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Mozilla The Internet

Firefox Going the Big and Bloated IE Way? 653

Posted by Zonk
from the dinosaur-needs-a-diet dept.
abhinav_pc writes "Wired is carrying an article pondering whether Firefox has become big and bloated, much like IE. As the browser's popularity has risen, the interest in cramming more features into the product has as well. Slowdowns and feature creep have some users asking for a return to the days of the 'slim and sexy' Firefox. 'Firefox's page-cache mechanism, for example, introduced in version 1.5, stores the last eight visited pages in the computer's memory. Caching pages in memory allows faster back browsing, but it can also leave a lot less memory for other applications to use. Less available RAM equals a less-responsive computer. Firefox addresses this issue somewhat, setting the default cache lower on computers with less than a gigabyte of RAM. Though the jury is still out on where the perfect balance between too many and too few features lies, one truth is apparent: The new web is pushing our browsers to the limit.'"
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Firefox Going the Big and Bloated IE Way?

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  • is it time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:46PM (#19168983)
    to totally rethink the browser? with broadband becoming more available could websites be built in a way that current browsers don't even let us imagine?
  • by ViX44 (893232) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:51PM (#19169135)
    Did anyone not see this coming? It's clearly a case of needing to become what you are fighting, and the thing about open expansion options, like the toolbars, is that they will expand out of control. Viz, that old screenshot of an IE window with every installable toolbar in the world consuming the entire screen but a sliver of browser space at the bottom.

    I hate to shill, but I went Opera a long time ago when FF first started trying to do too much and I never once turned away. The only time I use it is on a fresh Linux install with FF -integrated-; I think it's Ubuntu or SuSE that integrates it so you can't remove it without disurpting the OS...didn't a certain Borg-led OS company do that once to ill-effect?

    FF's best route at this point is to integrate into the program in an efficient manner the best features of the most popular toolbars, and add a limit on the plugins... three perhaps. As long as toolbar adding is unlimited, people will bloat their installations and then complain as if it's FF's fault. A limit will inconvenience, but not drive off, much of the user base, and impose a bit of discipline.
  • Besides the cache (Score:3, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:53PM (#19169161) Homepage Journal
    So other than the memory cache, what features could be stripped from FF to make it leaner and faster? I know nothing of its internals, but without any extensions it doesn't seem to have many wasteful features.
  • They want Camino? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wal9001 (1041058) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:53PM (#19169163)
    To me it sounds like requesting that Frefox turn in to Camino for Windows/Linux. As Firefox has become more and more popular, Camino has taken a back role, reserved for use on Macs by people who aren't impressed by massive lists of features that they'll never touch. In all honesty, I think Firefox is a great example of what open source projects should try to avoid as they become more popular. One developer may think that adding the capability to change the text color of individual lines by middle clicking and pressing Left, Left, Right, Up, A, S, Enter, followed by a hex color code would be an excellent idea, but that doesn't mean that it will add anything to the overall capability (or usability) of the software. Addons do have their place, but even they have become overcome by feature bloat these days.
  • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:58PM (#19169287)
    I used one of the very first phoenix builds. It impressed me because at the time i was using mozilla. Phoenix was literally just gecko + some ui and it was really really light and fast. There was no installer, no control panel (well it was blank), etc.

    I'm very happy with firefox so far. I run half a dozen extensions to give me features like "session saving" etc. Ram usage is not too much of a concern with me. I would like it if the default was to not cache 8 pages back. And on disk cache should be fast enough to retrieve and render. 90% of the time i only go back 1 click anyways.

    Firefox 3 is implementing major changes. Under the hood they are switching to garbage collection and cairo (vector rendering) just to name a few. Cairo is a great abstraction that hasn't fully realized its performance capability. I don't suppose glitz will be out anytime soon. The sql-lite bookmarking looks neat. Epiphany has something similar. But i must admit that i've fully switched to del.icio.us and the extension v1.5.29. That's quite fully featured and it syncs across computers.

    The rss reading capability i do not like at all. That should be implemented as an extension. I prefer to use liferea. There are plenty of firefox features that should be implemented as extensions. That way you can disable them if you wish.
  • by Backward Z (52442) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:00PM (#19169323)
    I still fail to understand why people make such a big deal out of Firefox. Personally, I find Opera to be a much more elegant, usable, and stable browser.

    The mouse gestures are so good, I catch myself trying to use them in Windows Explorer/My Computer.
  • Re:well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:01PM (#19169351)
    Other browsers don't have the need to have the user set memory limits and they have very fast forward and back page and tab switching.

    The memory problems Firefox has seem to have the usual open source project response: "It's not a problem since it would be a major hassle to fix"

  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:01PM (#19169361) Homepage Journal
    My MacBook Pro had 512 megabytes when I bought it. That ought to be enough memory for anyone. But I found that running Parallels (a virtual machine that can host Windows or Linux) at the same time as FireFox was completely intolerable, even if I set Parallel's memory allocation to a minimum level.

    Whenever I clicked from one window to the other, I'd get the Spinning Pizza of Death for a minute or so while the other task's memory was paged in. I had to add another gig of RAM before I could switch windows quickly.

    That made this old coder wanna cry. My first Mac had only 512 kilobytes (kilo - not mega) but that was enough for me to write GUI applications with.

    Kids these days don't know how to write code.

  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:02PM (#19169375) Journal
    Why is the FF file cache so obscure? (kept in hex named files that appear to be indirectly referenced by other map files...)

    One think IE does right is a true file-for-file cache of what you have browsed.

    Sometimes I like to troll thru my "Temporary Internet Files" folder and pick out a few bits for posterity. Especially large .swf or .flv files that I might have watched. The worst is when I watch one of those in FF, then want to grab the file... the easiest thing to do is to watch it AGAIN in IE so that I can go cache-picking later...

    maybe it's just me.

  • Bloated if using M$. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by twitter (104583) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:04PM (#19169403) Homepage Journal

    I'll consider Firefox "bloated" when it requires a 10 GB OS and a supercomputer to run the latest version. They still port Firefox to Win 98, don't they? Sans Adobe Flash and Windoze, it's still slim and responsive on my 233 MHz PII. The community is constantly cleaning the code and it shows.

    The free world, comes with choice as well as code sharing. I prefer Konqueror which is also slim and there's always Dillo or Opera to play with. There are also "slimmer" versions of Firefox like Galeon.

  • by blindd0t (855876) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:13PM (#19169599)
    Well I suggest you check out a base Windows Vista install. A fresh installation of Vista in a VMWare machine yields approximately 7.16GB. ^_^ A complete Linux install (GNOME/KDE, apps, QT + GTK, etc...) still requires less than half that disk space.
  • Re:well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:18PM (#19169703) Homepage Journal
    That's not what I'm saying at all. Right now, if you want to reduce the amount of memory Firefox uses to enable you to click the back button faster, you have to set a per-tab limit. This is dumb. I mean, it's nice to have that option, but for it to be the only means of controlling that limit? Stupid. There should be a nice fat "never use more than x megabytes of memory" option, and you can fill in the value of x. If the browser starts to run out of memory, it can prompt you and ask if you'd like to increase the memory limit. It needs to be as easy as possible for average users, who do not feel the same joy that you or I might when we figure out some computer-related esoterica. They just want to surf myspace and look at pictures of half-naked teenage girls.
  • Re:Very nice FUD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:20PM (#19169745)
    Yes, and it's doubly FUD because it's based on "anecdotal reports" from the kinds of people who thing that -funroll-loops makes your Linux kernel 20% faster. Firefox is and always has been faster (uses less CPU) and more efficient (uses less memory) compared to IE and even compared to Opera. Try the browser buster memory test and you will see that Firefox beats other popular browsers by a factor of 2x to 4x. https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/attachment.cgi?id=240 026 [mozilla.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:23PM (#19169815)
    IIRC, the group that started Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox did so mostly because they were fed up with administrative holdups. Too much management by committee, so to speak. They wanted to remake the UI and couldn't within the Mozilla project, so they forked and made their own browser. The goal was not so much a leaner browser, but a better browser UI. It would be surprising if Firefox were leaner than the suite. They use the same rendering engine, after all, and the UI is not the big memory hog.
  • Re:Opera! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:25PM (#19169831) Homepage Journal

    I call bullsh1t on this. You've reviewed all the source of all the pgms you use? Stop this argument, please, it's not a real reason to choose one over the other unless you're actually willing to go through the source of every one of them

    You can save your specious arguments for an audience that will buy them. We don't have to review the source of all the programs we use to gain the "transparency" benefit of Open Source or Free Software. The idea is "many eyes", not "my eyes".

  • Re:is it time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs@nOsPam.ajs.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:32PM (#19170027) Homepage Journal
    I'm doubtful that there's a substantial revision to the browser that would be useful. Firefox is really not that "large". When rendering small, lightweight Web pages, Firefox is actually not the largest application I run regularly... of course, small, lightweight Web pages are a dying breed.

    That's not really Firefox's fault. Eight Web pages worth of cache is nothing... when you're not visiting a site that has 6 CSS stylesheets, 8 JavaScript sources and 20 images eight pages is a breeze. But visit most Web sites today, and you'll find that that's a dying dream.

    Fortunately, well-designed Web sites can take advantage of this. For example, MediaWiki has tons of CSS and JavaScript associated with each page, but it's shared in common across almost all of those pages, so keeping 8 pages in cache isn't all that much more expensive than keeping one.
  • by Baby Duck (176251) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:59PM (#19170563) Homepage
    Firefox needs to stop cramming information about all your extensions into a couple of Registry-Hell-ridden configuration files. And then they cross-link by hard-to-remember GUIDs rammed into hard-to-read RDF? wtf?

    Look at how extensions are done for Eclipse or JBuilder. It's much cleaner. Don't want an extension anymore? Just delete the JAR or folder. That's it. And it's clean.
  • New Web? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by v3xt0r (799856) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:09PM (#19170717)

    *looks around*

    Looks like the same old web to me!

    • Browser Compatibility and Performance Problems.
    • Insecurely-programmed Web Pages.
    • Cross-Site Scripting vulnerabilities.
    • Horribly designed interfaces.
    • Ads on every page from the same centralized (user-tracking) source (i.e. google, doubleclick, etc.)
    • SEO decepticons. (i.e. blogs)

    User Interfaces have changed slightly, but they're still broken.

    What was once considered 'immature' designs or 'designs for the mentally challenged' (i.e. huge text, bevels and gradients, huge icons, etc.) are now considered to be the defacto 'standard' for most of these 'bleeding-edge' web 2.0 sites.

    I can understand the dumbing-down to meet the mass appeal (as the mass is rather intellectually challenged, and hence, web-challenged), but dumbing-down the development community with 'web 2.0' marketing hype, is another story.

    Kool-aid.2.0 - no thanks!

  • by bfields (66644) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:11PM (#19170779) Homepage

    I don't understand why they don't keep fx slim with with all the proposed additional features as external (and hence optional) add-ons.

    At least some of the complaints I've heard about "firefox bloat" have turned out, on closer examination, to be due to memory leaks in the Flash plugin.

    And that's a disadvantage of plugins: they're complex bits of code that run in the same memory space as firefox and have the ability to screw it up arbitrarily badly, but that aren't part of the main code base, so aren't usually reviewable or fixable by Firefox developers.

    Anyway, what piece of functionality would you identify as a candidate for moving into an optional add-on, and what do you expect that would save?

  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:22PM (#19170959)
    What's odd is that Opera packs all that stuff in and more (even a BitTorrent client!), and it's faster and more lightweight in terms of resource requirements. Even the download size is amazingly small. What is it that makes Firefox worse in that regard? The XUL stuff? Convoluted codebase making improvement difficult?
  • Re:Very nice FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:35PM (#19171203) Homepage Journal

    I have yet to actually see this memory problem. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I've never seen it and the people I've seen say it exists never bother giving details (OS, active extensions, theme, version, etc.) so it can be recreated.

    Windows 2000, Gran Paradiso 3.0 latest alpha, default theme, only extension installed is Flashblock, and the memory size of firefox.exe temporarily grows by 200 MB when printing even the simplest page. (Bug 379844)

  • Re:rethink the OS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandywinehund[ ].org ['red' in gap]> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:47PM (#19171411) Journal
    Actually if I am not mistaken Opera dedicates some RAM (used to deafault to 10MB) to cache already interpereted webpages (it used to at least). This allowed for BLAZING fast back and forward buttons because most of the CPUs work was done. My guess is that this was another feature FireFox was trying to implement after being inspired by Opera's many year earlier implementation.
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:51PM (#19171497)

    But seriously man, I am yet to see firefox go above 120MB, I've seen some trolls saying it can get to 500MB! And who cares if you are not able to play those FULL SCREEN games and have your browser open at the same time? And is it so difficult to got to options\Advanced\Set cache size to 0, there should you go if you got infinite bandwidth and a tendency to open a lot of other applications while browsing?

    Oh my god, I just hate how frequent this flamebait is, people won't switch to opera, seriously get over it.

    And since firefox is such a friging resource hog I guess that's the reason it wasn't ported to OLPC ...

  • Re:Very nice FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @06:56PM (#19171587) Homepage
    I suspect Firefox has a problem with the amount of time it stays open, which means it has a memory leak (or a number of them) that are slight enough not to be a problem if you have it open for 8 or nine hours and close it every day but become an issue after two or three days.

    The instance I'm typing this into (2.0.x) has been up for about three days. I have no idea how many tabs I've opened and pages loaded, but the task manager shows ~300MB mem and ~120MB VM usage. Keep in mind right now I only have two tabs open.

    I suppose one could say the solution to the problem is restarting Firefox at least once a day... except that restarting a web browser seems about the stupidest thing ever.

    Still, I put up with it because it's far better than IE6. I don't like Opera, so I don't have a lot of choice.

  • Re:rethink the OS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by darthflo (1095225) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @07:53PM (#19172303)
    Yep, you're right.
    IIRC it's "Automatic" now, with a similar mem footprint as 10MB.

    What I was referring to in my other post was Opera's 2nd level cache (stored on your hard drive, defaulting to 20(?) MB or so) combined with any modern OS's RAM buffering (which should afaik be almost as fast as the first level mem cache).
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday May 17, 2007 @07:59PM (#19172379) Homepage Journal
    I agree -- halfway. Had early web browsers been strict about errors, we wouldn't have so much broken code out there, and cross-browser compatibility would be solely a matter of which features are supported -- not which set of error-correcting assumptions you expect.

    On the other hand, the fact that those early versions of Mosaic, Netscape, IE, etc. would do something with broken code instead of refusing to display it meant that the barriers to entry were a lot lower. It vastly increased the pool of people who could create web pages, and the talent pool. Sure, some people have both artistic talent and programming ability, or have the resources to team up. But can you imagine a web built solely by programmers?

    Eventually the authoring tools would have caught up. But I have to wonder if the web would be as big and diverse as it is now if it hadn't been able to pull in the casual author back in 1995.

    Yes, we have crappily-coded sites like MySpace. On the other hand, 10 years ago the idea of visiting a website was inordinately dorky, and being online meant you were a social outcast. Now, it seems like being offline is considered freakish.
  • Re:is it time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Seraphim_72 (622457) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @08:34PM (#19172773)
    Why not just use elinks/links/lynx then? You are looking for a feature set so low that my copy of elinks actually has more features then yours...not to flame, but I am curiou8s as to why. And before you say it, I fire up a for bore browser when needed - but why do you have your set up rather then mine?

    Sera

  • Re:is it time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t.gmail@com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:11PM (#19173105)
    Because Konqueror can move the menu bar to the Kicker, like in OS X, and I like that behaviour. Also, afaik links and lynx still suck at displaying pictures?
  • Re:Very nice FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:20PM (#19173169)

    I have 10 tabs open, and Firefox 2.0.0.3 on XP Pro SP2 is eating 150 MB of RAM and running painfully slow at the very moment, especially when I try to do "File Menu > Save As" on a page, then the entire browser freezes for almost 90 seconds after I click the save button, even if it's just a text page -- I haven't browsed to any graphic intensive pages, just a lot of pages.

    In the recent past, i've had 300MB memory usage on just 3 tabs. I wasn't surfing to pages that contained heavy graphics, java, or anything that would justify the browser using so much memory, I just had been to a lot of different pages during that session.

    So I say, not only is the 100Mb memory usage on pages confirmable, it's an underestimate of the scope of the problem; the browser's memory usage keeps expanding until you notice it, or the browser crashes.

    I t think the memory problem has NO direct connection to the number of hours you have the browser open. Only, how many tabs you have open, and how many pages you have surfed to in each tab. Most people would surf more sites the longer the browser is open, and I think it's that act of surfing more sites that increases the memory usage, and the memory usage stays high, even if I start closing tabs; only a complete shutdown of the browser is needed to fix it.

    I consider it highly annoying, and i've never recently had this problem of excessive memory usage with IE or Opera, no matter how many browser windows I opened or how much surfing I did, so I consider it a serious disadvantage of using Firefox rather than say Opera or Internet Explorer.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @09:43PM (#19173413)

    I'm surprised that no one has called me on my claim yet, but here's a sample demonstration anyway. Open the following the links in your favorite browser, in the order listed, keeping the IDG site at the top after you're done:
    Shockwave site [zeronews-fr.com]
    Java site [time.gov]
    Flash site [www.idg.se]

    When I do that, VM Size goes over 150 MB and CPU usage goes over 20% in Firefox, IE, and Opera. It's not up to 250 MB and 50%, but you get the idea with just three tabs and a minute of browser usage. Just add a few more resource-heavy sites, and you can reach those numbers. Add in hours of heavy browsing on a variety of sites, and memory use in any browser can reach hundreds of megabytes.

    Now it's time to provide the counter demonstration. Can someone provide a list of links that will cause Firefox to gobble up hideous amounts of memory, but not other browsers? If so, then finally we'll have some details about this problem once and for all!

  • by Koikuri (1044000) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:23PM (#19174273)

    But can you imagine a web built solely by programmers? [...] I have to wonder if the web would be as big and diverse as it is now if it hadn't been able to pull in the casual author back in 1995. [...] 10 years ago the idea of visiting a website was inordinately dorky, and being online meant you were a social outcast.
    But what is wrong with that? Yes, I know... Amazon and Ebay and such depend on the casual surfer, but would it really be so bad if the internet comprised primarily academics and programmers and serious hobbyists instead of primarily preteens (and older folks with the maturity of preteens) with too much time on their hands? Call me an elitist, but I don't feel like it would be much of a loss.
  • Re:Opera! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shish (588640) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:14AM (#19174631) Homepage

    I just had the freakiest experience with Opera, and I wonder if anyone here can explain: As some of you may know, in addition to regular back and forward buttons, opera also has a "go where I want" button. I had suspected that it worked by simply finding the end digit in the URL and adding one, ie if you're viewing 42.jpg and hit "go where I want" you go to 43.jpg. But I've just had it figure out that the image after "07.jpg" is "chapter2-01.jpg".

    HOW DOES IT KNOW?!

  • by jsebrech (525647) on Friday May 18, 2007 @04:49AM (#19176095)
    The number and severity of its security problems certainly qualify as "horrible." Obvious? Depends on who you ask. I'm in IT; I think so. Most people in IT would probably agree with that. End users? Maybe not. They have a different idea of "obvious" than most /. readers.

    To put this into perspective, I haven't had a security problem on a windows box in over four years. All you need is to follow some good practices and you're perfectly safe. Vista with its limited user powers should help a lot in reducing the effort involved in those "good practices".

    I love my Mac, but WTF do I have to reboot after updates?

    Because the kernel has been updated. After you update itunes a reboot is not needed.

    Is it horrible that an OS designed in the late 1960s, when the industry was still so young and inexperienced with security, is better-designed than NT and its descendants, which were designed twenty years later?

    If you're referring to multics, no commercial operating systems have caught up to that yet. If you're referring to unix I have to disappoint you, unix was not designed to be inherently secure. On early versions there were many security issues, because the concept of limited user powers took a while to gain a foothold, and even when they did the system's design was still full of security holes. The first internet worm (the morris worm) specifically targeted unix systems, in case you've forgotten. Just look at the security track record of commercial unices. It's pretty poor.

    Linux is not inherently more secure than other commonly available operating systems, it's just too much of a moving target because there is no binary stability, so a worm can't target large swaths of systems at the same time. That binary instability is a strength, but it's also the reason why there are so few binary drivers and commercial applications on linux.
  • FF memory leak (Score:4, Interesting)

    by olman (127310) on Friday May 18, 2007 @05:09AM (#19176163)
    There's ancient bug about mozilla coming up sloooooooooow in Win32 after it's been on for a long time. We're talking about mozilla 0.8 era bug and it affects all the related products that I'm aware of (TB, FF, probably even the calendar app)

    The crux of the problem is that the bug affects only win32. So the developers, one and all, refuse(d) to treat it as a codebase problem because it has to be a windows problem.

    "slow" in this instance means over 1 minute and easily 2-3 minutes. I even demonstrated at the time that it's not paging issue as such as mozilla/FF sits doing absolutely nothing (from perfmon monitor tool) for long period and when it finally starts swapping pages in it happens pretty quickly (5-10sec)

    It was subsequently "fixed" by making FF etc hold on to the memory they've reserved instead of releasing it back to the OS. Hence you get ridiculous 300MB memory footprint that shrinks to 50MB after restarting FF even with the same pages open. Same goes for TB and all the other apps I'm sure.

    So if you've got any kind of memory leak, mozilla apps want to keep it all in ram.
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:22PM (#19181285) Journal
    We should just migrate the web entirely to postscript. Anything web can do postscript can do better, since it's pretty much a full programming language...that fits in a printer. Nobody complains about postscript interpreters becoming bloated, memory and CPU hogs. Plus, page-print will finally "just work" well for a whole class of people.

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