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Mozilla The Internet Technology

Firefox 3.5 Reviewed; Draws Praise For HTML5, Speed 436

Posted by timothy
from the new-improved-dragon dept.
johndmartiniii writes "Farhad Manjoo has a review of Firefox 3.5 at Slate.com this week. From the article: 'Lately I've been worried about Firefox. Ever since its debut in 2004, the open-source Web browser has won acclaim for its speed, stability, and customizability. It eventually captured nearly a quarter of the market, an astonishing achievement for a project run by a nonprofit foundation. But recently Firefox seemed to go soft.' The worried tone in the beginning of the review gives way to excitement over the HTML5 features being implemented, saying that thus far Firefox 3.5 'offers the best implementation of the standard — and because it's the second-most-popular Web browser in the world, the new release is sure to prompt Web designers to create pages tailored to the Web's new language.'" The final version could be here at any time; Firefox 3.5 is still shown as a release candidate at Mozilla's home page. Update: 06/30 15:31 GMT by T : No longer marked as RC; the Firefox upgrade page now says 3.5 has arrived.
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Firefox 3.5 Reviewed; Draws Praise For HTML5, Speed

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  • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:26AM (#28528003)
    The main thing i want to know is if they've (finally) fixed the memory issues yet. Namely, if i keep a lot of tabs open for awhile (yes, i know, bad habit) and then close those tabs, will Firefox free up the memory (frequently over a gig of it) without requiring me to shut it down and restart it?
    • by A12m0v (1315511) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:29AM (#28528063) Journal

      Firefox really needs a multiprocess architecture.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thedonger (1317951)

      (frequently over a gig of it)

      Are you including virtual memory in that figure? I can't seem to fun FF without at least 100MB of physical memory, but I never see the sum of physical and virtual go over 600MB (Jesus! I have really lowered my expectations thinking that isn't a lot!) with 15 tabs open for a week.

      • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:53AM (#28528429)
        Are you including virtual memory in that figure? I can't seem to fun FF without at least 100MB of physical memory, but I never see the sum of physical and virtual go over 600MB (Jesus! I have really lowered my expectations thinking that isn't a lot!) with 15 tabs open for a week.

        I'm using version 3.0.11. I currently have three windows open with about 120 tabs between them. Process Explorer reports that the firefox.exe process has 585,384k private bytes and 689,916k virtual bytes. Over the next couple days the amount of memory consumed will continue to grow, probably until it hits around 1.5 gigs of private bytes. I know that i really shouldn't have that many tabs open, but as someone else pointed out it's a convenient bad habit. (Perhaps a quarter of those tabs are sites that i check and refresh fairly often, at least once a day. The rest are sites links that i've checked or the results of google searches that i either haven't finished reading yet or think i'll need to reference back to in the near future. (For example, over 30 of those tabs relate to the myriad of issues i've run into trying to get Oracle working through ADO.Net, and i'll need to keep a lot of them open for reference until this project actually works correctly.)

        It's not that i mind Firefox taking up a lot of memory when i have a lot of tabs open (although almost 5 megs a page already seems a little high, though not as bad as your 40 megs per tab!) but i do mind that when i notice my computer slowing down and see that Firefox has consumed somewhere between 1 and 1.5 gigs of physical memory that doing a pruning of the tabs gets me almost no memory back. I have in fact closed everything down except for one google tab left on one window of Firefox and seen it still consuming over a gig of memory.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by maxume (22995)

          Setting browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers to something other than -1 should make memory use somewhat less aggressive (I haven't dug into it very deeply, but I don't think FF adjusts the number of pages any when the number of open tabs gets huge, and as I understand it, the setting is per tab, so you might actually have several hundred rendered pages in memory when you have 120 tabs open).

          http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers [mozillazine.org]

        • by Xaedalus (1192463) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `syladeaX'> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:11AM (#28528731)
          Please excuse me for being a paltry light user of Firefox... but aren't you an outlier in this particular case? The most tabs I ever have open on Firefox is three, maybe four. IMHO, you're a power user and while your comments are insightful, I have to wonder whether or not your insights are of relevance to the average user of Firefox? I'm all for improvement, but if the improvement is only noticeable when you've got 30+tabs open a day and are burning through close to a gig of RAM to keep everything operating... then what good is the improvement to the average user?
          • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:27AM (#28528973)

            I tend to agree with this assessment. I consider myself a power user when it comes to tabs, and I only rarely have more than 20 tabs open (and that's when I haven't checked Slashdot for 2 days and need to read every article/summary/comment I've missed), and then only for a short time. Do a lot of people really leave the browser running _all_ the time with dozens and dozens of tabs open? I can't really imagine that being the norm...

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hatta (162192)

              Yes, why would I ever shut my browser down? I'm just going to need it again. Generally when I'm reading a forum, i'll middle click on a bunch of posts to queue them up for reading. Then, when I want to reply to one, I'll open a bunch more tabs so I can double check my facts. Often, on those tabs I opened for reference, I'll read something new and interesting, so I'll pop open a bunch more tabs from those pages.

              Do I really need all those tabs open at once? No. Often times I wont even finish reading the

          • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:46AM (#28529263)

            That guys usage does seem a bit strange, but each to their own!

            However, there are different use cases for tabs that result in different numbers of tabs open:

            e.g.

            1) User wants to keep a number of sites open all day for quick switching - e.g. mail, news, documentation, etc. This is probably what you are thinking of, and it most likely is a relatively small number of sites - less than a dozen, say.

            2) User wants to open a whole bunch of links off the sam page at once, since that's more convenient than flipping back and fro to open one read it, open the next, etc. Examples of this usage would be, for example opening search results (search engine, eBay, etc) or reading new posts on an online forum.

            I routinely (many times a day - searching for collectables - made a $1500 profit on one yesterday) open 40-50 tabs at a time for eBay search results since it's so much faster to quickly run down a list of links doing open-in-new-tab (in background) then reading/discarding them, as opposed to doing it one at a time.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:30AM (#28529037)

          1.5GB looks like much, but it's only 12.5MB per tab. Considering that the browser has to keep the state and source data of every page, it doesn't seem excessive. Are you sure that the pages aren't running scripts which accumulate stale data over the course of days and weeks, because the programmers never expected their scripts to run for that long and didn't include any cleanup code, because that's usually handled by the browser when you leave the page or close the tab (which you never do)?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lawpoop (604919)
            12.6 MB per tab -- which means per page? That sounds like an awful lot to me. For testing, I save the page of this slashdot thread using FF. It's size on disk ( html file + its folder) is 836 Kb.

            Are you telling me to keep 836 KB of data as a live page takes 12MB? What am I missing?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by FromellaSlob (813394)

              Are you telling me to keep 836 KB of data as a live page takes 12MB? What am I missing?

              Quite a lot. HTML and JPEG are no use to a graphics card. Those pages have to be rendered. A single screen of 1280x1024 @ 24-bit color uses 3.75MB uncompressed in memory. Now think how much you need to scroll that up and down. I don't personally know the details of how Firefox manages memory, but I know your comparison is not valid.

        • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:31AM (#28529049)
          Have you tried to use bookmarks to keep track of your sites instead of using tabs....

          Ok .. all joking aside....

          A feature I stumbled on in firefox is the ability to open all bookmarks in a folder. So I've arranged my bookmarks into daily/weekly/monthly folders based on topics. Then I middle click the folder and all the pages open up. I arrange the pages that usually open first at the top of the folder, and those that take longer at the bottom. It only takes a few seconds before I start seeing pages, and by the time I'm done with the first one, the rest are open.

          Then I just close them as I'm done with them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hatta (162192)

          I know that i really shouldn't have that many tabs open

          No, you should be able to have as many tabs as you want open and the software should handle it. It's the computers job to do what we want, not ours to conform to the computer.

          On the other hand, I regularly have 3 or 4 windows open with close to 100 tabs each, and I don't really have a problem. If I hadn't shut down my pc last night to hook up a disc, I'd check the RAM use, but in any case, FF is pretty snappy for me.

        • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:11PM (#28532221) Homepage

          I know that i really shouldn't have that many tabs open, but as someone else pointed out it's a convenient bad habit.

          Who the fsck is anyone to tell you how you should use your web browser? If you need the browser to support 120 open tabs, then if it doesn't do this well, then it's a tool not well suited to your task. You should expect it to require some system resources to pull this off, but those that the application asks for should be managed properly and freed up if no longer needed. That is not too much to ask for, and you shouldn't apologize if you choose to use the product this way.

      • by jc42 (318812)

        I can't seem to fun FF without at least 100MB of physical memory, but I never see the sum of physical and virtual go over 600MB

        Hmmm ... I'm using a Macbook Pro at the moment, and according to the Activity Monitor window, Firefox is currently using RSIZE=338.62MB and VSIZE=1.37GB. This is with 7 windows with 25 tabs open, plus the "Library" (i.e., bookmarks) window. This seems about normal We also have a smaller, 5-year-old Mac Powerbook with only 1 GB of memory (vs the 4 GB on this machine), and FF there

    • by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:31AM (#28528099)

      if i keep a lot of tabs open for awhile (yes, i know, bad habit)

      This is a bad habit? I've always just thought of it as a convenient way to browse.

    • by fredrik70 (161208) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:32AM (#28528113) Homepage

      according to this test [dotnetperls.com] is seems quite alright...

    • by Jorkapp (684095) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .ppakroj.> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:33AM (#28528129)

      They fixed most of FF's memory issues with FF3. I've been using 3.5 since beta 1, and I've never had any issues with memory.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Daetrin (576516)
        They fixed most of FF's memory issues with FF3. I've been using 3.5 since beta 1, and I've never had any issues with memory.

        As mentioned in a previous comment, i'm currently using 3.0.11, and i haven't seen a noticeable improvement over FF2. If they've fixed everything in 3.5 i'll be very happy. But then everyone told me they'd fixed the memory issued in 3.0 too, and that didn't work so well for me.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

          Well, as long as we're talking anecdotes, I saw a dramatic improvement in 3 over 2...In FF2, the memory creep was constant and dramatic. 30-50 tabs would consume several GIGS of memory after a week or so. But with 3, it levels off. Yea, it uses a lot of memory, but it doesn't leak the way it used to.

          Just my personal experience of course.

        • Drop the number of cached pages to 0. It'll dramatically drop the amount of RAM FireFox uses.

          Be warned, using the back button or "Undo Close Tab" is going to suck as it'll have to pull everything from network again. (Pair it with a local caching proxy?).

          I just wish they had a 'purge cache' button somewhere easy. Until then I'll just quit and restart.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by maxume (22995)

            Setting browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers to a small number (when FF detects 1 Gig or more of ram, it defaults to 8) should give you something in between (i.e., the pages will need to be pulled from the cache and rendered, but the number rendered pages in memory will be much smaller and the data will not have to be pulled from the network). More detail here:

            http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers [mozillazine.org]

    • by mikael (484)

      Or about stopping the auto-update. I use yum to install firefox automatically, then about 4 hours later I get message telling me that "Congratulations, you have firefox 3.0.11 installed", which breaks Google Streetview - it just remains black and no options actually appear in the Preferences->Clear Private Data popup. Reinstall Firefox using yum install, Google Streetview works again, and the cycle repeats.

      • Or about stopping the auto-update. I use yum to install firefox automatically, then about 4 hours later I get message telling me that "Congratulations, you have firefox 3.0.11 installed", which breaks Google Streetview - it just remains black and no options actually appear in the Preferences->Clear Private Data popup. Reinstall Firefox using yum install, Google Streetview works again, and the cycle repeats.

        How is this a Firefox-Issue? open a Bug with your distro to set the updates off. And turn off automatic updates in the preferrences.

    • by Freedom Bug (86180) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:50AM (#28528391) Homepage

      I leave Firefox 3.0 open for weeks at a time, and I'm liable to have close to a hundred tabs open across 12 windows. Granted, it uses almost a gigabyte of memory, but I don't think any browser would do any better for that kind of load. The only time I ever need to restart is because Flash has stopped working.

    • by Da Fokka (94074) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:58AM (#28528515) Homepage

      ... Namely, if i keep a lot of tabs open for awhile (yes, i know, bad habit)

      Why is it a bad habit? The browser should facilitate the user, it shouldn't be the other way around.

  • Real geeks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:31AM (#28528097)
    use telnet for browsing the internet.
  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:36AM (#28528175)

    the new release is sure to prompt Web designers to create pages tailored to the Web's new language

    Although, I would be happy if Slashdot would work right with the existing standards.

  • We are all like a bunch of jonzing pirates wanting FF 3.5... Like crack addicts we need our fix... like yesterday... or the day before.

    We want it NOW!!!

  • Did they ever resolve this [launchpad.net]? It's still present in 3.0 for Linux. Basically, instead of being polite and letting the OS keep the disk spun down until data needs to be written, Firefox spins up the HD for writing every single time it does anything. So if you have an aggressive spin-down policy (like Ubuntu Jaunty does, at least) and you're web-browsing, your HD will spin up and down every twenty seconds or so.
    • by RebelWebmaster (628941) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:53AM (#28528431)
      Yes, they've done a lot of work to reduce the number of fsync() calls used. There are numerous bugs filed tracking that work. More work is still planned, but it should already be in better shape than 3.0.x was.
      • Hey, that's excellent news. I gave up and just set my HD to never spin down so it didn't eat itself.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Basically, instead of being polite and letting the OS keep the disk spun down until data needs to be written, Firefox spins up the HD for writing every single time it does anything.

      But this isn't a bug, it's a feature: the ext4 developers keep telling us that Posix requires that you fsync() any file that you actually want to find on the disk after a reboot.

      More seriously, this may be a response to the earlier problems on Windows where you would reboot after a system crash or power outage and find all your bookmarks had been eaten by scandisk because they weren't properly written to disk before the crash.

      • I guess that's maybe possible, but--and I'm not a programmer--it seems that FF oughtn't need to even *touch* the bookmark file except once at the beginning of the session and then again if you actually bookmark something. Instead, it spins up every time you you follow a link, even if it ought to be something in RAM, and certainly my browsing history is not something that's important to me after a reboot. Though, now that I think about it I guess it might be related to FF remembering what tabs you have open
        • by pdboddy (620164)
          Spins every time you follow a link? Uh, you do know that websites download temporary files, right? Cookies? Pre-caching images, etc?
  • Correction: "...and because it's the second-most-popular Web browser in the world, the new release is sure NOT to prompt Web designers to create pages tailored to the Web's new language..."

    (That's better.)

    I dunno what web designer in his/her right mind is going to make a web page that only 1 in 4 people can view.

    Surely Mozilla developers should be trying to better emulate what the MOST popular browser does so that people won't be discouraged from using theirs; rather than creating yet more incompatibility?

  • indeed, am I the only one still using the mac-only, closed-source iCab -but the one that invented ad-filtering 10 years before Adblock, and still updates almost every month (now with e. g. full screen favorite-sites preview...)?

    • Yes, because there is no need to use iCab when you can use Safari or Firefox. iCab pretty much renders the same as Safari and all the UI can be done in Firefox (or Chrome or an OSS webkit browser).
  • I usually kill off my firefox 3.0 and restart it once it reaches the point where its holding 400 megs of ram and takes a quarter-second to respond to button presses. Wasn't Firefox's advantage over Mozilla supposed to be the lack of bloat?

  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:49AM (#28528367)

    In Firefox 3.5, the bard class has been totally revised, and you no longer need to "intuit direction" to browse the web.

  • Released!?!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ericlondaits (32714) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:51AM (#28528393) Homepage

    As of now, if you got to Mozilla's page and choose to download Firefox, you get version 3.5 :

    http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/upgrade.html [mozilla.com]

    • NOTE: THIS WORKS.

      Just started working with 3.5 De_de. Firebug already has an update, but the ugly dotted borders are not fixed. Sigh....my designer will lynch me.

  • Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:02AM (#28528585)

    Am I the only one who doesn't see the multiplicity of real competition as a threat, but rather as the greatest success of the Mozilla Foundation? Had it not been for Firefox, Opera would still cost money, Google Chrome wouldn't exist, a few people who paid way too much for their computers would be running Safari, and most (l)users would be stuck with the latest version of IE -- IE6. Thank you, Firefox, for reigniting the browser wars, and here's hoping that this time around the wars will be fought with functionality, stability, security, and speed, rather than with a new incompatible extension to JavaScript every week.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hkmwbz (531650)

      Had it not been for Firefox, Opera would still cost money, Google Chrome wouldn't exist

      That's crazy talk. Chrome's existence did not and does not depend on Firefox.

  • Acid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pahroza (24427)

    Still only a 93% on acid3. Better, but not good enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

      Acid4 is even worse. And Acid5, I mean, make your browser work guys.

  • Here now (Score:2, Informative)

    by rjolley (1118681)
    I think firefox 3.5 IS here now. I just went to getfirefox.com on osx and ubuntu and both show graphical links to download firefox 3.5. Downloading and going to 'about firefox' shows no indication that it is a release candidate.
  • by Saint Stephen (19450) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:52AM (#28529371) Homepage Journal

    Okay, at one time, there were standards around CSS and DOM being implemented, and Microsoft implemented a version of those standards before they were standards, and became the Defacto Quirks Mode way things were done for a long time, and that was deemed Evil.

    Now there are standards around HTML5 being proposed, but probably 10 years off, or at least way off, and Firefox and Google are implementing a version of these standars before they are standards, and are trying to become the Defactor Quirks Mode way things are done for a long time, and that is deemed Good.

    If it quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

  • 1 minute upgrade (Score:4, Informative)

    by iplayfast (166447) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @11:21AM (#28529949)

    That worked out really well. I read the blurb, it said it was available. Did the check for updates, it downloaded and restarted, and then I went into the story.

    All upgrades should be so easy!

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @11:54AM (#28530687)
    I know it's a real long shot, but I don't suppose they added an option to turn off the awesomebar?
  • by Ilgaz (86384) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:38PM (#28535153) Homepage

    May I really ask who or what Firefox developers fight(!) with? Like or not, MSI is the way to get into Enterprise, a signed MSI is even better. In fact, most of .exe installers you see these days are actually MSI packaged in .exe.

    It is really interesting that they insist on not shipping MSI versions of their software, at least in a FTP folder like "alternate_installers" which admins will pull msi from. It became even more interesting since I found this: http://wix.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] , yes open source from MS, hosted by Sourceforge and it actually works. What does MSI do? Hurt feelings of the developers there? I really can't understand. It is basically RPM for Windows which gives some bonus features like repair etc. to ordinary users but it is huge deal on enterprise.

    ps: Same thing on OS X but we are kinda fine with Drag&Drop installs while it even matters at home sized networks. A .pkg would be way better. Anyway, no gigantic enterprise sized OS X networks around like the Windows ones.

That does not compute.

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