back to article Two words, Mozilla: SPEED! NOW! Quit fiddling and get serious

The Mozilla Foundation has recently announced that it will refocus its development efforts on Firefox. Again. I know what you're thinking, what the heck else does Mozilla have to focus on? Well, you'd be hard pressed to find any evidence of it, but the company has been concentrating on building Firefox OS, which was supposed …

  1. EddieD

    Fair comment.

    I use Firefox as my default browser, and I like it.

    Other than the periodic howls when I have to try and undo the UI changes that one of the all to frequent updates have inflicted on me that ruin my browsing experience.

  2. streaky Silver badge

    Re: Fair comment.

    I use Firefox as my default browser, and I like it.

    +1 but damn it's hard work sometimes..

  3. DropBear Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Re: Fair comment.

    I use Firefox as my daily browser too, and I absolutely fucking hate it.

    The only reason I keep using it is because I can count the alternatives on one hand, and they're either even worse, based on Firefox, suspected or proven to be spying on me or all three. I'm fighting it day by day, because there's always some piece of headdesk-worthy failure that FF either newly introduced, barred me from keep using as I did until now, or I just found out it can't do as soon as some tectonic shift of the web makes it indispensable. Next to PSP9, FF is the only other piece of software that takes almost as long as the OS itself to start up. I effectively had to install a GIF freezer because ALL TABS freeze up completely as soon as I try scrolling one of these trendy hundred-megabyte full motion video GIFS into view on a page, at which point I might as well go make a coffee until it unsticks itself. It's daily murdering my brand new SSD at a brisk pace, writing not megabytes or even hundreds of megabytes but TENS OF GIGABYTES of data each day onto the NAND. Out of the many I used to have I'm left with a small handful of add-ons I can keep using, because their writers threw their hands up in desperation at the unrelenting UI/API changes at some point, abandoning support one by one - the latest one to do so is the author of the tab grouping add-on (which I use heavily), that came into existence exactly to save the identical feature that FF used to have before the devs axed it out of existence - and now the replacement is going away too.

    Seriously: fuck these guys!

  4. Mark 65 Silver badge

    Re: Fair comment.

    I loved Firefox, it just worked perfectly for my needs. However the removed the tab group manager and it just starting becoming slow and unreliable. It started getting easier to hack as well. I felt I had no choice but to begrudgingly move to Chrome. I'm not sure what would now encourage me to move back.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "85 per cent of them have solved that problem by choosing something other than Firefox."

    I'm so over the ideology that people "choose" in "free markets". Chrome is rammed home by a billion dollar advertising business, down every channel they control. Edge is ancient technology, which leaves Chrome as the winner-takes-all monopolist. Just be thankful your dictator is benevolent. For now.

    Hoping a small lightweight competitor will enter the market ala Firefox in 2002? NOT going to happen in a million years. You'd literally have more chance of writing a *nix kernel from scratch than a modern browser engine.

    Long story short; The open web is boned.

  6. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Devil

    Couldn't have put it better...

    "Chrome is rammed home by a billion dollar advertising business, down every channel they control."

    I would go so far as to say that the primary reason that Chrome is the #1 browser is that from when it launched we started seeing "Why not upgrade your browser?"

    Imagine the outrage if Microsoft had a check when Windows started to see if the default browser was Edge, and prompt the user to "upgrade" if it was not?

    And I expect it won't be long before we start seeing this kind of monopoly abuse to get the Pixel some traction as well.

  7. illiad

    you obviously have not TRIED.... or are one of those people that does not really use the functions of a good browser, just types or pastes in URLs... and moans about how it wont do this/that, when other not so well known ones will do it easily, quickly...

  8. ShelLuser

    @Ryoku

    "I would go so far as to say that the primary reason that Chrome is the #1 browser is that from when it launched we started seeing "Why not upgrade your browser?""

    Well, there's more to it than that. Now, it has been a long time ago since I stopped using Firefox but one of the reasons (apart from the endless stream of updates and changes) was that it started to look an awful lot like Chrome to me. The 'full' look I was used to got swapped out and made me seriously wonder why I continued with Firefox which - in my opinion - had turned into a Chrome wannabe (solely based on its looks of course).

    If even other browsers are starting to mimic Chrome how can it not become mighty popular?

  9. teknopaul Bronze badge

    writing a browser is not hard

    clearly you dont write all new code. Apple used KDE code, Google used webkit.

    a browser is a network stack, a renderer and chrome.

    you can build as much or as little as you like.

    a browser minus stupid features like pocket would take a couple of days to knock up.

    start with firefox and then hit delete a lot.

  10. Twilight

    Re: Couldn't have put it better...

    Actualy, Chrome is the #1 browser because it works the best. It has the best speed, the best security, and a robust plugin system (though not as good as Firefox (at least used to be - I stopped using Firefox as my primary browser years ago due to its shortcomings)).

  11. Mark 65 Silver badge

    Re: Couldn't have put it better...

    I find that every few days it sits there just hitting 97% CPU on one of its Google Chrome Helper processes on my machine, so it isn't entirely without issue.

  12. RyokuMas Silver badge

    Actually...

    @illiad - I am a web developer by trade, so I'm pretty well versed on a number of browsers, including Firefox, Chrome and Edge, thanks to version testing

    I am also an indie game developer in my spare time, and I see lots of brilliant games that go completely unnoticed, simply because they do not have marketing to push them into visibility.

    Chrome is a good browser - probably the best - but its massive success is purely down to Google's aggressive (ab)use of their near-monopoly on web searching.

  13. illiad

    Re: Actually...

    Chrome may be a 'good browser' BUT that has NO relation to whether it is liked or not!!! :)

    It is very like cars, you may love yours, even though it only does 10 miles to the gallon.... :/

    also take a closer look at Pale moon, it behaves totally differently than firefox, but that may be due to many websites and AV not recognizing/ hating it...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still using Firefox

    Shame I have to use Classic Theme Restorer to get the UI into a form I like, but never mind, with that in place it's more usable for me than the alternatives.

  15. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Re: Still using Firefox

    I added another plug in to help fix the scroll bars.

    It's crazy that "Classic Theme Restorer" is needed. Everyone I've set up hates the default FF.

    Also why are various privacy settings STILL wrong by default (3rd party cookies).

    Why isn't NoScript built in?

    I can upvote the CTR post and article enough!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Still using Firefox

    Classic Theme Restorer is essential for me to use Firefox, but how much of its functionality will still work once WebExtensions become the only extensions that Mozilla will allow?

  17. illiad

    Re: Still using Firefox

    CTR may be nice, but does not remove many awful big blocky 'features'... depends if you like going back to 'lo res' graphics or not...:/

    I am still running FF28, hacked a lot to stop moz doing stuff I do not want.... :P

    when moz brings out a 'bare bones' browser (NO themes, NO Australis, etc, etc...) I might think about using it.. but then the geeks only desire is for SPEED at all costs, even though actually LOOKING at web pages is rather boring, when you can boast about speed... >:(

    meanwhile PaleMoon is doing a VERY decent job of making the OLD source into a very good *functional* 64bit browser! :)

    Its not for geeks, but for people who want a good browsing experience..

    I don't CARE if it takes a few seconds more to load than others, Just like I don't care about owning a supercar, when my trusty old car will take me 50 miles without the back pain that those supercar seats give.. to say nothing about fuel cost!!! :)

  18. Dave K Silver badge

    Re: Still using Firefox

    Agreed. Australis was an abomination and it resulted in me ditching Firefox for Pale Moon - a pity since I'd been using Firefox since it was Firebird 0.6. It wasn't just the rounded tabs that I hated, it was all the other customisability they removed when they introduced it.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mozilla needs to focus on their USPs. Firefox was always slower than Chrome, but it had a powerful and very customisable UI, plus a much deeper and richer add-on ecosystem. Mozilla need to find ways to keep these powerful features whilst improving other areas of the browser. Instead, Mozilla's recent approach has just been to mimic Chrome. The UI looks like Chrome, the customisability is steadily disappearing, and Mozilla will soon be migrating to Chrome-style addons too (which are a lot less powerful).

    I don't understand why to be honest. If I wanted to use a browser that looked and worked like Chrome, I'd use Chrome. Mozilla need to keep Firefox different, retain its strengths and improve its weaknesses.

  19. MJI Silver badge

    Firefox install can be a nightmare

    That horrible period between installing it and making it look like Firefox should.

    I hate bare boned GUIs, mobile GUIs on desktops, I am used to a simple file edit style gui and want to keep it.

    So when I had to reinstall Firefox (HDD hammering) that horrible period between installing FF and enabling Classic Theme Restorer is like a punishment.

    If CTR gets stopped I will go Pale Moon for main browser.

  20. phuzz Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Re: Still using Firefox

    Clearly there's something defective with me, because when an update changes the UI of software that I use, I just learn how to use the new version, rather than trying to hack it back in to the old form.

    Oh woe is me for having an easier life.

  21. steelpillow Silver badge

    Re: Classic Theme Restorer

    Yet another Classic Theme Restorer user here, one of those poor old dinosaurs who actually appreciate a productive desktop.

    Would be interesting to know the proportion of FF users who have installed CTR. Any FF statisticians out there?

  22. fung0

    Re: Still using Firefox

    phuzz: Oh woe is me for having an easier life.

    UI changes that make things different but not easier are a net loss, no matter what kind of arithmetic you want to invent.

  23. MJI Silver badge

    Re: Oh woe is me

    Well there are issues with Australis.

    Rounded tabs waste space

    Things I use are hidden

    It looks stupid

  24. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Re: Oh woe is me

    > "Rounded tabs waste space"

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how space is being wasted. Only the current tab is rounded and any extra space used comes from those surrounding it, and its a miniscule amount of space anyway, and I cannot see any net loss.

    > "Things I use are hidden"

    Well, hard to comment since we dont know what those "Things" are, but most everything is still there with a simple key press including the much loved/hated menus. And if space is of such value, ref. rounded tabs, then surely its better to tuck things out of sight?

    > "It looks stupid"

    Entirely subjective and not worth wasting effort commenting on, beyond this, since I'm entirely neutral on the current UI.

    Are those really the worst you can come up with?

  25. beep54

    Re: Still using Firefox

    re: iliad

    I like Pale Moon also. It has its odd quirks, but I find that it is faster to load than either FF or Chrome. I have an old machine and Firefox was just frustratingly slow. Pale Moon just seems wondrously zippy.

  26. Dave K Silver badge

    Re: Oh woe is me

    > I cannot for the life of me figure out how space is being wasted.

    I often have a lot of tabs open, with the size of tabs reduced via an addon. With Australis, I could fit far less tabs on my screen before the names and icons started being truncated.

    > Well, hard to comment since we dont know what those "Things" are

    Speaking personally - and these are removed, not just hidden...

    Tabs On Bottom is removed (I use it as it gives more space for tabs).

    Status Bar is removed (and I find it useful, and put some addons down there to keep my main control bar tidy)

    You cannot move the Back/forwards buttons any more.

    You cannot move the Stop/Reload buttons or separate them (this is a big beef for me as they're now anchored at the opposite end of the address bar. I like my navigation controls to be together, not spread out at opposite ends of my screen).

    In short, Australis removed a huge amount of customisability. I don't necessarily have a problem with changing defaults, so long as I can tweak things so that the browser suits my way of working. Firefox's customisability was a key feature, and Australis undermined some of the core founding principles of Firefox.

    >> Entirely subjective and not worth wasting effort commenting on

    I'll re-phrase then. It looks just like Chrome. And if I wanted a browser that looked like Chrome, I'd just use Chrome. The fact that one of the most popular addons is a tool that reverts the UI should tell you how well received Australis has been. That and the additional decline of Firefox's market share once Mozilla pushed it out the door...

  27. vacantrob

    Re: Oh woe is me

    Quick tab compare with developer edition vs FF 52 I get exactly the same number of tabs at different window widths in both, lining up both browsers one below the other so as to ensure they are the same window widths.

  28. Tony Paulazzo

    Why I use Firefox

    There are four major web browsers, and three of them are designed to profit the companies that produce them: Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome) and Microsoft (Edge).

    Firefox is the only one to put the user’s interests first. Other things being equal, that’s a good reason to use it. (Stolen from the Guardian).

    Plus the Firefox sync feature is...

    The security goals remain the same: there is still a strong random secret key, and Mozilla's servers cannot decrypt your data. However, instead of using pairing, a “wrapped” version of your secret key, protected by your password, is stored alongside your Firefox Account. (Stolen from Firefox).

    It's nice to know when I close Firefox it's really closed, which is why Chrome seems faster at launching, most of it is already running - secretly... in the background... talking to Google*

    * Disclaimer: I like Google, it's my home page and primary search engine, but I don't exactly trust 'em.

  29. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Re: Why I use Firefox

    Sorry - you think that Firefox isn't made to profit Mozilla? The foundation makes 329million revenue a year from patents, advertising, and pushing people through to google.com

  30. Tony Paulazzo

    Re: Why I use Firefox

    Wasn't really aware of that but after Googling (oh the irony), it seems they're making even more since losing the Google only cord, bundling Baidu in China for eg, it seems Mozilla has a total of 12 search partnerships raising their revenue to $421 million in 2015, looking even better for 2016.

    http://www.ghacks.net/2016/12/02/mozilla-is-doing-well-financially/

    Mozilla doing well financially is a good thing. Not only for users of Firefox, but also for the web community as a whole. It is the one major browser left standing between browsers maintained by large corporations.

    With 2016 looking even better financially, it is fair to say that Mozilla won't crash and burn any time soon.

    Mozilla also do a monthly email thing, the last one discussing why you shouldn't overshare on Facebook, instagram etc... and promoting Data Privacy Day (https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/01/26/data-privacy-day), which I've not noticed the other browser companies do.

    Plus, as others have mentioned, NoScript is always the first extension installed on my Firefox, closely followed by Ublock.

  31. David 132 Silver badge

    I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    (this comment typed late at night, so forgive me if it's less than coherent)

    It seems to me that when the Firefox devs talk about "making FF faster" they mean: "hey, look, we completely re-wrote the engine and now we score 1.2% faster on Sunspider!!1!!"

    Whereas when users talk about "making FF faster" they mean: "I really hate the way it drags like a slug through treacle as I scroll down certain web-pages."

    To quote a specific example: I use FF on Windows 7 & 10, Mint Linux, and OSX 10.9.5. For 90% of the sites I visit, it's perfectly fast enough. But there's a couple - Jalopnik.com and the Telegraph.co.uk main page - that bring the browser to a crawl (for reference, I just loaded the latter on my Mac. Firefox's CPU load in Activity Monitor went from 4% to 105% as the page loaded, then settled down. When I scrolled down to the "Gallery" section of the main page, CPU usage went through the roof - 120%+, and the whole page juddered like I was running a 486). And that's with NoScript, cookie blocking, and so on. I couldn't give a fig whether the browser beats Chrome in <benchmarkX>.

    As long as devs & users continue to have completely ideas of what "more speed" means, and the devs continue to arse around with the UI for no good reason, FF will continue to haemorrage users.

  32. Updraft102 Silver badge

    Re: I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    That's what Mozilla refers to as jank. No need to say any more; FF has too much jank. Their e10s project should help with that considerably.

  33. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Re: I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    By coincidence, I've just installed Vivaldi (My current browser is Firefox). I'm amazed at how much faster just browsing El Reg is in Vivaldi. Vivaldi even makes Amazon's website useable.

  34. fung0

    Re: I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    David 132: Whereas when users talk about "making FF faster" they mean: "I really hate the way it drags like a slug through treacle as I scroll down certain web-pages."

    Absolutely agreed. Most "browser" benchmarks measure the execution speed of JavaScript - the very first thing I turn off in my browser. (And wow, does it ever run faster after that.)

  35. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Re: I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    @David 132

    For reference how does the telegraph perform on the other browsers? I am assuming it's better, but experience tells me its dangerous to assume things.

    On my windows 7 machine it never went over 55% peak (or there-a-bouts) with noscript fully on with the page. There was a bit of draggy reaction at the gallery but nothing too bad.

  36. David 132 Silver badge

    Re: I think developers, and users, define "speed" differently.

    @Geoffrey W - good question. I've just tested the Telegraph site in Safari (9.1.3), to make a meaningful comparison vs. the example I quoted earlier - FF on my OSX 10.9 Mac.

    Despite having to load adverts, Safari scrolled the page smoothly and CPU load never went above 49%.

    Whereas in FF, like I said, it reaches 120%+, and indeed the whole FF UI thread seems to bog down - if I attempt to load another address from bookmarks into the same tab, the "page loading" spinner is slow, and the initial DNS resolution / page load process for the new site is slow, until - I speculate - whatever thread is busy-looping for the Telegraph is finally terminated.

  37. wolfetone Silver badge

    This is not an Opinion piece

    This is a factual piece.

    Mozilla have been twiddling their thumbs, thinking Firefox is so popular it didn't need improvement. Then comes along Chrome, blows it out of the water, and now Firefox is in decline. All the while Mozilla have been fannying and farting about with other projects no one really cares about.

    I still use Firefox, but only for development. I'm jumping beds between Chrome, Vivaldi and Midori. I'd use Firefox full time if:

    - it was frugal with system resources

    - rendered pages quickly

    - didn't bitch about wanting to update

    The last one I just don't understand why it's an issue. Chrome updates in the background, the user never sees it. Why can't Firefox be like that? WHY?!

    </rant>

  38. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    Aren't your complaints rather out of date?

    1) It is more frugal than Chrome (why does Chrome get a free pass with this?)

    2) If Electrolysis is enabled (it might not be due to an add-on), it's smoother.

    3) Don't you have automatic updates and background updates in settings set?

  39. wolfetone Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    1) Chrome doesn't get a free pass with this. I swap between the browsers due to how the machine reacts. Right now I'm in Chrome, and it runs a lot better and quicker on my machine than Firefox.

    2) Why should it be something I have to enable? Should be good out of the box.

    3) Why should it be something I have to set myself?

    Do you think the great unwashed are going to know about the last two?

  40. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    1) But we were talking about frugality with system resources...

    2) Because electrolysis is being rolled out in a way which avoids crashes while it is refined as people don't like crashes either. In a couple of releases it will be the default, I believe.

    3) Those are the default settings, but they may have been changed in the dim and distant past.

  41. wolfetone Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    1) If Firefox is efficient with what it uses then it's going to be less of a drain on the system, and faster to use.

    2) But that doesn't help right now. Are we meant to recommend Firefox to people who use Chrome based on something that'll come out in a few months?

    3) Well something is wrong somewhere, they aren't default on my system. But whats more, it should update without screaming about it.

  42. MJI Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    Mozilla need to realise that a lot of people use FF because it is NOT Google Chrome.

    Ditch Australis and sort the performance.

  43. Geoffrey W Silver badge
    Happy

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    @wolfetone

    And now, students of people, behold a classic example of someone on the internet refusing to budge and defending their position no matter what evidence is presented or whatever contrary positions they themselves present in different posts. If the exchange goes on much longer it will surely become hyperbolic and angry, and one hopes to defuse the angry bomb...I'm feeling conciliatory today...

  44. wolfetone Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    @Geoffrey W

    Well, if I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

    I did, however, vote you up on that.

  45. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    RE: "Well, if I agreed with you we'd both be wrong."

    Then lets agree to not don't disagree and harmony is restored...

  46. wolfetone Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Re: This is not an Opinion piece

    "Then lets agree to not don't disagree and harmony is restored..."

    No.

  47. Fred Dibnah

    "immediately useful when it launched"

    My FF opens about a dozen home tabs and it probably takes about 20 seconds to load. Is that such a big deal once a day? I can spend that time adjusting the chair, putting the pencils in the right place, cleaning the specs, scratching the arse, etc.

    "...they're one of the only companies out there..." Erm, the only company, or one of a few, or many, or what?

  48. LDS Silver badge

    Re: "immediately useful when it launched"

    My FF opens just a blank tab and thereby it's quite fast starting. It shouldn't really load anything until explicitly asked for...

  49. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

    Re: "immediately useful when it launched"

    "My FF opens about a dozen home tabs and it probably takes about 20 seconds to load. Is that such a big deal once a day? I can spend that time adjusting the chair, putting the pencils in the right place, cleaning the specs, scratching the arse, etc."

    I leave Firefox running all the time; startup is something I only do in response to new FF releases or OS updates which require a reboot.

    Like you say, a delay while you can be doing something else productive isn't really a problem, it's more a matter of planning.

    When I'm researching a particular topic I can easily get to a few dozen tabs and really, really don't suffer performance problems, except for overbloated websites.

    Having said that, I do have my systems maxed out with RAM and that probably makes a big difference.

  50. Kiwi
    Boffin

    Re: "immediately useful when it launched"

    My FF opens just a blank tab and thereby it's quite fast starting. It shouldn't really load anything until explicitly asked for...

    My firefox opens what I had open when I closed it.

    As there's a setting for that (actually a few that influence that, including private browsing I believe), it's explicitly what I ask it to do at start up. I've also explicitly told it not to load tabs until I select them.

    No idea how long it takes to load. I click on the icon then go to something else. Actually I click on a lot of icons then go and do something else. Habbit formed back when I ran Windows1, start stuff then go away for a while (these days usually to make my morning coffee).

    I don't have the computer auto-start anything other than needed services, because while 99% of the time I want email, browser etc up, there's that rare time I want it to come up quickly so I can do something, and a 20 second wait is a more than I am willing to endure. If I ever manage to afford to chuck in a SSD or decent hybrid, that may change.

    1Back when I had a much older and slower computer and demanded probably about as much from it.

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