward to their mobile version of Firefox. 'Clearly, both are annoyed at what has happened to their former renegade web browser. But, by many accounts, Firefox is no longer considered to be the light, open alternative it once was.'"
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Firefox Is Lagging Behind, Its Co-Founder Says

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  • Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:17PM (#32259922)
    Companies and products mature over time and Mozilla & Firefox have done just that. Firefox will never be "light" again. Not because of technical reasons, but because users demand a full-featured browser.

    Chrome and Safari are taking some of Firefox's market share, but that's because they have nowhere to go but up. IE is still losing the most ground and will continue to do so. More equity in the browser market will only breed more competition, and that's always good for consumers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not because of technical reasons, but because users demand a full-featured browser.

      If that were true, then lighter browswers like Chrome should not be gaining in marketshare.

    • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:25PM (#32259966)

      Ya this attitude of "Something should have tons of features but no bloat," has always confused me. There seem to be far too many technical people who think that you should be able to have software with all the features in the world, yet that takes up only a tiny sliver of memory and disk space. No, sorry, not how it works. The more you want something to do, the more resources it needs. You like a robust browser plugin architecture? Cool, but that takes resources, not only for the plugins you load, but just in general to support it. Want colour correction? No problem, but again takes resources to do that. Full HTML5 support? Sure that can happen, but the complexity of the markup means again more resources needed.

      You cannot have something with tons of features and a minimal footprint. Just doesn't happen. Personally, I'll take the more features. Computers are not starved for memory or power these days. Let's use that for nice features, not whine and bitch that software should be spartan to same a few MB.

      • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Informative)

        by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:30PM (#32260000) Journal

        Opera has been really successful with providing a browser that feels light to use but is still powerful and full of native features. That's probably the reason why Opera feels so constant and fast - all the features are build-in and have the same level of quality. While a better addon system would be good, besides ad blocker (which I use Ad Muncher for), there's not really any features that are missing. And the whole GUI and usage feels a lot more robust than Firefox's XUL-based interface.

        • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Interesting)

          by abigor ( 540274 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:55PM (#32260140)

          Opera's memory footprint is comparable to that of Firefox. "Feels light" is purely subjective and has nothing to do with actual resource usage.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

          [...] XUL-based interface.

          What, like Venkman's girlfriend's fridge?

      • Re:Things Mature (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:39PM (#32260046)

        You are obviously too young to remember the days when programmers wrote optimised and intelligent code. These days all of the lazy fucks that call themselves programmers just point and click in pretty drag and drop IDEs that require 10MB of RAM just to print "hello fucking world".

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          You realize that 10MB of RAM is less than 1% of the total memory in most desktops these days, right?

          I know, I know, I'll get off your lawn now.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Johann Lau ( 1040920 )

            You realize that this [] comes from a one kilobyte executable, right?

            There is never a good reason to waste resources. If computers have loads of RAM, let them do something useful and/or interesting with it... but even using it for disk cache is better than wasting it on bloatware. And no, I'm not saying everything that isn't super crazy optimized is bloatware, but there IS bloatware, and it needn't be accepted. If you care about your body, you don't eat shitty food, if you care about your computer, you don't p

            • Ok (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:14AM (#32262700)

              Four things:

              1) How much memory does it take? This is a rhetorical question, I've seen the demo. I can't give an accurate number currently because I don't have an XP system at home, but it is a double digit number of megabytes. The program is optimized for extremely small disk space, and requires a good deal of system RAM when run.

              2) How compatible is it? Again, rhetorical question. As noted in the previous issue, I can't run it. Reason is I have Windows 7 and this isn't compatible with Windows 7. Because it is so small, it takes many shortcuts and compatibility is poor. It also plays incorrectly on ATi cards since it was designed for nVidia cards.

              3) How CPU/GPU efficient is it? the answer is not very. In particular it hits the shaders on the card very, very hard. All the tessellation of the fractals is done using that hardware. Fine, and it serves the purpose of a 4k demo well, but it isn't efficient when it comes to computation resources that could be used for other things.

              4) I like it, but I want some interactivity, I want to be able to move about the scenes arbitrarily, and move through the timeline. I'd also like to be able to edit the shapes, make something more complex, also I want to add vocals to thee song. What's that? can't do that in 1k? there you go then.

              Seriously man, demos are cool and I've been a fan for a long time, but stop trying to pretend that this is a realistic example. This program is buggy, incompatible, has a large memory footprint, hits the graphics card hard and is very simple. It is amazing because of its size, nothing more. Now that's great, that's the point of the small demo categories, but it doesn't have anything to do with general programming.

              Such a thing is possible because highly self similar information is used (notice it is fractals) in combination with a simple timeline means that you can describe the data in a very small amount of code. However it takes a good deal of RAM to run (not the least of which because it needs to load up many DirectX libraries) and hits the GPU much harder than it needs to, if more assets were stored on disk.

              Oh and why this demo? It was #2 in the competition. There is a more impressive demo, though it is 4k.

        • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:21PM (#32260300) Journal

          You are obviously too young to remember the days when programmers wrote optimised and intelligent code.

          Maybe. On the other hand, this is called empowerment. Development horsepower is moving downhill. Power is moving out of the hands of the top developers into the hands of the merely mortal developers. And out of the hands of the merely mortal developers and into the hands of the power users. Here are some other things that are different today vs. the golden days of yore:

          1. Empowerment of users. A lot fewer programmers are needed to get tasks done than used to be required. A huge portion of tasks users can now handle for themselves using spreadsheets, databases such as Access or their VB equivalents. Quite a few of the programming tasks I did professionally when I started 20 years ago are no longer needed, made no longer necessary by things such as label printing programs, easy to use mailmerge functions in word processors, and so on.
          2. Software usability, and GUI. Back in the day, every single program needed documentation to come with it to explain how to use it. Today, most software is so easy to use that if you don't intuitively know how to accomplish what you want to do, it's pretty much crap. There are exceptions to this rule, like CAD programs and photo editing software, but mostly, software is way easier to use today than it used to be.
          3. Programmers were forced to optimize their code, it wasn't like they had a choice. When you're working with 64k or 640k of main memory and bankswitching the rest of your memory or whatever, you kind of need to optimize your code. The difference in productivity between that kind of thing and what we to today is staggering. Today I write software by assembling modular bits of subprograms together rapidly, string it together with this or that, and wham, it's working. Back in the day, everything had to be written from scratch.
          4. Radical productivity differences. Developers are radically more productive than they used to be. Things that used to take days or weeks to do are routinely done in hours now. Things that are considered routine today we didn't even attempt to do back in the day. (Example: Today, computers from different companies exchange data all the time easily and efficiently using webservices. Compare that to the nightmare of integration and taking forever or not getting done at all that EDI used to be.)

          Sure, we use more memory now. And yes, it's easier to code than it used to be. I wouldn't say that drag and drop ide's are the be-all end all today, though. Non-gui development environments are just as popular as they used to be, don't you think? I'm thinking of Ruby on Rails, Django...

        • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:25PM (#32260330)

          You are obviously too young to remember the days when programmers wrote optimised and intelligent code.

          You are obviously too old to understand why programmers don't spend all those man-hours writing optimized and intelligent code anymore. These days all of the old farts that call themselves programmers don't appreciate how much more they get done thanks to abstraction, pre built libraries/modules, nicely designed IDEs, and interpreted languages.

          It's easy to criticize when you conveniently forget that that hello world app has a mouse-supported window wrapped around it complete with an OK and [X] buttons and that it's run without affecting anything else on the machine.

        • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BZ ( 40346 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @12:13AM (#32260978)

          I can assure you that modern web browsers are not written in drag-and-drop IDEs.

          I can also assure you that there's a good bit of very low-level optimization work going on in them (L2 cache profiling, trying to squeeze every single cycle out of hot paths, etc).

          The one issue is that most people want their web browser to be a language runtime, media player, image viewer, text editor (with spellchecker), and HTML editor. They also expect realtime graphics rendering of arbitrarily complicated scenes, even ones coded in brainless ways. Plus of course actual document layout (including advanced typography features, but not including good line-breaking .... yet).

          All of that comes at memory cost. Inlining on hot paths leads to faster but bigger code. Aggressive caching of various sorts to get the needed performance leads to more heap memory usage. That spellcheck dictionary needs to live somewhere. So do all those DOM and layout data structures. CSS requires computing the value of each CSS property (all several hundred of them) for every element in the DOM (all several thousand of them on many websites). Web browser try to optimize this to some extent, but complexity management sets in at some point and clear slightly less optimal code wins out over write-only "optimal" code that stops being optimal next month when a new CSS property is added.

        • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @09:50AM (#32264348) Homepage Journal

          You are obviously too young to remember the days when programmers wrote optimised and intelligent code. These days all of the lazy fucks that call themselves programmers just point and click in pretty drag and drop IDEs that require 10MB of RAM just to print "hello fucking world".

          I worked with a nice fellow. Let's call him Fritz. Fritz is kind of a COBOL-on-mainframe master; if I ever want an accounting system that will work for the next 80 years, I'll give him a call. His problem is that he can't not optimize, even when it's totally inappropriate.

          For example, he was tasked to write a Python program to take a flat text file of invoice line items and match them up to the invoices in our system. When he proudly debuted the "working" product, it made the database cry for several hours as it looped across the text file one line at a time, queried the DB for the matching invoice, inserted the line item, then moved on to the next. Once I recovered from shock and looked at his code (which I'm convinced was also valid COBOL), I realized that it didn't cache anything. If two adjacent lines would've matched the same invoice, his code didn't care. It just repeated that query as many times as necessary.

          I finally got it through to Fritz that I would not allow that code in production and to please add some memoizing. His response was to spend the next week optimizing for the special case where those two adjacent lines (in an unsorted text file) went to the same invoice. That got runtimes down to just a few hours. I finally gave up on asking him to do it, spent a morning adding a hash that mapped invoice numbers to their database rows, and saw the program run in 8 seconds (I have witnesses).

          So I gave it back to Fritz and asked him to make a couple of minor adjustments before rolling it out live. When he was finished, runtimes were back up to several hours. I was horrified and furious to learn that he'd stripped out all my caching code. When I asked why, he laughed and shook his head at my naivety because my program wasted over 250MB of RAM, but his ran in under 1MB.

          In production, it was going onto a server with 16GB of RAM.

          I tried to explain that I'd much rather "waste" 1/64 of the machine's RAM for 8 seconds than 1/16000th for 5 hours of database pain, but he never really got it.

          Notice where I started by saying that I worked with Fritz? Well, I'm still at the same job, but we're no longer coworkers.

          My point in all this is that you see every saved byte as a moral victory over today's decadent youth. I see it as an old man tilting at windmills. Memory leaks need to be caught, of course - even a low drip adds up to gallons over time. Embedded programming still has a place for clever coding that saves bits whenever possible. But in general-purpose desktop code, I couldn't possibly care less whether a program I'll be practically living in uses 1/60th of my computer's RAM (100MB) instead of merely 1/120th (50MB). If that "laziness" lets the authors add handy features to it and fix bugs in a more timely manner than if they had to micro-optimize for every nibble, then more power to 'em.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        There are necessary resources and unnecessary resources. Very often it is a sign of a) poor code reuse leading to huge binaries or b) too much data being pulled to a high layer or too many layers and discarded leading to not only high memory usage but also much slower execution time. Like recently I rewrote a report at work, it used to take 13-14 minutes and the new version runs in 1.2 seconds. Why? Because the old one used some high end views leading to excessive joins, poor indexing and huge resource cons

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Draek ( 916851 )

        Ya this attitude of "Something should have tons of features but no bloat," has always confused me. There seem to be far too many technical people who think that you should be able to have software with all the features in the world, yet that takes up only a tiny sliver of memory and disk space.

        Well, that's because you're misunderstanding their argument slightly. What they want, actually, is "a program that has all the features I need and none I don't".

        Which is a perfectly reasonable request, of course, as long as you're willing to write it for yourself. People are quick to forget that if you stick four people in a room for half an hour you'll end up with five different opinions, and the same happens when trying to decide which features are "necessary" and which ones are "bloat".

        Personally, my nee

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sznupi ( 719324 )

          Seems like Opera might be better fit for you? Helluva light (and I have also Arora installed here), quite a bit of features (so there's higher chance of "a program that has all the features I need and none I don't", while remaining light) and, well, it did supposedly have a "problem" with being too anal about invalid HTML; or at least that was often one of the reasons why it was a no-go to some, apparently.

      • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @03:19AM (#32261840) Journal

        In a literal sense, you are correct. When you add features, you add stuff for the computer to do.

        But that doesn't represent the reality of the past 30 years. For 30 years, we've gotten significantly more for the *same* amount of consumption. My computer today burns about 120 watts total, about the same as the first 286/20 I ever had. So we have a millionfold improvement in performance at *no* meaningful additional cost.

        Software may cost more to run to add more features, but this is countermanded by the fact that all of today's software is grossly inefficient and there is incredible room for improvement in overall performance if we only take the time to do so! I've seen software performance improve 100x simply by limiting the amount of data involved in a string pattern match, for example!

        Yes, in most cases, you can have your cake, sell a piece, and still eat it, if you focus on software inefficiency and make your software work quickly. I improved the performance of one of our products by about 70% in two days by running lots of testing to find out what the cause was.

        The result is an application that seems WAY FASTER without doing any less than before. w00t!

    • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:25PM (#32259970)
      I'd agree with that, although there is room for multiple browsers. Chrome is nice for when I just want to fire up a browser to check my mail or get directions before I leave. Firefox has a far more mature set of plugins. Until Chrome gets the same retinue I doubt Firefox has much to fear. Without fully featured versions of AdBlock, Noscript, FlashBlock, Web Developer, and Greasemonkey, I won't be switching over anytime soon. And if Chrome ever does become robust enough to have support for the same variety of plugins that Firefox has I have to believe that it will be as "bloated" as Firefox is now perceived to be.

      To Mozilla, if you're listening...please please please plug the memory leak that is constantly plaguing your product! There is no reason that Firefox with 5 tabs should be using over 300 MB of RAM without any Flash or PDF files open.
    • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HBoar ( 1642149 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:30PM (#32260002)

      Agreed. In addition, I'd like to see an example of a mainstream piece of software that isn't becoming more 'bloated' as time goes by. It makes sense to give users more features and capability as hardware specs improve. Why would your average user want a browser that has limited functionality but only uses 10MB of RAM when they have a machine with 4GB that they only use to browse the web?

      I'm using Opera at the moment on my office PC -- it's using ~350MB of RAM and I simply don't care. It could twice that and I still wouldn't care. For those that do, there will always be less mainstream options out there that are much more lightweight at the expense of some functionality.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

      IE might be losing marketshare, but even IE has features that Firefox doesn't. For example, process separation between tabs. And IE9 is quickly bringing the JS performance and standards compliance up to par with Firefox.

      I mean, feel free to hate Microsoft, but there has to be something wrong at Mozilla if even Microsoft's slow, super-careful, backwards-compatible development methods are caught up so quickly.

      • Re:Things Mature (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:20PM (#32260288) Journal

        All process separation in IE8 has done has made a slow browser even slower. In the time it takes for the copies of IE8 on every computer I use to bring up my home page, I'm already checking GMail on Chrome and Firefox. I don't give a shit at this point whether this or future versions of IE gain standards compliance, the browser just plain sucks. I'd sooner restart Firefox once a day than have to put up with IE and all those "features" that make it so slow. Of all the mainstream browsers, IE is probably by far the worst.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Malc ( 1751 )

          Of course, Chrome is doing process separation too. I would love it if Firefox implemented this. Forget the possible security improvements, a separate process per tab empowers me in reigning in the browser's demands on CPU and memory. Firefox leaks memory like a sieve (be it directly, or be allowing extensions the freedom to do so), but I have no way to find the problematic tabs and kill them off individually - I have to do a complete FF restart, which is just annoying. Why should activity on other tabs

    • by Dragoniz3r ( 992309 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:37PM (#32260036)
      I understand that over time software gets bloated, but the biggest deal to me is not allowing that bloat to impact the UI. Nothing frustrates me more than having an unresponsive UI while a page is loading. Some stupid flash script is loading, so it takes 5 seconds to switch tabs. That's unacceptable to me. The UI should be instant, no matter what's going on. Switching tabs should be instant, clicking buttons should be instant, typing text in textboxes should be instant, even when the page hasn't fully loaded.
      • by HBoar ( 1642149 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:52PM (#32260122)
        This is exactly why I use Opera. It doesn't use any less RAM than the others that I've noticed, but it's UI is always lightning fast, even on older systems.
      • Bloated over time? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by IdahoEv ( 195056 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:54PM (#32260136) Homepage

        In at least one way, FF has been bloated all along.

        Every time I've used any version of FF for the last four years, once it's been running for an hour or more it starts getting these little halts/pauses where the whole browser and UI freeze for half a second every 10-30 seconds. It gets worse the longer it's been open and the more pages i've opened. I've seen it on macs, windows, and linux. I've seen it on every machine I've ever used FF on. It is independent of all plugins and add-ons because it happens in a bare browser. I don't know what causes it, but intuitively it feels like garbage collection meets a bad memory leak.

        It makes video unwatchable, which is pretty much death to a browser in today's world. Incidentally, it's happened three (now four) times while writing this post.

        I've seen at least 5 bug reports and at least 10 threads in the Mozilla support forum. In every case, the developers/support people seem to not understand, or not believe that it's real, yet I've (another pause there) seen it on dozens of different computers and platforms, and never met a single computer with FF that *didn't* reproduce the problem. No matter how many bug reports get filed, this problem in FF never gets fixed.

        And yet, I depend on my plugins for both browsing and developing. As it is, I use FF for almost everything, but I have to switch browsers to watch video, which is really annoying, and restart FF every (another pause there) three hours, which is even more annoying. /rant off

        • by IRoll11!s ( 1609859 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:35PM (#32260404)
          Sounds like you are hitting the limits of either your ram or disk cache. (in FF) Install the Cache Status addon. Sure it's a bloated interface to what is essentially a few preference settings, but it gives you a visual status in your um, status bar.
      • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:35PM (#32260400) Homepage Journal

        The UI should be instant

        Yeah, people were saying this about the Netscape Suite in 1996. Then Mozilla. Then finally Firefox came out and everybody said, "wow, this is great, oh, wait, it's still got a single threaded UI?". And it was told how complicated it would be to re-architect things, and that if only you didn't use this extension or visit that poorly designed site or open too many tabs, or... whatever it wasn't Firefox's problem. I think they finally gave JavaScript its own thread in a recent release, which helps. They've had multi-process Firefox working for a year in the lab, but it's still another six months out for a release (until it slips again). Fedora 15 time, probably. As I recall the entire Firefox project was done in half that time.

        Google apparently wised up to the intractability of fixing MoFo a few years ago. It's too bad, some of the better Mozilla technologies are likely to get lost for several years as Firefox wanes.

  • Certainly not light (Score:5, Informative)

    by AnonGCB ( 1398517 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:18PM (#32259924)
    In order of resource usage, from a consumer's standpoint I'd rank them: Chrome Opera FireFox Internet Explorer This is not based on any tests but simply my experience using them all. Personally, Chrome is good but Opera has more features I use and is more customizable, so Opera wins out overall - and now Opera is nearly as good as Chrome in benchmarks.
    • by HBoar ( 1642149 )
      I like Opera, and it's the only browser that I use nowdays, but I'm not sure it's any lighter in terms of resource use than FF or IE. Currently, it's using ~350MB with 10 tabs open after being up for a week or so, but that's because I have a CFD simulation running which is sucking up about 3GB. If there is a lot of RAM free, it will suck up quite a lot more. I don't mind this at all, RAM is there to be used, after all.
    • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:01PM (#32260186)

      I'm an Opera fan myself, but I would not rank IE last in resource usage, certainly not below Firefox. IE deserves a lot of scorn, but I think that one of Microsoft's goals with IE is to use resources as efficiently as possible (considering their huge customer base), and I think they've accomplished that goal. I would be pretty shocked to see any real-world benchmarks where Firefox beats IE in terms of memory use. Granted, IE is going to execute Javascript an order of magnitude slower than anything else, but it's going to do it while using less memory. Although, if Mozilla doesn't get its act together then it's going to soon find itself lagging behind IE9 in Javascript performance. That would be embarrassing. Of the top 5 browsers, Firefox is currently ranked 4th in Javascript performance. The IE9 preview already beats Firefox 3.7, but the IE9 preview isn't an actual browser yet.

      Like I said, IE deserves a lot of scorn for the bugs and differences between everything else, but I think it's safe to say that resource usage might be IE's strongest point (fighting for first place with an easy-to-use UI).

      That being said, Opera still rocks everything else.

  • by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:18PM (#32259928) Journal
    FF is lagging behind Gee, who would've thunk, each rev is less usable then the last, tht FF is falling behind. I like so many others, have tried, again and again, politely and impolitely, to get FF to focus on so many problems... Like the bookmarks editor...just hopeless Like the loss of control of privacy functions.... Ever try to find an old release of FF on the FF website ? If open source means anything, doesn't it mean you can get the previous releases, anytime you want ? Failure to give add on developers a stable platform, and failure to give users a way to isolate bad addons One of the constants of the PC era is that MS always wins, cause they can afford to ride out upstarts; however, the upstarts never survive a mistake. From quattro pro to netscape to FF, one bad release, and your toast, and MS is their to pick up the pieces
  • Not exactly lightweight anymore either, and some parts of it are a bit long in the tooth...

    But nothing else has the sort of configurability that it has, so I won't be going anywhere else any time soon.
    I love my add-ons to death. Using a browser without them is borderline unusable.

  • And in other news (Score:3, Informative)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:26PM (#32259986)

    Mozilla official cite that the innovation of new features in other browsers suspiciously correlate to the sudden appearance of black duck eggs at restaurants near the Mozilla office.

  • I am a Firefox lover and what it stands for. However, even though I am not sure it is a few add-ons or what, I no longer get excited about what new (if not often completely transparent to me) is being brought to the table with each update unless it is speed and optimizations. The memory leak thing was horrible and I knew something was wrong long before it was begun to be publicly addressed and I just a user, not a programmer. OK, so the themeing stuff looks good if that is your thing, but lets stay focused

  • Yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:33PM (#32260014)

    Of course development has slowed - it has achieved the goal most users/developers have wanted for it: To be a stable, fairly secure platform that allows a decent plugin model, and works consistently between platforms.

    This is like complaining that the GNU C compiler isn't keeping up with the .Net framework, because it isn't taking risks or pushing envelopes... that's not the job it exists to do.

    Chrome gets to be sexy, because it is newer experiment in browser ideas mashed together. Firefox leaves that to its plugins - losing some of the "synergy" of a singular design, but gaining much more flexibility in terms of user preferences.

    Until Chrome can do everything I want with all my Firefox plugins, I'll keep ignoring it. I just don't want to be losing features in Firefox in the pursuit of the new sexy, when I already love it for what it is.

    Ryan Fenton

    • Re:Yes... (Score:5, Informative)

      by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:46PM (#32260088)

      Funny, because originally that goal was to create a stripped down version of Mozilla/Netscape that was lightweight and fast. They seem to have forgotten that it wasn't supposed to be a wholesale replacement for Netscape/Mozilla with all the bells and whistles.

    • Re:Yes... (Score:5, Informative)

      by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:37PM (#32260428)

      Of course development has slowed - it has achieved the goal most users/developers have wanted for it: To be a stable, fairly secure platform that allows a decent plugin model, and works consistently between platforms.

      What? Where did you get that from?

      From Wikipedia []:

      The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite.

      Intended to combat feature creep. It was designed to be a lightweight standalone browser. See any mention in there about a decent extension model (plugins aren't the same as extensions BTW; Flash is a plugin, Adblock is an extension)?

      From Computer World [] in Sept. 2002, the week Phoenix 0.1 was released:

      The Mozilla development project,, this week released Phoenix 0.1, a speedier version of its open-source Web browser.
      The Phoenix browser is designed to improve upon Mozilla 1.1, released in August, with additional features such as a new design, customizable tool bar and improved bookmark manager...

      The Phoenix browser, which uses a large amount of the Mozilla code, is "a lean and fast browser" that loads in about half the time of Mozilla 1.1, said.

      Again, emphasis is on performance. The line in that article talking about the plugin management for version 0.2 is referring to classical plugins, not Firefox extensions. Extensions were not added to Firefox until version 2.0. Extensions were never an original design goal. I don't have a source for this, but I actually remember downloading Phoenix 0.1. It was distributed as a single zip file without an installer, you just unzipped it and ran the executable. What people were impressed with for that release were the disk size of the files, the startup speed, and the memory footprint. All performance metrics.

      It's fine if you want to defend Firefox, but there's no reason to try to rewrite history by saying the design goals for Firefox were different than what they actually were. It's a fact that the current version of Firefox does not live up to many of the ideals that the designers of Phoenix started with. It's also a fact that the current version includes several useful things that were not part of the original goals. Again, there's no reason to rewrite history. People like to defend Firefox because of its extensions, but the fact is that extensions were never part of the plan, speed and performance were the goals. The extension model was added because the core browser lacked many features that could not be included and still meet the performance goals. So, now we have an extension model and worse performance. That's the way it goes.

      And yes, I remember this happening. I remember downloading and using Phoenix, I remember the name change to Firebird and then to Firefox, and the initial release in 2004, 2 years after Phoenix started. The release of Firefox 1.0 was a major event in the tech world, they even ran full-page ads for it in the New York Times funded by donations (you got your name listed in the ad, I was there). I remember using the 1.x line, I remember when the extension system was announced for 2.0 and how much it excited everyone, 2 years after the release of 1.0. I remember continually seeing the performance of the browser decline. That hasn't really stopped, even the IE9 preview is now faster at Javascript than Firefox 3.7. So the conclusion holds, the original design goals of Firefox have been neglected or ignored in part, and some of them have

  • by Ekuryua ( 940558 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:35PM (#32260024) Homepage
    I think that the problem is actually that the higher firefox devs. seem to be focused on looking like chrome/opera... and keep on introducing new features that break the rest of the browser.
    People don't move to chrome because of the ui(well okay, some do, most I know didn't), they moved because it was faster and less buggy.

    What firefox needs is optimization/cleaning, not new features.

    I will personally stay with the fox until chrome or opera allow for both real gui modification(which both opera and chrome lack) and extensions(chrome has that, or at least starting to pick up).v
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Andtalath ( 1074376 )

      I have no idea why you think that Opera has no GUI options.
      One of the reasons I do use it is because it's the only browser that does allow me to configure pretty much all aspects of the gui.

  • I've long used Firefox now because of its awesome developer tools and great suite of extensions (though I only use a few). However, it has gotten very slow lately, it has always used way too much memory, and quite frankly some of the other alternatives look better by the day. I really want to switch to chrome, but the only thing holding me back is a nice sidebar for things like viewing my RSS feed lists while still navigating the current browser window. There are a few other settings I'd like to have som

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:43PM (#32260072)
    Any goals that do not focus on security, speed and standards need to be pitched. All feature requests that fall outside of these core goals should be put into add-ins or plug-ins.
  • by lemur3 ( 997863 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @09:46PM (#32260094)

    Like many I was one of the first on the big wagon ride using firefox in the various names it had before its current guise....

    but... it just got too slow and clunky, startup times got longer load times of pages lagged... the benefits it had started to lose value.

    So I switched to Opera and Safari...... I use firefox on the few websites I use that require it (yes that sounds odd).. I wish it were like it used to be.

  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:09PM (#32260228)

    While in the past there were crashes that could kill FireFox related to Flash, I don't see that like I used too. Now I see the browser spiking my CPU and raising its temperature by a few degrees because of bugs in the Java Scripting and AJAX engines. I am not sure if the culprit is memory leaks, or just faults in the software. It just seems like there are bugs in the renderer that are not being fixed and causing the CPU usage to spike in certain complex pages coded in certain ways.

  • by Zaiff Urgulbunger ( 591514 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:24PM (#32260318)
    I think part of the problem is that when a new product arrives, there's no existing user base to piss off with any features you do or don't have. Typically a product starts out with a basic set of features, and gradually stuff gets added. In Firefox's case, features have _mostly_ been added via extension. So that's all fine.

    But I think the "too timid, passive and consensus-driven" comment must've related to the whole Firefox UI which has had a bunch of mockups floating around for ages.

    I think, if they just released a new browser, lets call it DonkeyBalls. It can have a new, even more slimmed down UI like Chrome does. It can be based on Gecko, so pretty much all the same bits behind the scenes. And it could ditch the old extensions mechanism and use Jetpack instead.

    This would allow Mozilla to not annoy existing Firefox users, whilst pushing forward with a new Gecko based product. But.... maybe they wouldn't want to dilute their user-base, because then the Firefox market share goes down?

    [I'm rambling now]... but this is pretty much what they already did when they first released Pheonix^H^H^H^H^H^H Firebird^H^H^H^H^H^H Firefox.
  • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:36PM (#32260418) Homepage

    Firefox isn't just some browser with "cool" extensions anymore, it is something which Netscape originally intended to do and messed up. It is something we can call as a "web operating system". Once Firefox is up and running (or compilable) on an Operating System, it becomes equal to other operating systems on behalf of sites and more importantly, intranets which supports it.

    Especially the comparison to "Chrome" kills me... Chrome can't even provide a non X86 version of browser. Webkit was never designed to be "plugged in" by extensions, Safari still can't be "extended" without the risky Input Managers, Opera has to maintain a very tight and professional code to keep compatibility with all the crazy platforms it has to run/sell...

    I am typing this on Opera and I have never been a huge fan of Mozilla but I am not really ignorant enough not to see what firefox/mozilla has become... Remember Netscape CEO's comment which was the turning point for MS, which drove them into panic: "An operating system will be just bunch of drivers soon, it will not matter".. Something like that. That was the time MS really decided to kill Netscape. It was never about that stupid homepage.

    If one can buy a netbook running linux without any questions today, it is half because of firefox, half (sorry to say) because of adobe flash. That equals "facebook" and "youtube" or several "cloud based" office applications. Dumb it down and see that advantage gone.

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @10:37PM (#32260420) Journal

    One thing I've really wondered. . . Firefox is a great browser, but it seems like almost anyone creating a mobile phone, tablet pc, etc. has chosen Webkit instead of Gecko. Why did Apple decide it needed to take Konqueror and create Webkit in the first place, instead of just using Gecko? There must've been some reason - I'm sure they must have at least *looked* at Gecko before making a decision? Why did Google choose Webkit for Android and Chrome? Why is Webkit being used in all sort of places, but Gecko is only being used by Firefox and a couple other desktop web browsers?

    Is there some technical deficiency with Gecko (too bloated, too memory intensive, too slow, too complicated/hard to develop for? Maybe it's a licensing issue, where other companies don't like the Mozilla license?

    Anyone have insight into this?

    • by BZ ( 40346 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @12:29AM (#32261046)

      There are several things at play here:

      1) Webkit provides an HTML/XML/DOM/CSS renderer, period. Gecko provides that plus a
              networking library, SSL implementation, and so forth, on most platforms. To create a
              usable browser on top of webkit you have to provide all those components. But if you
              have to custom-write them anyway for your crazy hardware or OS, then the existing Gecko
              implementations don't do you much good. Also, if you want to do something very
              different from what the existing infrastructure in Gecko is set up to do in terms of
              document navigation, etc, then the existing functionality might get in your way
              instead of helping.
      2) Webkit is perceived as being simpler and easier to hack than Gecko. It's not clear to
              me how much truth there is to this perception nowadays; back when Apple picked khtml I
              think it was more true.
      3) Webkit has better PR in some ways. It's been actively marketed to developers more
              than Gecko has.
      4) People seem to have a double standard on embedding the two (e.g. demanding binary
              compatibility out of Gecko across releases but not making any such demands on Webkit
              for some reason).
      5) There are existing Gecko-based browsers on mobile devices (e.g. the n810 and n900
              default browser is Gecko-based).

      For apple's original decision to use khtml, I believe it was a combination of #2 above and wanting something they would have more of a chance of controlling (hence the forking that happened).

  • Firefox should be (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Exter-C ( 310390 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @11:13PM (#32260636) Homepage

    Firefox has its principal selling point of extensions/addons. The key here is that the browser should be light and fast... want more features add extensions.. It's simple that way people can have the features they want and hopefully there should be competition between extension creators etc to provide alternatives to what features people want. The key negative points that I would like to raise with Firefox.
    - Instability.. In the early 1.x days I rarely ever had a crash with Firefox. Now on 3.x I am regularly having crashes.. Fix the stability. Often the browser doesn't crash it just hangs spinning CPU which means there is no crash dump to send in when I kill it.
    - Instability.. Ohh I may have mentioned that.
    - Performance.. More needs to be done in this area. Startup times need to be cut in half and rendering/javascript performance needs to be heavily improved.
    - Move features out of the core product and into extensions, with an easy option to install them.

  • by DudemanX ( 44606 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @11:51PM (#32260834) Homepage

    OMG! Firefox takes 6ms to load a page that only takes 2ms on Chrome. I CAN'T WAIT THAT ETERNITY!!!

    Are you people serious? Firefox is really too bloated and slow to be usable anymore? I don't use that many extensions and only have it open like 3 tabs at start up but the damn thing still loads and is ready to read /. and email close enough to instantly for my taste. No, I'm not using it on a 486 with 8 megs of RAM of like some of you seem to think should still be good enough for a web browser. I've got a Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM which is four year old technology at this point. I often run many tabs and look at flash videos and what not. I only run a few extensions like noscript and adblock. I have never once thought, "Oh God, if only my browser could be faster."

    Maybe I'm not pushing Firefox as hard as some of you but it never crashes, I like the feature set and interface, and I certainly never find myself waiting for anything except for the occasional dns/network issue.

    How fast does a browser need to be?

    • by gaspyy ( 514539 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @01:34AM (#32261318)

      Freshly installed laptop, Windows 7 x64, Core Duo P8600, 2 GB RAM.

      Chrome with 6 plugins loads instantly (1sec).
      Firefox with 1 plugin (Firebug) loads in 6 seconds.

      After months of use, Firefox gets to a point when if freezes for 1-2 seconds when you're typing a URL and other weird things like that.

      I only use Firefox for development, because Chrome Developer Tools are no match for Firebug, but for daily browsing I definitely prefer Chrome.

  • by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @01:58AM (#32261462)

    It's funny to see Slashdot's audience entranced by the shiny new thing and forgetting their usual priorities. I'm pretty sure that Firefox exceeds Chrome in security, privacy, and end-user control. Suddenly these things don't matter?

    The obsession with speed is because people like easily defined, measurable statistics; it's harder to measure productivity, which is what really matters. I use Firefox heavily every day. I can't imagine that any increase in speed would be very noticeable or make my work (or play) go any faster. It responds immediately to whatever I'm doing. The functionality is fantastic -- I can do whatever I need without thinking and very quickly; it's some of the best software I use.

    Those who call it bloated are, I suspect, parroting criticism they've heard of other software. I can't think of an application that has a more carefully pruned, uncluttered, and efficient interface. Remember when they added the smart URL field -- it was a huge increase in productivity, immediately benefiting all users without requiring training and with zero interface clutter. It's simple (for users), sophisticated, brilliant software that just worked like magic.

    Firefox is stable and, if you care, resource usage is better than other browsers (I think there's a Tom's Hardware or Ars Technica review that covers this issue, among others).

    Finally, Firefox promotes open web standards -- it's the reason that browsers like Chrome and Safari are compatible with modern websites, and that we're all not using IE.

    Let's not get too carried away with that shiny new thing (though some competition never hurts).

    • I have to disagree. Different folks have different priorities, different setups, and different requirements. For myself, I was constantly having problems with FireFox's UI becoming unresponsive for 1-15 (yes, that large a range) seconds when trying to do simple things like enter text into a box, close a tab, type a URL, or simply watch an embedded video without it coming to a halt every few seconds.

      I don't consider it acceptable for FF to just stop responding to all input (seemingly) randomly, after running for a few hours, or a couple of days at the outside. It had actually gotten to the point where I was restarting it every few hours just to keep using it from driving me batty.

      FF does have a lot to offer, but I am convinced that more emphasis needs to be paid to it's performance. I used it for about three years as my daily browser, and with each new version the lag-outs got worse. Of course, the 900MB of RAM I'd often see it eating up was annoying too. Even as a non-developer, I could see that there clearly were issues with garbage collection going on under the hood.

      When Chrome finally polished a few minor corners, I jumped ship almost entirely without looking back. To me, speed is tantamount to usability. For example, if I was typing this in FF, it would have ground to a halt and pinwheeled a dozen or so times by now. Even if all I was doing was entering text into a field. In my view, FireFox isn't bloated... just piss-poorly optimized. Some multithreading (god, Chrome is so much more responsive on a multi-core machine!) and proper garbage collection would do it a world of good. That's why I ditched FF.

      Bonus point: I have a low-end netbook with a rather slow SSD in it. Chrome loads in about 10 seconds, and FF starts to approach usability after 50. Guess why I don't use FF on it?
  • by AlgorithMan ( 937244 ) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @03:23AM (#32261854) Homepage
    I was sick of FF's performance, so tried to improve it. Here are my conclusions:
    When you delete (or move) your firefox settings directory, then firefox is fast as hell again, so FF is not inherently slow. It becomes slower over time, so I looked for things that changed over time and I found that the performance stays good (except for flash!) even if you navigate dozens of sites on 4 year old hardware, if you do the following things:
    • restrict yourself to the indispensable add-ons (although comparing browsers with add-ons to browsers without add-ons is quite pointless, imho)
    • use f*cking adblock! ads eat up so much performance! adblock is the one add-on that will improve your performance
    • clear the history and see how fast firefox suddenly becomes again... I have set firefox to delete the history and search history on closing the prog. This can become a pain sometimes, but the performance is woth the sacrifice

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein