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Firefox Notably Improved In Tom's Hardware's Latest Browser Showdown 218

Posted by timothy
from the today-on-chrome-tomorrow-who-knows dept.
Billly Gates writes "Tom's Hardware did another benchmark showdown, since several releases of both Firefox and Chrome came out since their last one. Did Mozilla clean up its act and listen to its users? The test results are listed here. Firefox 13.01 uses the least amount of RAM with 40 tabs opened, while Chrome uses the highest (surprisingly). Overall, Firefox scored medium for memory efficiency, which measures RAM released after tabs are closed. Also surprising: IE 9 is still king of the lowest RAM usage for just one tab. Bear in mind that these tests were benchmarked in Windows 7. Windows XP and Linux users will have different results, due to differences in memory management. It is too bad IE 10, which is almost finished, wasn't available to benchmark." Safari and Opera are also along for the fight.
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Firefox Notably Improved In Tom's Hardware's Latest Browser Showdown

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  • Why IE9 did well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stonent1 (594886) <stonentNO@SPAMstonent.pointclark.net> on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:22AM (#40575673) Journal
    Because the browser is part of the OS, the RAM is already in use as part of the windows explorer.
    • Re:Why IE9 did well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bill Dimm (463823) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:43AM (#40575789) Homepage

      It is interesting that IE uses 1276 MB for 40 tabs, so 1276/40 = 31.9 MB/tab, while with only one tab open it takes 31 MB, i.e. there seems to be no memory overhead for the software itself. For comparison, Firefox uses 794 MB for 40 tabs, so 19.85 MB/tab, and 61 MB when there is only one tab open, so an overhead 41 MB for the software itself.

      • Re:Why IE9 did well (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) * on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:59AM (#40575867)

        while with only one tab open it takes 31 MB, i.e. there seems to be no memory overhead for the software itself

        Which is exactly what the GP was saying: that any browser written into a specific OS can use the facilities of the OS itself to mask its true size.
        Its sort of like measuring the memory impact of the Chrome browser running on a Chrome-OS tablet.

        But disregarding memory utilization by the browser itself, your numbers are pretty interesting all by themselves.

        What the heck is IE doing with that extra 11meg per tab when there are multiple tabs open? The web page itself is only the size that it is, and presumably the tests all loaded the same pages in the same order. 11meg is a pretty good guess for the average size of pages. Its almost as if IE build a page in the background and handing the whole thing to the render engine while keeping a copy as backup.

        I wonder if the tests were run in a memory constrained machine? The idea that unused ram is wasted ram might lead some of these developer to use what is available more or less freely depending on available ram.

        • Re:Why IE9 did well (Score:4, Informative)

          by bhcompy (1877290) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:26AM (#40576029)
          Because each IE tab is it's own instance(like Chrome). Each FF tab is under the parent process.
        • by arth1 (260657)

          The idea that unused ram is wasted ram might lead some of these developer to use what is available more or less freely depending on available ram.

          Oh, how I hate that. Available != unused.

          Modern operating systems use memory for caching, and while it's available, the developer's assumption that it's better used for only his program instead of the system as a whole tends to be wrong. It's especially wrong when the developer decides to use it for caching what's on disk. That is almost always better left to the OS, which can take into account other disk accesses that you don't see.

          I run dozens of programs at the same time, and expect them to play ball.

      • by ewanm89 (1052822)
        Or IE is doing what chrome does and has the overhead on every single tab. Which I would point out is why chrome is so high on memory usage compared.
        • by Bill Dimm (463823)

          Good point. But, Chrome uses 1449 MB for 40 tabs, so 36 MB per tab, and uses 91 MB when there is only one tab open, so Chrome has an overhead (unlike IE) of 55 MB for the software.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            Good point. But, Chrome uses 1449 MB for 40 tabs, so 36 MB per tab, and uses 91 MB when there is only one tab open, so Chrome has an overhead (unlike IE) of 55 MB for the software.

            Personally, I think anyone who runs 40 tabs needs to learn about bookmarks and/or window management...

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Personally, I think anyone who runs 40 tabs needs to learn about bookmarks and/or window management...

              I don't disagree with your overall point, but you can easily have those 40 tabs spread out between a multitude of windows.

              • by arth1 (260657)

                I don't disagree with your overall point, but you can easily have those 40 tabs spread out between a multitude of windows.

                This is true, and makes much more sense.

                However, the benchmark here seems to assume that people only run one browser window with an enormous amount of tabs.

      • I would like to point out that your calculation of the memory per tab is slightly off. Because the first tab includes memory for both itself and the software overhead, in order to compute the actual memory/tab you need to remove the first tab's contribution from the computation.

        In other words, using your observation of 61MB for the first tab in Firefox, you would subtract 61 from 794MB to arrive at 733MB for the remaining 39 tabs. This yields a more accurate memory/tab value of 18.79MB.

        You could do the sa

        • by Bill Dimm (463823)

          Yes, I know. I made an approximation because I thought it would make it easier for readers to follow. I should not have written the numbers out to so many digits since I knew they were approximate, though.

    • Re:Why IE9 did well (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:13AM (#40575939) Homepage Journal
      Whatever you think of MS, they have cleaned up IE and it is a better browser. Yes, one of the reasons is that it is only on MS Windows. For this reason I would say it should not be in the running at all, and they should test on various platforms. However, this is a browser on MS Windows test, so the results are for MS only. The advantage is inherent, but not unfair. The results are likely meaningless on any other platform.

      That said, the memory has not effect on total rankings. I don't know if they did this to make sure Chrome scored well, or if it was a legitimate decision. In any case, most of us have large amounts of ram, so 10 megabytes per web page is not going to kill us. What I would like to know, and what is important, is who memory is used over time. This is where Firefox used to be really bad.

      So when i look at this test, what I want is HTML5, reliability, and CSS. In CSS and Acid3, it is Safari. In reliability it is Opera. With HTML5 it is IE. Chrome does not really do anything with which I am deeply concerned. In the results Chrome and Firefox are a statistical tie. As I mentioned, it is easy to believe the test may have been altered so that chrome would win. The "ads by google" provides a motive.

      IE essentially in losing place with Safari seems suspicious considering it did so well in some many test.

      • Re:Why IE9 did well (Score:5, Informative)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @02:54PM (#40577617) Journal

        IE is a better browser than it used to be, but it started out so far behind that they're going to be catching up for a while yet.

        For example, their DOM selection range support is still way behind, as is their memory management. (It is absolutely unacceptable to tell JavaScript coders that they should not add methods to an element or they'll cause memory leaks. I mean, really!?!)

        And IE still has fascinatingly severe bugs. For example, create a trivial HTML page that uses Javascript to set the src property of an existing iframe to the same URL as the loading page, and none of the JavaScript scripts on the second page ever run. (IE 9) The only robust workaround I've found is to replace the iframe with a new element. That workaround, in turn, when combined with IE's hack where they dispose of the DOM tree for an iframe's contents when the iframe is detached even if parts of it are still in use by JavaScript code (their hack "fix" for the aforementioned memory leaks) led to hours of extra debugging for me. (Wait, how can contentDocument.body legally be null?)

        And it is fairly easy to wedge things using its development pane. And its contentEditable support is seriously subpar. (You can't easily select content that spans a div boundary, for example.) And it caches XHR requests when other browsers don't, which caused me lots of headaches (though admittedly I should have been sending appropriate headers to begin with).

        Even in its current, much-improved state, IE is still a plague. If they keep up this level of improvement, it might be a viable browser for the website I'm developing in 5 years. As it is, I'm going to support Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, but I have no plans to support IE at this time. It just isn't feasible to work around all the bugs—even in IE 9. We'll see about IE 10, but I'm not holding my breath.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The problem with Safari is the bloatware. For example Apple wanted the fonts to render exactly the same way as they do on MacOS so they included the MacOS font rendering system and core fonts. It seems odd that it would do any better at all in CSS tests because it uses Webkit, the same as Chrome.

        The Apple updater software is terrible too. Having said that the Google one is kinda evil as well, although at least it is silent most of the time. That is the one area Firefox really has got it right.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Or maybe its due to the simple fact that your average IE user doesn't use tabs and therefor that is what the IE team targets their optimization towards while the others are targeting tabs?

      Dealing with customers down at the shop I can tell you that IE users by and large don't have a damned clue about tabs and will instead open new windows so frankly its no surprise that single tabs would be where the IE devotes their time. Hell it took me over a year to teach my dad not to automatically go for a new window w

    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      I now have 16gb ram, previously I had 4gb - why would I not want Firefox to use this? I don't get this strange aversion to using RAM that Slashdotters have.

      If someone wants to test how Firefox works on low-memory systems then do that but don't moan about having gigs of ram which get used, that's just silly.

  • Not surprising... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by knarf (34928)

    It does not surprise me that IE has the lowest working storage use when idle (only one tab open) as parts of IE (eg. the rendering engine) are most likely loaded on boot because they are used elsewhere in the operating system.

  • "IE 9 is still king of the lowest RAM usage for just one tab"

    But, I thought IE was embedded into WinXP and Win7?

    No wonder if it is.

  • by cyfer2000 (548592) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:35AM (#40575735) Journal
    there is a website called are we slim yet [areweslimyet.com] tracking the memory usage of firefox.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:58AM (#40575861) Homepage

      This obsession with memory use is wrecking Firefox. Chrome is much, much faster and I prefer to trade memory for performance.

      Firefox does stupid things like delaying image decoding until the image is on screen, making the whole browser stutter like crazy. I turn that off because the reason my computer has lots of ram is to avoid that. Can't they even detect when you have lots of free RAM and make use of it? Of course not, that would make FF look bad in pointless benchmarks.

      • They do that because the users with 300 tabs open and users who are on Pentium II with 512 MB RAM complain about memory usage.

        • by VMSBIGOT (933292)

          It just sucks there is no way to find out how much RAM/Virtual memory there is via the OS. No, wait....

          Games have been able to figure out recommended settings based on hardware configuration for well over a decade at least.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:24AM (#40576001)

        This. Mod up.

        The stuttering behaviour became extra prevalent starting with Firefox 13 (for me anyway). Sites like Amazon would cause the browser to stutter while trying to scroll through content before images were loaded. A complete uninstall + clean + reinstall of FF13 didn't help. Rolling back to FF12 worked fine. Disk = Intel 510-series SSD, under AHCI on Windows XP SP3. Moving my FF cache to a MHDD did not improve things either, so it's not disk I/O which is was the cause.

        I then tried Chrome. Holy *shit* that thing is fast, and I don't just mean loading pages -- I'm talking about interactivity/responsiveness within the browser (for keystrokes, mouse clicks, etc.) too. What I didn't like about Chrome: 1. tab-only (I do not like tabs, and have tried many times to use them but just cannot do it), 2. its lets-fork-a-new-process model (which is part of its original design from the very beginning) makes it very hard to tolerate when using Task Manager (yes I know Chrome has its own internal "manager" that can let you kill off a specific tab/page), 3. quite possibly the worst Configuration page/setup I've ever seen, with lots and lots of adjustments missing, and finally 4. a non-user-friendly bookmark interface (lots of Chrome users complain about this and state hands down that Firefox does this a lot better. The biggest ding against Chrome was when they removed the Bookmark button/icon so now you have to go through 3-4 clicks to expand your bookmarks). Back to Firefox I went...

        The memory bloat problem in FF is real, but a lot of it has to do with how people use their browser. Most of my colleagues do insane shit like load up 20 tabs on launch and leave those open at all times. Who the fuck uses a computer like that? Oh, wait... well, I certainly don't. Many of those pages my colleagues load use Flash, lots of Javascript, etc.. One even loads 6-7 tabs filled with stock-ticker-esque pages; yeah, those are going to be real CPU and memory friendly. You can even see evidence of this here on Slashdot; "Who in the name of satan has 40 tabs open? *checks tabs* Guilty as charged m'lord". Stop abusing your computer!

        As I see it, the biggest complaints about memory usage seem to be coming from a demographic of people who aren't using their system in a resource-friendly manner. People leave their browsers open for days, sometimes a full week. I'm a system administrator -- when I'm done with something, I close it. Same goes with memory management: when you're done with something, free() it. Folks over the years have tried hard to argue with me about this point ("no, a good garbage collector.........") -- all bullshit. Every GC on the planet is shit. Free memory when you're done with it, and use threads (preferably on an OS where userland threads map more or less 1:1 to a kernel thread, and use a programming language where this thread model exists (e.g. not Ruby!)) so that allocations can be freed when the thread ends. This isn't rocket science; KISS principle all the way.

        It would greatly benefit everyone if they learned be a little more conscientious of how to use a computer in a resource-friendly way. Otherwise we're doing the exact thing that can never be achieved: trying to solve social problems (usage behaviour) with technology. It never works.

        • As I see it, the biggest complaints about memory usage seem to be coming from a demographic of people who aren't using their system in a resource-friendly manner.

          People should not need to do that. Quit trying to force me to adapt to the machine instead of the other way round. This isn't a Sinclair Spectrum, it should be able to handle 40 tabs without crashing or filling up all my RAM.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            This isn't a Sinclair Spectrum, it should be able to handle 40 tabs without crashing or filling up all my RAM.

            No, it should fill up your RAM. Unused RAM is wasted RAM. Normally the OS will use spare RAM for disk caching, but apps like Firefox should make use of it and release it when other apps need it. Benchmarks only look at the number seen in the Task Manager though, so Firefox goes to ridiculous lengths to reduce it at the cost of performance.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        This obsession with memory use is wrecking Firefox. Chrome is much, much faster and I prefer to trade memory for performance.

        So do I. System performance, that is, not single app performance.
        Both the OS and I do more than one thing at a time, and I don't play the game of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • RAM Usage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deathtopaulw (1032050) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:38AM (#40575749) Homepage
    I know it's now cool to backlash against chrome users when they talk about "memory usage" but they're simply just using the wrong phrase. YES chrome uses more actual bytes of memory and always has, but what it does with that memory makes it work so much faster than Firefox. Typical idiot vernacular causes you to say "firefox uses more memory" when in fact what they mean is "it is slower and less responsive."

    Let's get a grip here people, it's 2012. If your computer doesn't have 4-8 gigs of ddr3 ram, you're doing it wrong. Chrome is allowed to use as much memory as it wants as long as it gets the job done better than anyone else.
    • There is nothing "cool" about - that they by design decision refuse to reflow text on pages (which is a HUGE problem on mobile devices) just means the idiots at google have entered the evil club.
      If they ever come out that will be a happy day indeed.

      Only kids care about "cool"

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        What are you on about? Chrome for mobile devices reflows text just fine. Well, except on web pages that state they don't want to allow it because they are already (supposedly) optimized for mobile viewing, which is the correct behaviour.

    • I totally agree on desktop. On phones it still makes sense to optimize memory usage though. I'm using chromium 18 on my openmoko that only has 128 MB of RAM and it's about 20 MB of it is constantly in swap. Do you know any tricks that I could use to reduce the memory usage at least slightly? I've considered using compressed swap (compcache) when I can upgrade the kernel.

  • by jaak (1826046) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:40AM (#40575763)

    Interestingly enough, the Tom's Hardware pages-per-article benchmark shows that Firefox can now handle an article spread over twice as many pages as before!

  • Firefox 13.01 uses the least amount of RAM with 40 tabs opened, while Chrome uses the highest (surprisingly).

    It's really not that surprising. If Firefox has cleaned up its act, then Chrome would tend to be at least a bit higher because of its "process per tab" design. Similarly, IE is likely to show lower usage, because parts of it are probably counted as part of the Windows OS.

  • 40 tabs? (Score:5, Funny)

    by trancemission (823050) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:42AM (#40575775)

    Who in the name of satan has 40 tabs open?!?

    *checks tabs*

    Guilty as charged m'lord..........

    • by antdude (79039)

      Heh, I am bad too and I do them in Mozilla's SeaMonkey v2.0.14 web browser. :O

  • by trifish (826353) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:46AM (#40575797)

    What I care about in a browser is (in order of importance) security, compatibility, reliability, speed.

    I stopped examining RAM usage of any software since the time I bought 16GB of RAM for practically no money.

    Even before, when I had "only" 4GB of RAM, I had swap file turned off for years and I haven't seen a single "Insufficient RAM" error.

  • by trifish (826353) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:53AM (#40575843)

    The summary elegantly avoided the most important metric - Page Load Time. Ok, so let's see how we're doing there:

    IE9 - fastest
    Safari - 2nd
    Chrome - 3rd
    Firefox - 4th
    Opera - 5th

    The page load time tests are the same eight pages in our startup time tests: Google, YouTube, Yahoo!, Amazon, Wikipedia, craigslist, eBay, and Wikipedia.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/windows-7-chrome-20-firefox-13-opera-12,3228-6.html [tomshardware.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:20AM (#40575977)

      Is there anything of value to comment on when the page load times are so close to each other on all the browsers excepting the last? The first 4 finishers range from 880ms to 947ms, which is less than a 10% differential across 8 websites. I doubt you'd notice any difference in your day-to-day real life browsing with respect to page load times.

      • by dingen (958134)
        Then again, saving 100 ms for opening 20 pages a day for a million users means you save whole man-month each year!
    • by jmerlin (1010641)
      This is misleading, both in the benchmarks but also here. I very much dislike this entire article because it's very inaccurate and doesn't attempt to explain why certain things are the way they are. For instance, you have 2 categories where IE magically rapes Chrome and Firefox. Firefox and Chrome get near daily updates and have engineers who are obsessed with making every little thing as fast as possible. Chrome even uses Webkit, which is developed just as fervently at Apple. Microsoft rarely updates
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      The results are largely meaningless because they can't account for network conditions. Plus you don't care about a 67ms difference between IE9 and Firefox because it is imperceptible when waiting less than 1 second for a page to open.

      More interesting is the performance when switching tabs, where Chrome is way ahead of Firefox. Similarly page scrolling is smoother in Chrome, especially when Firefox is trying to decode imagines as they appear on the screen. Chrome is always responsive while Firefox lags like

  • by wwphx (225607) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:01AM (#40575873) Homepage
    Mozilla has screwed the pooch for Firefox OS-X users. The single feature that I most liked, aside from the fact that I didn't have to use IE, was the resume session feature. (When I switched to Mac 5ish years ago, I was mainly using FF on my PC and Safari didn't support add-ins at that time AFAIK) Well, that feature doesn't work under Lion for recent versions of Firefox, I've tried down to v10.x.. On my new Air, no recent version of Firefox will keep my sessions. So I abandoned it, found add-ins for Safari that give me AdBlock and session restore, and I'm planning on deleting it. On my older MacBook Pro, also running Lion, I have Firefox 3.6, which though riddled with problems, does session restore correctly.

    From what I've been told, a fix is no where in sight, and since a new OS-X is due later this year, I don't expect it to be fixed this year. I neither know nor care what change in the OS upgrade broke session restore, but I consider it a critical feature and I don't know if I'll be using Firefox again on my Macs.
    • by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Saturday July 07, 2012 @01:27PM (#40576937)

      I'm a little confused. I'm on latest Lion. Just killed Firefox. Restarted it. There are my tabs. As far as I know it should work for you.

      I work for Mozilla QA. If you want to talk about this more, you can contact me at gmealer@mozilla.com (my name is Geo) and I'll either help you out or direct you to someone who can.

    • Interesting. Firefox 13 restores sessions just fine on both of my MacOS 10.7 machines (work) and my 10.6 machine (personal). SVG handling is still shaky, performance goes in the crapper after loading image heavy tabs, and the mouse cursor disappears from time to time on 10.7... but the session restore stuff works fine for me. Given how frequently I've got to restart Firefox compared to Chrome, I'd notice pretty quickly if it didn't.

      Oh. Yeah. Safari should handle sessions without any plugins. Window -

  • I remember when I first came accross tabbed browsing - it was Opera [which was ahead in many areas at the time - mouse gestures being another :)]

    The reason why it was revolutionary was because it allowed you to open links in the background and they would load whilst you was still skimming the page/results. This was the days of dialup / early ADSL and allowed for more efficient browsing. In theory we should now be loading pages at lightning speed [literally] . We don't. RAM is not the problem.

    The amount of R

  • memory efficiency, which measures RAM released after tabs are closed

    I think it's swell that people look for memory leaks and that newer software sometimes fixes leaks in old versions.

    But if you're measuring memory "efficiency" right after closing tabs rather than right before you close them, then you're doing it wrong.

    "My hash table is as memory efficient as your sorted array, because after the program completes, it uses the same amount of memory!"

  • Shouldn't the headline here be "Chrome Wins Tom's Hardware Grand Prix?"
  • Still a dog on Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pausanias (681077) <<pausaniasx> <at> <gmail.com>> on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:32AM (#40576065)

    I love Firefox, but it's still about 50% faster on Windows 7 than on Linux. Chrome wins clearly on Linux. I agree that on Windows they're comparable.

  • The recent improvements in FF memory usage have some severe drawbacks. FF will throw away images in background tabs, and reload them when you switch to the tab. But the reason I load new pages in background tabs is that I don't want to wait for the page to load and be rendered.

    It gets worse when you quit FF, and then reopen the app and have it reload your last session. It will create the tabs, but it won't load the page until you activate the tab. Now this is something I'd be willing to tolerate for tabs that have been open for a few weeks. But not for tabs that I've created recently and/or activate frequently.

    I also notice that FF memory usage steadily increases over a couple of days, while the number of tabs remains roughly constant.

    In other words, they have reduced the memory footprint not by tackling whatever process is hoarding memory like Scrat stacking acorns in his giant hollow tree, but by throwing away items that use memory but are otherwise static (images).

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The recent improvements in FF memory usage have some severe drawbacks. FF will throw away images in background tabs, and reload them when you switch to the tab. But the reason I load new pages in background tabs is that I don't want to wait for the page to load and be rendered.

      image.mem.min_discard_timeout_ms
      image.mem.decodeondraw
      image.mem.discardable

      Etc etc

      HTH HAND

    • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @01:14PM (#40576797)

      It gets worse when you quit FF, and then reopen the app and have it reload your last session. It will create the tabs, but it won't load the page until you activate the tab. Now this is something I'd be willing to tolerate for tabs that have been open for a few weeks. But not for tabs that I've created recently and/or activate frequently.

      1. Go into Options,
      2. On the Startup box, there's an option "Don't Load Tabs Until Selected"

      3. Uncheck it.

      Now it will load all the tabs at startup.

    • by makomk (752139)

      FF will throw away images in background tabs, and reload them when you switch to the tab.

      If you've got really large high-res images open in tabs, this is pretty much indispensable though. On the geekier parts of the Internet I visit, it's easy to open several big images in tabs without realising it (die shots of chips are huge, for instance).

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @12:36PM (#40576521) Homepage

    Like others here, I have many gigabytes of RAM, so I'm not too concerned with the memory usage issue. Firefox is also good on speed; that doesn't bug me.

    But I stopped using Firefox back when I was last a Linux user (ca. 2009) and have continued to use alternatives (Chrome and Safari, most notably) on OS X because Firefox suffers from too many WTF? moments. Whatever you call them—bugs, the results of Firefox's architecture, I don't care—they make Firefox a non-starter for me. For example:

    (1) When using Firefox on OS X all window updates sometimes suddenly stop. Nothing is clickable, nothing is scrollable. The way around this is to drag the window—even just one pixel. After that, refreshes will return. That's bad if you have data auto-refreshing on a Firefox window you're monitoring. And it's not an OS X bug because only Mozilla applications (Firefox, Thunderbird) display this issue, and have done for the last umpteen versions. (For the record, this happend both on my older Mac desktop and on my new unibody MBP.)

    (2) The UI still sucks more than any other browser. Widgets and graphical elements misaligned from their active (i.e. clickable) zones, tearing and refresh issues for stateful widgets, etc. The point of the UI is to metaphorically embody what's going on in the code. Once the UI no longer reflects program state, you basically can't talk to your program.

    (3) Crashes. Firefox remains the most crash-happy of the browsers. It does this at random. My last crash-followed-by-bug-reporting window was yesterday, when I fired up the latest version of FF for OS X to survey the meta titles of a bunch of pages rapidly. (My biggest complaint about Chrome is the absence of the meta title in the title bar.) About 10 minutes in, FF crashed. My uptime is measured in months right now, and I've had instances of Chrome up for that long. With FF I'm lucky if I get two days.

    (4) Graphical appearance. It's damned hard to find a nice, professional FF theme that looks minimal. I just want something that has the same ethos as Chrome or Safari: simple widgets, no cruft, all of a cloth, that integrate well with the OS appearance. There are dozens of FF themes and "personalities" but all of them have that same "I'm OSS!" appearance that KDE also suffers from.

    If Firefox were to stop sucking on these points, I'd give it another look regardless of memory use. But it's been a lot of releases since 2009 and though I keep the latest version of FF installed for cross-browser testing, I haven't seen any improvement on these points that would make me want to switch for my general browsing needs.

  • I hear it a lot: "auto-update in browsers is bad for enterprises because it'll just randomly break apps". I consider this argument bunk. Simply block the update sites in your corporate DNS and you're done. ESPECIALLY when you're talking about a silent background update, I'm pretty sure you won't even see a warning or anything in that case.

    I suppose if you work somewhere that uses someone else' DNS servers this isn't an option, but even then you probably are going through a proxy, so block it there!

    This i

    • by brusk (135896)
      You're thinking about this bass-ackwards. For a stable corporate release, use the ESR of Firefox. Don't try blocking things in DNS--for two reasons. First, there are now lots of mobile machines likely to be on the corporate networks (personal laptops, tablets, smartphones), and there's no reason to block them. Second, lots of corporate machines are notebooks, so they are going to be online outside of the LAN, and will autoupdate there. So better to go with a different release path than to try to do this at
      • by fzammett (255288)

        Good point about laptops and updates outside the network. I didn't mean to suggest DNS blocking was the only way or the best way, just that its one easy way to deal with what some think is a big issue (aside from your valid outside-the-network-update point).

  • by cnettel (836611) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @01:10PM (#40576763)

    The main problem with this article is that it seems like the authors are simply reporting the compound number for Memory - Working Set for all browser processes. This is problematic in so many ways it ain't even funny. Foremost, multiple processes requiring the same page mapped into RAM will count that page multiple times. With architectures involving a lot of cross-process communication and multiple instances, like IE and Chrome, all code pages that are mapped into multiple processes will be counted multiple times (including any Windows OS DLLs mapped by IE), as long as they are part of the active working set. In addition some of the inter-process communication is probably handled by mapping common regions of memory, and thus also counted multiple times.

    So, in one sense, IE and Chrome are losing out big in the multi-tab test. On the other hand, when tabs are closed, the related processes are also completely closed. This means that the associated heap is returned in full. In Firefox, even if some regions of the heap are freed back to the OS, Windows will not actively reclaim that working set. Slowly, the untouched pages will be removed and replaced by caching, but if there is no memory load, the best guess by the OS is that a process that just used a lot of memory and freed it might start doing it again. It is possible that Firefox, due to the monolithic process structure, ends up with a more fragmented heap (or a heap implementation that is not returning pages to the OS) so the OS could not successfully reclaim the pages (and only page them out to disk as a last resort), but we do not know that from these tests. It is easy to try this yourself, write up some small C program allocating a big buffer, freeing it and then pausing for a scanf/gets or something.

    It is relatively easy to measure CPU usage or amount of I/O. Total time usage is also easy to measure and it says something about the conditions even under load. Memory is quite different. Memory is allocated all the time and the total bandwidth usage is closely related to the actual computations of the CPU. Even in a fully virtualized environment, the hypervisor cannot keep too detailed stats on memory usage - the overhead would balloon. At the same time, memory is a constrained resource with complicated temporal dependencies. You cannot free some memory from a process now and just give it back later. And when you bring multiple related processes into the mix, what you measure is all depending on how you define your tests. In many situations, the best metric is probably to look at full system metrics anyway, i.e. delta on total available/free memory in Windows. Many of the same issues will still apply, though. The question really becomes why you are interested in memory usage. If you want to know how the OS will behave when another process is allocating a lot of memory, test for that and verify memory usage as well as load times when you bring back the browser.

  • Not that the comparisons count for much, but it's disappointing that Slashdot's headline says "Notably Improved" when Firefox won the three previous comparisons and finished second this time:

    * Grand Prix 7
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/firefox-7-web-browser,3037-17.html [tomshardware.com]

    * Grand Prix 8
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/chrome-17-firefox-10-ubuntu,3129-18.html [tomshardware.com]

    * Grand Prix 9
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/chrome-17-firefox-10-ubuntu,3129-18.html [tomshardware.com]

  • This isn't a big surprise to me. Firefox performs far better than Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open - in memory use, speed, and stability (64-bit Win7, might make a difference).

    Now if I've only got a few tabs open, Chrome screams.

    So I use Firefox as the long term browser, open for weeks with dozens of tabs for work, personal, etc. Chrome if I need some short term speed. Always mount a scratch browser!

  • by allo (1728082) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @07:28AM (#40581433)

    IMHO It should only contain cross-platform browsers.

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