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Mozilla Tests Firefox 'Tab Warming' (bleepingcomputer.com) 170

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Mozilla is currently testing a new feature called "Tab Warming" that engineers hope will improve the tab switching process. According to a description of the feature, Tab Warming will watch the user's mouse cursor and start "painting" content inside a tab whenever the user hovers his mouse over one. Firefox will do this on the assumption the user wants to click and switch to view that tab and will want to keep a pre-rendered tab on hand if this occurs. "Those precious milliseconds are used to do the rendering and uploading, so that when the click event finally comes, the [tab] is ready and waiting for you," said Mike Conley, one of the Firefox engineers who worked on this feature.
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Mozilla Tests Firefox 'Tab Warming'

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  • Great! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's bloat the browser down EVEN MORE rather than making something efficient that people want to use...or cleaning up the UI to make it clean and not confusing.
     
    Firesux still leads Chrone on trashiness.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I still want my title bar back. Both of those browsers suck balls. I find it patronizing that you can't even see but 5% of a site's title anymore. When you have a dozen tabs open, there is no way to find what you really have open anymore aside from clicking over each one.

      This is what happens when you leave your design to a bunch of mouthbreathers rather than designers. Desktop users still have a mouse and keyboard after several decades. Quit redesigning the UI as if the computer can now scan your br

      • I still want my title bar back. Both of those browsers suck balls. I find it patronizing that you can't even see but 5% of a site's title anymore. When you have a dozen tabs open, there is no way to find what you really have open anymore aside from clicking over each one. This is what happens when you leave your design to a bunch of mouthbreathers rather than designers. Desktop users still have a mouse and keyboard after several decades. Quit redesigning the UI as if the computer can now scan your brain and tell what you are feeling. A browser UI from 1998 would work better than a browser UI from 2018, and the Web has changed enormously in that amount of time.

        Instead of clicking on each one, you can just hover the mouse on each tab and a context info box will pop up with the full title. Also works in chrome

      • Guess I'll move to Vivaldi, the only modern browser that shows tabs on the side (hopefully in an awesome tree) that old XUL Firefox extensions used to allow.

        For many versions, Chrome even had a built-in tabs-on-side feature, but they removed it ages ago.

        The only sensible way to manage many tabs is on the side! Or multiple rows on top/bottom if you are in portrait mode!

        Sad that WebExtensions can no longer modify the user interface.

        R.I.P. power-browsing the web.

    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:55PM (#55933881) Homepage

      One step forwards, two steps backwards. Repeat until bloat unmanageable, then rewrite and promise performance will be recovered over time.

      • by UPi ( 137083 )

        I'm really glad this sentiment didn't prevail when antibiotics were invented. I loathe leeches.

    • They're not even right. The most likely reason someone hovers over a tab is because they're waiting for the yellow pop-up to show the full title of the tab so we know whether this is the right one or not. What's the odds that it'll now take even longer to see the full title of the tab.
      • Re:Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @07:47PM (#55934919) Homepage

        For you and me, sure. My wife hovers over anything for a few seconds before she either clicks it, or second guesses herself and stops to think about if there is a way to do what she wants without clicking anything.

        The difference is, she won't notice the speed difference because she's not as plugged in to the technical details and doesn't have a lot of performance expectations. Whereas I would see the network traffic, notice the mouse pointer slightly lagging as FF does it poorly-optimized loading process.

        What I'd actually like them to work on is just separating the frontend and backend performance so that the UI doesn't lag when the DOM isn't ready. The page should be able to lag without the whole interface lagging, after all the rest of the interface is local, and the total resources used by it are low enough that overall efficiency only takes a slight hit to leave the menus responsive at all times.

        • by roca ( 43122 )

          A huge amount of work was done to stop the Firefox UI from blocking on the activities of content processes, as part of the multiprocess work that shipped up to and including FF 57. It's pretty good now although there are probably a few lingering bugs.

          What makes you think loading is "poorly optimized"? A lot of modern Web pages are bloated, but that isn't Firefox's fault.

      • by roca ( 43122 )

        Most users only ever have a small number of tabs. Unlike you, Mozilla has actual data on this. So in fact it is more likely they are switching tabs.

        Showing the tab title on hover doesn't require any interaction with the content process so it's unlikely that would be affected by tab warming, for better or worse.

      • The odd thing for me in this announcement is that it implies that they're not destroying the contents of the tab when you switch away. A 1200x1600 browser window is 5MB of rendered texture, which will usually compress with standard on-GPU texture compression down to 1MB or less. 1MB of texture memory per tab is a tiny amount, when a very cheap GPU has 256MB and even my 4-year-old laptop has 1GB. You're almost certainly keeping over 1MB of state around per tab.

        This kind of optimisation implies that the

    • But precious milliseconds! This will help since the pages are taking many seconds to load already, what with all the javascript sucking up my cpu, and the slow as hell response the back office servers are providing at the moment.

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      A strange response to an article about making Firefox faster for users.

  • by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:50PM (#55933849) Homepage
    A realize it is probably a different team but they could spend some time improving the Android version -- it is too damn slow. I really don't have a problem on Windows and if they're trying to eek out milliseconds in UI response there, maybe put the effort to shaving seconds off of the Android interface.
    • Your Android phone probably has a lot less RAM available than your Windows computer.

      • Yeah, so, I should just stop surfing the web from my phone I guess.

        Or maybe Firefox could start to approach Chrome's UX on the platform. Yeah, I know: "Google knows teh all", "OMG unfair system access", what ever reason you want to toss out. Maybe Chrome plays dirty and Firefox will never compete on raw performance on Android, but there must be room for improvement.

        • The reason is simple; mobile environments are heavily resource-constrained, and FF still allows powerful plugins. Chrome locks it down on mobile, "for whatever reason," and the result is that they can be faster and more responsive.

          On the desktop I do have some performance nits with FF, but on mobile no; if there are plugins (adblock) then it will be a bit laggy, and that situation will continue for a significant number of years as hardware price/performance gains continue to wane.

          Mobile hardware can still b

        • What I meant was, today's websites are extremely memory-intensive. Megabytes after megabytes of frameworks and libraries, megabytes of HTML and CSS and dozens of megabytes of images for one website. Those Hi-DPI/Retina/I-don't-care-what-you-call-them displays require higher resolution images. Each time you increase resolution by two in each dimensions, that's four times as much RAM just to store them. The system also has to store the compressed version at least once to de-compress it. Then add the ludicrous

      • In total, yes. Per app? Not sure. On my computer, I have half a dozen applications running that I switch between frequently (including the terminal app that has a lot of fairly large child processes). On my phone, I run one thing at a time and don't care if the OS kills background processes. I also rarely get about 3-4 tabs open on my phone, whereas my laptop will easily grow to over 20 until I get around to culling them all.
    • Definitely could use some mobile love. My phone updated to the latest version of Firefox on Android, and the Firefox update process lost all of my bookmarks. Every single last one of them. No warning that the update would delete my bookmarks, they just were not there after the update. I just cannot figure out what in the world the Mozilla people are thinking with all this garbage.
      • Something else I'd like is better feature parity between desktop and mobile. Live Bookmarks is literally the main reason I chose Firefox over Chrome and everything else - but it doesn't exist on Mobile.

    • I recommend trying out Firefox Focus instead of the regular Firefox app (here [google.com] or here [f-droid.org]). While the regular Firefox app is horribly slow and inefficient compared to the Chrome app, Firefox Focus is fast and snappy, blocks ads and trackers, and automatically clears history and cookies.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In other words waste memory, bandwidth and energy in a pissing contest that started with google compromising on security by disabling ocsp, and Mozilla already lost. Who is asking for this? No one, that's who! People want back their extension API!

  • by srl100 ( 820165 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:55PM (#55933887)
    ... what could possibly go wrong?
  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @04:57PM (#55933897)

    I actually tried out Chrome for a bit after Mozilla pulled it's Mr. Robot stunt, but came back to Firefox after noticing how much better it performed than Chrome, which was somewhat surprising to me. I had assumed they were at performance parity. At this point, I think Mozilla has the top performing browser by metrics that tend to matter in real life. The one I notice the most is that Firefox's UI rarely stutters when loading a page, while Chrome hitches and hangs in short bursts, making things feel sluggish. I think that makes a huge difference in the perception of speed and performance.

    Tabs switch almost instantly for me, and that's on a nine year old PC with a moderately slow internet connection. So while I'm glad Mozilla is looking at important things like performance (instead of yet another pointless UI revamp), it almost seems unnecessary at this point. Has anyone else noticed any sort of delay when switching tabs?

    • by nashv ( 1479253 )

      I am guessing you are on Linux, because until Firefox 58, Chrome actually blew Firefox away pretty easily on Windows.

    • Other good thing: On Android, Firefox has ad-block.
    • but came back to Firefox after noticing how much better it performed than Chrome, which was somewhat surprising to me. I had assumed they were at performance parity. At this point, I think Mozilla has the top performing browser by metrics that tend to matter in real life. The one I notice the most is that Firefox's UI rarely stutters when loading a page, while Chrome hitches and hangs in short bursts, making things feel sluggish.

      This is confusing to me. What exactly are you expecting your UI to do for you while the page is loading, make you a pizza? A little spinny icon indicating the page hasn't finished loading having a stutter is of no consequence compared to handling an input.

      And when loading Firefox and Chrome actual page rendering performance is comparable when measured from start to end, but Firefox feels much faster. I put that down to at what process Firefox decides to start populating the white page. Chrome seems to displ

      • This is confusing to me. What exactly are you expecting your UI to do for you while the page is loading, make you a pizza?

        I expect it to scroll up and down. I wouldn't turn down a pizza, though.

        A little spinny icon indicating the page hasn't finished loading having a stutter is of no consequence compared to handling an input.

        To be clearer, when a page is loading, Chrome was noticeably stuttering while scrolling the page as it loaded, while Firefox's scrolling remained silky smooth throughout. That's the "UI" I was talking about. The smoother scrolling action makes a huge perceptual difference to me in Firefox's performance, even if it didn't actually load the page faster.

  • by allo ( 1728082 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @05:05PM (#55933939)

    Opera just cached the rendered version of all open tabs. This is part why it were the fastes browser of its time.
    And they even cached the rendered version of pages in the history. A faster back button is not possible.

    • Interesting, but isn't one of the reasons FF has been a memory hog is it was storing long histories of all open tabs in memory? I thought they reduced or otherwise changed this behavior a few years back.
    • by roca ( 43122 )

      If you try the test page in the original article in Chrome, and switch to and from the test page's tab, you can see that Chrome is actually doing exactly that, and it has a huge problem. When you switch to the test page tab, it renders its old version of the page, and then there's major lag (on my Linux system at least) while it renders the up-to-date version of the page (which is animated), then it jump-cuts to the new version of the page. It looks extremely laggy and jarring. Tab warming avoids this probl

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Firefox is targeting people who want very low RAM consumption. Any sort of in memory caching needs to be very carefully managed.

      • by allo ( 1728082 )

        If they are doing it, they are doing it badly.

        I do not think this is their primary goal. Just compare the memory footprint of a firefox with a browser like midori.
        Firefox is powerful, that's their advantage.

  • "...do the rendering and uploading..." -- Does he mean uploading of the user's information to the website, or does he mean automatic downloading of site elements if you so much as put your cursor near the tab? This sounds like not only a waste of bandwidth and resources, but a security and privacy problem as well. Imagine the fun a malicious actor could have with these features.

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      He means uploading the rendered parts of the page to the GPU for presentation. Nothing to do with any network traffic.

  • bitcoin mining will warm up your tab before you type the url - brilliant!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    My browser better not start uploading anything when I hover over a tab.

    Maybe they should invest in a new PR person with those millions they have in cash. He doesn't even know the difference between an upload and a download.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry. He's an engineer! OMG. No wonder Firefox is crap. He should go back to school and get a new blue stripe hat.

  • Just how many tabs are people keeping open at a time that this is considered a good feature? I mean, at home or at work, I only ever have maybe a half-dozen or so tabs open at once. Whereas an old roommate of mine used to have dozens of tabs open at the same time.

    But I don't recall him ever complaining about clicking on a tab and it not rendering immediately. It was more of a "which tab was it again"? problem as he looked through the ones he had open.

    • Just how many tabs are people keeping open at a time ...

      I just checked: 725

      that this is considered a good feature?

      I do NOT consider it a good feature.

      Things I WOULD consider good features:
      * Grouping tabs into multiple toolbrs by user-defined subject
      - With each separately switchable between visible and invisible
      - Stock, not an add-on / plug-in / whatever they're supporting this week.
      * Restoring the "delay image loading"

  • by eddeye ( 85134 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @07:26PM (#55934831)

    For decades, browser scientists warned us this was coming. We had simple static pages, but no that wasn't enough for us. We needed dynamic content. We needed javascript.

    Suddenly we had all this free computation. It was exhilirating. We could make hampsters dance and punch the monkey to win. But that computation had a cost. We kept burning more and more CPU cycles.

    Browser scientists raised the alarm. All those cycles produced heat. At first our fans dissipated it, but they couldn't keep it. Eventually the heat crept into the rest of the system. They told us it would lead to tab warming. We just laughed and loaded more instagram kittens.

    Who's laughing now? Our tabs are getting so hot they overflow into other programs. Their behavior is increasingly erratic and unpredictable. Now we have rogue sites mining cryptocurrency in them. Face it, our tabs are damaged beyond repair, unable to sustain simple online email anymore.

    Like Icarus, we flew too close to the sun. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

  • Mozilla Tests Firefox 'Tab Warming'

    And it's probably a feature affecting the entire browser, so now I have to worry about Global Tab Warming ... (sigh).

  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Monday January 15, 2018 @08:47PM (#55935197)

    Does this mean whenever I start moving the mouse around Firefox is going to madly start running a bunch of javascript, spinning my CPU up to full?

    Ye gods. Delay in switching to a new tab is not an issue.

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      No. Page rendering does not run Javascript.

      (Well, currently. There are proposed APIs that could change that, but they aren't implemented in Firefox yet and even if they are, it would be a long time before they're widely used.)

  • I use <Ctrl>+<TAB> to switch tabs like a normal person, you insensitive clods!

  • I wonder if people at Mozilla realized that this approach will cause an increase in CPU usage triggered by mouse cursor movement, and this will ultimately result in an increase of world power consumption.
  • Stop futzing around with less than necessary trivia. Keep IT SIMPLE Stupids, and keep it efficient.
    Efficient also means cpu memory footprint, and computer cycles.

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      I'd be happy if it would just work. It blew itself away today on my machine. Sometimes it gets hung. Seems to have started this about a month ago.

  • I like Tree Style Tab. Solves all your problems. There are a few other vertical-tab extensions, try them all. I don't see how people can live with 30 tabs across the top :-(

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