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Why Firefox Performance Sucks In Recent Versions

by Sean P. Aune | April 17, 2010April 17, 2010 12:16 pm PDT

When Firefox 1.0 arrived on the browser scene in Nov. 2004, people went nuts for it.  It was light-weight, it didn’t gobble up resources and, most importantly to a lot of people, it wasn’t made by Microsoft.  It was fast and nimble, and people loved it.  The problem is that ever since then it has gotten worse.  With each release it seems to lose a bit of its speed, it appears to gobble up resources, and some day even getting it to launch can seem to take forever.

What happened to the browser we once all used to gloat about?  Where has the browser gone that we used to use like a badge of honor every time someone complained about Internet Explorer?  Lets take a look.

Bloat

All software suffers from a problem known as “bloat” as time goes on. This is where with each additional release, new features are added without taking old ones out.  The source code for the program gets longer and longer, and with additional line that is added, it is just that much more for your computer to sort through when starting it up.

Whenever I get home at night, I immediately turn on my laptop, and as soon as possible I start Firefox … and then I usually go take a shower.  No, it doesn’t take the browser the entire length of my shower to start, but I figure it’s better than sitting around grumbling at it as it takes what feels like an eternity to even load my start page.
firefox world logo

Extensions

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, usually likes to point to people installing too many of the thousands of extensions out there as the culprit for lagging speed and instability.  The problem is that people like my parents have exactly one extension installed (Xmarks), and I can’t count the number of times my father has complained to me about how he has grown to hate the program.

Extensions are an easy culprit to point to, but how many are too many?  Is just one, as in this case, too many?  If so, then why even bother offering them as it reflects poorly on you, not the makers of the extensions.

Feature Creep

As time has gone on, Mozilla has added more features to the program, contributing partially to its bloating.  Things that used to be handled exclusively by extensions, or going to a search engine, have now been added into the program.  The more features, the slower its going to go as each one has to be loaded.

Perhaps someone needs to remind them that the reason we loved them in the first place was it was pretty bare bones out of the box, and then we got to customize it.

Complacency

Firefox currently enjoys approximatively 25% market share.  It has been sitting at that number for quite some time, so it almost feels like the company has lost its motivation to try harder.  Chrome is growing, but is still quite a ways behind them, so why should they put a tremendous amount of effort?

Can It Return To Its Former Glory?

You would have thought that the release of Google’s Chrome browser, the program people now point to as the light-weight alternative, would have lit a fire under Mozilla’s collective behind to get all fired up again, but it seems to have done absolutely nothing for them.  If a big name competitor nipping at their heels didn’t get them to rethink their strategy, I’m really not sure what, if anything, will.

In my opinion, they need to completely rebuild the code from the ground up and start over.  The costs this would take would make it extremely prohibitive, so it seems unlikely they would be willing to do so.  And, honestly, what would be their motivation?

What say you?  Do you find yourself more dissatisfied with Firefox?  What do you think they could do to improve?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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