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Mozilla Technology

Minefield Shows the (Really) Fast Future of Firefox 412

Posted by timothy
from the zipping-right-along dept.
zootropole writes "If you are using Firefox 3 (or even Chrome) you should consider taking a look at Mozilla's Minefield. This browser (alpha version yet, but stable) would give a new meaning to 'fast browsing experience.' Some Firefox extensions aren't supported, but riding the fastest javascript engine on the planet definitely worth a try. Minefield's install won't affect your Firefox, so there's no risk trying it. It's fast. Really. And I'm loving it." Reviews popping up around the web are overwhelmingly positive, calling the upcoming browser crazy fast, blisteringly fast, etc.
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Minefield Shows the (Really) Fast Future of Firefox

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  • First Post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mincognito (839071) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:24AM (#25540175)
    thanks to minefield :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:24AM (#25540181)

    Are you crazy? If you want to be a little risky, try the 3.1 beta. Nightlies shouldn't be used by those that want to use extensions or avoid crashes.

    • by richy freeway (623503) * on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:30AM (#25540265)
      I dunno. I use the nightlies at work and the stable at home, it's very rare that anything is really broken in the nightlies and it crashes about as much as the stable version.

      I don't use any extensions though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by adpsimpson (956630)

        Nightlies shouldn't be used by those that want to use extensions...

        I dunno. I use the nightlies at work... I don't use any extensions though.

        +1 Missed the point but still sounded vaguely insightful?

        • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:21AM (#25540877)

          Nightlies shouldn't be used by those that want to use extensions or avoid crashes

          I dunno. I use the nightlies at work... I don't use any extensions though.

          +1 Missed the point but still sounded vaguely insightful?

          You missed out the 'or' operator. The original statement was that IF (you want to use extensions OR you want to avoid crashes) THEN you shouldn't use nightlies. The followup said that he used the nightlies and avoided crashes just as well as with the stable release, although he didn't use extensions. So: wants to use extensions FALSE, wants to avoid crashes TRUE, and as it turns out nightlies work just fine. Hence OP's theorem is disproved by counterexample.

          Really, this is basic Boolean logic. Anyone reading /. ought to understand this stuff...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ljgshkg (1223086)
        Friend, nightlies is working build. It's sometmies very very stable. But sometimes, especially during some massive checkin period, it can be extremely unstable and may even be dangerous.

        I definitely won't recommand it to you. I remember there was an incidence in Firefox(bird?)'s history when some guy's C:\Progra~1 is deleted while installing an early testing build (can't remember if it's mindfield, but it's early testing build for sure).

        Personally, I usually start using new version of Firefox during B
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Potor (658520)
      i've been using minefield at home for a few days now - it does crash once and a while, enough to be noticeable. but it is fast. man is it fast.
    • by ajs (35943) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:16AM (#25540827) Homepage Journal

      What's more, this is the same thing we hear every 2 years. "Browser X is really fast!" Then six months later you hear, "Browser X was lagging behind the pack because it didn't have support for A, B and C, but now it's getting them." After that you get, "Why is Browser X so slow these days?" And inevitably, "Browser Y is really fast!"

      When are we going to realize that browser maturity and performance are going to be on opposing curves and jumping ship to an immature browser just sets you up to lose functionality for a short period of time until the performance can be gobbled up by it.

      This is exactly why I'm not using Chrome. Chrome is very nice, but it doesn't have most of what I require of a browsing experience. Once it does, THEN I'll evaluate its competitiveness, not before.

      • by JTorres176 (842422) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#25541113) Homepage

        Speed seems to be determined by a lack of bloat... and by bloat, I mean features. Firefox, back in the days it was referred to as phoenix, was exceedingly fast. Since then, fancy bookmarking, spellchecking, rss feeds, etc, etc has been added to it, causing slow startup and loading times. With the addition of a few thousand lines of code, not surprisingly, anything will take a bit longer to start up and go.

        Chrome doesn't have many features, so it runs amazingly fast. Minefield doesn't have many features, so it runs amazingly fast. If either of them are weighted down with features (code bloat) then they will slowly grind to a halt much along the lines of IE or current FF.

    • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:46AM (#25541187)

      I don't even understand the hype about it being fast. It's *really* slow compared to for example the latest WebKit nightly, here's the benchmarks on my machine:

      Sunspider:
      FF3.0.3: 2697.2ms
      Minefield (jit enabled): 1412.4ms
      WebKit: 680.6ms

      V8 bench:
      FF3.0.3 - 199 runs
      Minefield (jit enabled): FAIL (brings up printer dialog rather than actually running javascript)
      WebKit: 2342 runs

      ACID 3:
      FF3.0.3 - 71 and significant laggyness
      Minefield (jit enabled): 89 with only a little jitteryness
      WebKit: 100 totally smooth.

  • Is it faster than Chrome? Seriously, this isn't a troll. I'll try it out and see.

    • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:32AM (#25540289)
      It has the potential to be, at least for interpreting javascript. The gui still feels a lot more sluggish though, and general rendering still seems quite a bit slower as well. Just remember to do the about:config thing, then search for jit, and turn the two options on to get the speed boost.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BrokenHalo (565198)
        Well, it's certainly faster than Chrome for OS X or Linux, since neither of these are available yet at all. Chrome fades more into irrelevance the longer they delay releasing versions for non-Windows platforms. This is not because the browser particularly sucks, it is because unlike Firefox, it has missed the boat for endorsement by the geek community.

        I've said this before, but it bears saying again: Google is not short of resources, so their ignoring other platforms only suggests deliberate policy. In oth
    • by LSD-OBS (183415) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:45AM (#25540457)

      Of course, you have to enable the TraceMonkey JIT JavaScript compiler before you'll see any reasonable speed increase (in theory). Just go to about:config, search for the 2 items with "JIT" in their name, and enable them.

      My stress tests have shown it to be 10-50% faster than Chrome *when* JIT works. However, it's still buggy as hell, it eats its own memory heap and grinds to inexplicable halts kinda randomly whenever my code does anything repetitive and strenuous, bringing the average execution speed down to almost FF2 levels, meaning it's faster for me to leave JIT disabled. It's a no-go for me until they fix that.

    • by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:45AM (#25540461)
      People are talking as if Chrome's V8 was the fastest JavaScript engine around, but it wasn't - WebKit's SquirrelFish Extreme was faster [slashdot.org]. Is Minefield's engine even faster? Ars Technica's tests [arstechnica.com] show that TraceMonkey runs the SunSpider benchmark in between 78% and 84% of V8's time. However, according to earlier tests [blogspot.com], SquirelFish Extreme completes the benchmark in 74% of V8's time, making it even faster than the newest TraceMonkey. So it looks like Minefield, though fast, is not the fastest browser in JavaScript.
      • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:24AM (#25540911)

        My ManBearPig smashes your SquirrelFish and your silly TraceMonkey.

        Since I am not going to RTFA, I am going to speculate that Minefield is Mozilla's answer to Microsoft by way of having a faster, more modern version of Minesweeper.

        Take that Evil Empire!

      • by Cthefuture (665326) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:31AM (#25541013)

        I'm interested in using Javascript as an embedded language, it's too bad most of the current JS engines assume they will be running in a browser. Yes, you can build standalone TraceMonkey and SquirrelFish shells but it isn't very easy on all platforms (no Visual Studio project, etc) and they aren't very easy to embed.

        For general application development outside of a browser I have found V8 to be faster than the others. It's also a lot easier to build standalone or embedded in other applications. It's also very easy to add extensions to (written in C++), especially compared to the other choice.

        I'm keeping my eye out but right now V8 fits my needs the best. If the other projects would do a little work towards focusing on general application development in their respective JS engine then I might switch. Switching will be a pain in the butt though because my C/C++ extensions will have to be ported to each engine. I kind of wish there was less diversity because right now it's hard to tell which engine is going to take off (eg. Google could abandon V8 for one of the other engines like SquirrelFish since they are using WebKit anyway).

        Unfortunately all of them, including V8, are pretty large compared to cleaner scripting languages like Lua which makes embedding them in mobile applications kind of annoying (although we're getting more and more space on these things).

      • by Osvaldo Doederlein (34220) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @11:53AM (#25542179) Homepage

        These benchmark results are a bit debatable - I've seen different suites electing different "winners" and, while SunSpider seems to be the best, it's a long way from a robust benchmark like SPEC* or DaCapo.

        In any event, even if SFX is leading the pack right now, that's because it's the most mature competitor, and its advantage won't last too long. I predict (and I write this logged with my account, not AC, so I would be forever glorified when this becomes true in 12 months max) that both V8 and TraceMonkey will take the lead, leaving SFX in a safe third place permanently.

        The reason is very simple. All these new JS VMs are JIT compilers, producing native code. But SFX is a context threaded JIT [ualberta.ca]. Context threading is just a step beyond traditional direct-threaded interpreters: functions are 'compiled' into streams of CALLs into routines that implement each bytecode operation, but there is limited inlining (simple operations and branches), with a focus on reducing branch misprediction.

        OTOH, both V8 and TraceMonkey are "real compilers" that emit real native code (not CALL streams) for entire functions (or even larger chunks of code, with inlining). This is necessary to enable traditional optimizations like register allocation, instruction scheduling, constant folding, loop unrolling etc. Some of these optimizations can be performed on a high-level intermediate code representation (HIR), but that's typically not worth the effort without real compilation. E.g., loop unrolling will just waste memory an i-cache efficiency if performed by a threaded interpreter/JIT... as the real benefit of unrolling is giving the compiler a much larger basic block to perform other opts like extra folding and bounds-check elimination, or real low-level tricks like exploring using SIMD registers and operations / Instruction-Level Parallelism / prefetching / branch predication etc.

        The only reason why V8 and TraceMonkey don't completely 0wn the benchmarks today, is that these JITs are still in their infancy. They have implemented the foundations (like V8's hidden classes or TM's tracing), but they still miss to implement dozens of important optimizations (including very easy ones - they just didn't have the time yet). Check some comments about V8's limitations [google.com]. TM's developers have also commented on many limitations, quote (Andreas Gal: "If it talks to the DOM during the benchmark, we currently donâ(TM)t compile across such calls (we plan to for Beta2 though)". This and several other improvements are planned for future builds of Firefox 3.1 [mozilla.org]. Notice that items like special support for DOM interactions and event handlers should be critical to some benchmarks - and of course to real-world RIA apps. I'm sure the V8 hackers are also working around the clock to fill in their own gaps. When both VMs are reasonably mature, SFX will have a VERY hard time competing (unless of course, they abandon the context threading model and mutate into a real compiler). Other optimizations, like JITted regex, can be implemented in all VMs and will eventually be ubiquitous.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:32AM (#25540283)
    From the last time this happened [mozillazine.org]:

    "That's ok," you say: "I link directly to ftp.mozilla.org!" That can be even worse! Killing the project's FTP server does not help anyone, least of all people trying to obtain Firefox builds. And it makes for a grumpy IT group. And nobody wants grumpy IT groups. Especially a day before a release.

  • Java v. Javascript (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michaelhood (667393) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:32AM (#25540295)

    OK, it's time for us to start educating users and the media of when to properly use the monikers Java and JavaScript.

    The article linked to from the summary says "Handles Java Well" in the subtitle, but then never mentions it again - only JavaScript.

    These are NOT THE SAME.

    This is, of course, CBSNews.. but I have seen the same mistake in so-called "tech" media lately, too.

  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladvNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:32AM (#25540297) Homepage

    ... was it to code name a perfectly fine browser that's both fast and stable "Minefield"?????

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ashtophoenix (929197)
      I agree. A name like that gives the association with "Blowing up". Thats not what you want from a browser or any software. If every things get competitive, I can see competitors using that association to affect people's minds and form an association of Minefield with "crashing". Although most of the bright, non-nonsense people won't fall for that sort of ads, unfortunately the masses will. FireFox, Explorer, Navigator are all good associations for browsers.
  • What the hell kind of codename is that? Maybe an attempt at 'truth in advertising'?

    • Re:Minefield? (Score:5, Informative)

      by michaelhood (667393) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:38AM (#25540373)

      What the hell kind of codename is that? Maybe an attempt at 'truth in advertising'?

      That's exactly what it is. Minefield always refers to the current alpha-release of the upcoming "major" release.

      Don't use it unless you know what you're doing. Suggesting end-users use this, without briefing them on why it will crash [frequently], is irresponsible at best and does a disservice to the alternate browser movement.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:33AM (#25540313)
    Another browser to test on!!!

    "Hey Rockie, watch me put a gun in my mouth!"
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:34AM (#25540319) Homepage Journal

    I just wonder how often the speed of javascript matters vs the network connection.
    I tried to Chrome but never really noticed much difference.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shados (741919)

      You won't see a difference because pages are designed for slow browsers (IE6/7, FF2, etc). So they don't tap into the power of javascript as much as they could be, for performance reasons. You'll see the difference in a fully client side (aside for json REST service calls) javascript app made in ExtJS or similar toolkits (there's a few). Then performance matters.

  • Which is faster, crazy or blistering??

    I dont think crazy sounds all that fast - I mean most crazies I've met have had trouble moving around much without taking timeouts to wipe drool and yell at the birds.

  • Jupp, (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rhabarber (1020311)
    its fast, its stable, my extensions work ;)

    Especially Zotero (SVN) rocks !!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      No, it's not stable. It's a nightly build. Nightlies can have major changes that will destroy data and corrupt your profile. When it comes to the Release Candidate stage then there shouldn't be any destructive bugs left.

      "Minefield" isn't a new browser, as has been repeatedly mentioned here. It's the tag given to nightly builds of Firefox so that people will know it's not stable.

  • Hyperbole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Morris Thorpe (762715) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:49AM (#25540511)

    Sorry to nitpick but is anyone else turned-off by the hyperbole in these write-ups?

    ARS estimates the browser to be 10 percent faster. I mean, if it was three times faster than my current browser, then I'd say blistering is appropriate.
    I mean, if you were driving on the freeway at 60 mph and someone passed you doing 66...would you say they were traveling "at breakneck" speed?

    • by h4rm0ny (722443)

      Yeah, now that you point it out, it doesn't sound quite as good. Though I'm sure a 10% increase is no mean feat. Anyway, consider your analogy "borrowed." :)
    • by Mr Z (6791) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:02AM (#25540683) Homepage Journal

      Well... it's 10% faster than Chrome, not than Firefox 3. So, to use your analogy, it's like you're going down the road at 35MPH when Chrome blows by doing 80, and then Minefield blows past doing 88MPH.

      (Just better watch that flux capacitor...)

  • I've been running Bon Echo [Community Edition Release for Win64] for quite some time now, but some weeks ago it changed into the Minefield build. With 8GB RAM installed I did notice it's gobbling up more memory than Bon Echo did, but that's just a minor issue. It looks like the money spent on RAM hasn't paid off, as most applications I've got running on x64 are 32 bit, so no real gain to be expected. [It'll be my last WinOS, before I move to a Kubuntu/FreeBSD ONLY network.]
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:52AM (#25540541) Homepage Journal

    Just asking.

  • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@@@jasonlefkowitz...net> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:52AM (#25540545) Homepage

    People. There is A REASON why Mozilla calls these builds "Minefield" rather than "Firefox".

    It's because they're not ready for daily use.

    They may be faster than the released version of Firefox, but they also may contain major, showstopping bugs, up to and including bugs that can cause data loss.

    The only people who should be using them are people who understand this risk and are willing to accept it -- i.e. testers.

    Anyone promoting these builds for use by the general public is being irresponsible and exposing anyone who takes their advice to risk.

    TFA is bad enough, but it's worse to see major sites like Slashdot parroting this bad advice. You should be telling your friends to avoid Minefield, not to seek it out.

    • by SkankinMonkey (528381) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @09:56AM (#25540609)
      I don't think anyone is encouraging the masses to use a nightly. However, slashdot is "News For Nerds" right? Nerds should be able to use a nightly without destroying their computers beyond recognition, if not they need to give their badges back.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jalefkowit (101585)

        I don't think anyone is encouraging the masses to use a nightly.

        Yes they are. This whole "use Minefield, it's fast!!!!1!" meme is being spread by blog posts like this irresponsible post from CNet [cnet.com]:

        Feeling brave? Or simply feeling like your browser is too slow? Give Minefield a try. It's a separate install so it won't affect an existing Firefox install. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

        And this [wirememe.com]:

        Firefox Minefield, a pre-release alpha version of the Firefox browser blows the speed limits out of the park

    • Borrowing from my post above:

      Don't use it unless you know what you're doing. Suggesting end-users use this, without briefing them on why it will crash [frequently], is irresponsible at best and does a disservice to the alternate browser movement.

    • Well, if you think it is, fine then. I downloaded it and started using it because there is an x64 branch for it, and I love it. I have recommended it to many friends, some of whom you would probably not consider "power users" and I have not heard any negative feedback, aside from some extention compatibility issues.
      • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@@@jasonlefkowitz...net> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:11AM (#25540779) Homepage

        You got lucky.

        A nightly build is exactly what it says it is -- a snapshot of the codebase as of a given day.

        Some nightly builds may be completely bug free. Others may be chock full of major dataloss bugs. It's a crapshoot.

        Your friends may be fine today, but if they decide to "update Minefield" on the wrong day in the future, they're gonna get screwed.

        That's why I call it irresponsible.

  • All these years people in the Unixy world gave Microsoft a ton of crap for VB, and now, after all this time, they've come up with something arguably worse... javascript, and now, a javascript compiler.

    • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:14AM (#25540811)

      All these years people in the Unixy world gave Microsoft a ton of crap for VB, and now, after all this time, they've come up with something arguably worse... javascript, and now, a javascript compiler.

      Javascript was not created by the opensource community (it was created by Brendan Eich and ended up becoming part of Netscape, which was not open source at the time). Additionally, Javascript has reasonable structures that don't deteriorate when the software expands to large sizes.

      Check out Synchronet [synchro.net], it has IRC servers, NNTP servers, Gopher servers etc. all written in javascript. The code is completely readable (generally not the case with VB when the code reaches that complexity) and cross-platform.

      There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Javascript language, like there is in visual basic.

  • No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andy1307 (656570) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:13AM (#25540803)
    The biggest advantage of firefox is the ability to block out javascript via NoScript. Why would I want to give that up?
    • by archeopterix (594938) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:59AM (#25541351) Journal

      The biggest advantage of firefox is the ability to block out javascript via NoScript. Why would I want to give that up?

      No idea, especially now that no browser executes javascript faster than firefox with NoScript!

    • Re:No thanks (Score:4, Interesting)

      by onefriedrice (1171917) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @11:16AM (#25541561)
      Yeah, I used to like and use NoScript. Then I realized that in order to make many websites usable at all, you have to enable Javascript anyway. I think NoScript is still fine for people who don't care how broken the web is (if a site doesn't work, just find another one right?), but I've found that for me, the potential of NoScript to increase security is limited, and it's just not worth the hastle.

      Plus, it was really annoying when they recently started releasing a new minor version every other day or so. Amongst all the computers I use at work, school, home, whatever, it seemed like I was upgrading NoScript constantly. AdBlock Plus is all I really need nowadays, and BugMeNot is useful sometimes.
  • SVG too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cthefuture (665326) on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @10:36AM (#25541069)

    One thing I'm most impressed with is the SVG performance. It's starting to almost become an alternative to Flash for interactive applications. I like it and I hope it gets even faster.

  • by Tracy Reed (3563) <treed AT ultraviolet DOT org> on Tuesday October 28, 2008 @12:02PM (#25542325) Homepage

    Faster javascript is nice but what I really want it a multi-process sort of firefox like Chrome has. I want to see which tab is slowing me down and kill it. I want all of my tabs to run independently on multiple cpu's. I want the memory leakage of any one process to go away when I kill it instead of restarting the whole browser. I spend very little time waiting on the results of javascript execution.

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