back to article Firefox 3.7 to feel need for speed with multicore boost

Mozilla's Firefox 3.7 looks set to take a step closer to competing with Google's Chrome and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 in the speed stakes, according to results of a pre-release version tested by a browser enthusiast. A blogger at My Outsourced Brain put a very rough-round-the-edges version of Firefox 3.7 through its …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem isn't multicore support

    On my old Linux single processor/single core box, Chrome runs significantly faster than the current release of Firefox. It appears that Chrome is simply a better written piece of code.

    Whether Mozilla efforts to improve multicore support also include improvements to the single core system would be worth knowing, but that would appear to be an area that is in real need of some optimisation.

    1. Mike Gravgaard

      A title

      Firefox 3.7 is available here for Windows, Mac and Linx though is in Alpha state.

    Thumb Down

    firefox 3.7

    makes no difference you have to sort its bugs out dramatically including the memory issue which still has not been fixed was suposed to be fixed in 3.5 or 3.6 whatever version of it was. i dont like ie internet explorer at all due to past versions but im willing to try any browser and im using ie8 on windows 7 and it works pretty well suprizangly

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      translation plz


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IE8 fast?

    Not sure about the reference in the article to FF needing to catch up with IE8, on my XP Pro quad core box IE8 is 3783.8ms, FF 3.5.6 is 852.0ms and Chrome is 357.6ms. So a 3x speed up in 3.7 would put FF and chrome on a par.

  4. Hedley Phillips

    FF = Losing it

    I am now using IE 8... I know, I'm sorry, but Firefox (3.5.6) is a slow, crashing bloated piece of rubbish and is driving me up the wall. Never mind its memory issues where it can sometimes climb to over half a Gb.

    Come on Mozilla, get it right please.

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : FF = Losing it

      Well I often try very hard but I never see more than ~200MB memory usage with several instances running with multiple tabs. That's on various Linux machines though.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Works fine for me and millions of others

      Perhaps you just don't have a clue. All this crap about memory issues is odd too.

      I can only guess that your and their hardware is a big old pile of shit.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton


      yeah good luck with that buddy...

      Paris - because she sucked too...

    4. Sean O'Connor 1
      Thumb Down


      I like Firefox and I've used it for years but I'm thinking of getting something else for the kids to use. If they play games on the CBeebies website it seems to eat up all the memory until the computer virtually hangs.

    5. The BigYin

      Are you moaning about FF...

      ...or your add-ons? More often than not it's the add-ons that are at fault. I don't know how you determine which one is screwing your interwebs pleasures though.

      I am running FF here with a bunch of add-ons (AdBlockPlus, NoScript, GreaseMonkey, CookieCutter, CustomizeGoogle, FireGrstures,TinyUrl, XMarks, WebDeveloper; to name a few) and FF is running with a lower memory and CPU footprint when active than Miro when inactive and minimised!

      I agree that allowing an add-on to kill the browser (and not having an obvious way of monitoring add-ons) is pretty poor; but you can hardly blame Mozilla for the actions of others.

      FF also wins in one other big way. IT IS NOT IE! It is also standards complaint (unlike any version of IE, including 8). For those reasons I would us FF, Opera, Safari or Konqueror before IE (I would not touch Chrome as I don't know [yet] what spyware it may contain).

      It's just a shame that the corporate world demands IE support rather than standards support, forcing poor dweebs like me to code for the shit that is IE6.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    vast speed improvements over the browser's predecessors

    They'd have to try pretty hard to be worse. Never mind multi-core, even multi-threading would help :(

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    safari on 3yrs old imac

    gives 580ms on the benchmark.... (2 core, 2gb, 2.1ghz, snow leopard)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Plenty of bugs left to fix in current version

    The one I hate, which WAS fixed in an earlier release; is having web-page files "stuck" downloading; hours after you left the website they are related to.

    Most people wouldn't notice, but I use an interface bar that shows the status of every thread being downloaded and regularly get a stuck "" file amongst others.

    (Got one right now, even though I havent used Google search since early this morning.

  8. Harry the snot gobbler


    We're still on version 3.5.7, concentrate on getting 3.6 out before you start feeding us titbits about the release after the next one.

    In version 10.2 we'll have realistic 3D holographic images. All together now ... Wooooooo!

    1. Neil Stansbury

      You might be...

      but 3.6 is a branch - 3.7 is a build directly from the trunk that will become 1.9.3, so "they" aren't feeding you anything, someone has just checkout the trunk and built it.

  9. blackworx

    IE8 Speedy?


    Tried IE8 last week - not for actual browsing but to try and give all these apps which insist on embedding IE something that's capable of at least basic ad blocking - and it put my HD's into endless thrash mode, bringing my Q9550 system to its knees. Not nice, not worth my time finding out why, annnnd... >clickety< ...uninstall.

    Oh, plus it made itself the default browser without asking. I fucking HATE that.

    1. Steve X


      > Oh, plus it made itself the default browser without asking.

      Sounds like something the EU would love to pound µ$oft for. File a formal complaint...

    2. David Webb

      It did ask.......

      "Oh, plus it made itself the default browser without asking. I fucking HATE that."

      Previously it asked "IE is not your default browser, would you like to set it as your default browser?" and you clicked "Don't ask me again" and pressed "Yes", so don't blame IE for something *you* did.

      Anyhow, Chrome 4.0249.43: 386.2ms

      IE8 : 4003.4ms

      I don't use Firefox, and never will.

      1. blackworx



        "Previously it asked "IE is not your default browser, would you like to set it as your default browser?" and you clicked "Don't ask me again" and pressed "Yes", so don't blame IE for something *you* did."

        I'm not. I don't care for your tone either. Let me explain for you.

        1) Clean install XP, apply SP3 which includes IE7

        2) Run IE7 once, to download Firefox.

        3) Install Firefox

        4) On first load, Firefox asks to be made default browser, I confirm

        5) Never use IE7 again, except where the rendering engine gets used by other apps, and IEtab plugin in Firefox.

        6) Months later, install IE8 as above

        7) IE makes itself the default browser without asking. The reason I know this is because the first time I start Firefox after installing IE8, it prompted: "Firefox is not your default browser..." etc.

        Microsoft got its knuckles rapped for the "express install" option making IE8 the default browser without asking, and they have supposedly stopped this behaviour. The thing is, I didn't even use express setup.

        On top of all that (and without actually confirming this, so apologies if I'm wrong): contrary to what you say, I'm pretty sure IE's default browser prompt doesn't have a checkbox for "Don't ask me again"; it has a checkbox for "Perform this check each time I start Internet Explorer" which is not the same thing.

  10. Michael Habel
    Gates Halo

    Great and what about x86-64??

    Besides the addition of more cores, will anything be done to address the 64bit Windows environment??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Who needs to address that much ram in a web application FFS ?

      1. Anonymous Coward


        The same people that need multi-core support, obviously.

        Cause one multi-GHz processing unit with 3.5GB of memory just isn't enough to render webpages faster than you can read 'em anymore.

  11. Tom Chiverton 1


    Doesn't have a spell check though, suprizangly

  12. BlueGreen

    I care not about javascript

    I disable it. It never runs except in a vm on rare occasions. JS is necessary sometimes but mostly it's just a security risk. Crank up the speed and more idiot web managers/designers/commissioners will let it in. If mozilla issued guidelines on JS (non-)use the web would be a better and safer place.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      Agree 100%

      I decided to try Chrome and was pleased to see that it has Adblock and Flashblock plugins - but no NoScript! Could this be because it lets us to block Google-Analytics? Bye-bye Chrome.

    2. Neil Stansbury


      Unfortunately BlueGreen all you have done here is prove how little you understand the web today, and especially how little you understand Firefox.

      The real irony of your comment is that disabling JS in FF only disables it loading from web pages, not JS loaded via chrome:// URIs. The entire FF UI and almost all extensions make enormous use of JS - so disabled or not - care or not - you benefit greatly from multi-threading FF and esp. in their JS engine Tracemonkey.

      1. BlueGreen

        @Neil Stansbury

        My criticism is the execution of arbitrary JS fetched from web pages. Have you noticed how many vulnerabilities there are with it? Try this <>

        I'm not complaining about speed but security. Again: security, not speed.

        I am vaguely aware that FF uses jscript with xul internally, I don't know what the chrome stuff is nor its security implications (if any). I'll take a look.

        If you feel I don't "understand the web today" then please be more precise - what exactly don't I get? That unnecessary scripting must be used? That security comes last?

        1. Quirkafleeg

          Internal usage

          It uses Javascript, not the M$ mangling of it which is JScript…

  13. Duncanmhor

    Never mind the benchmarks, feel the features.

    I'll start using another, faster, browser if it does what Firefox does. Until I can have adblock plus etc in chrome/safari/other, I'll be sticking with FF.

    How can you have meaningful benchmarks when you aren't comparing like for like?

  14. Thomas Wolf

    Is the author confused or something?

    It seems to me that the author meant to talk about 3.6 instead of 3.7. Version 3.6 is currently in pre-release and seems to have much improved javascript performance.

    Also the author claims that this version of firefox will let it compete against IE8 - I believe even the current version of firefox (3.5) is faster than IE8. Firefox needs to become competitive with Chrome and with Safari. IE hasn't been close to any of other browser in terms of Javascript performance in years.

  15. windywoo

    Java benchmarks are fairly meaningless

    Saving milliseconds on sites that use Javascript are paltry in comparison to the amount of time that can be saved with Firefox's addons. Chrome is faster to startup than Firefox on a single page, but if you are loading a bunch of sites in tabs, the startup then becomes much the same. @ the guy who was running Chrome on a single core box, did you have many tabs open? I would expect performance to drop considerably if you do since each Chrome tab is a separate process with its own thread and memory.

    If you have too many tabs open in Chrome the tabs become too small, and you have to identify the tab you need by its icon. This is fine if you remember the icons and if the site has a special icon, but Mozilla's button to show a list of tabs is much better. The adblocking plugin for Chrome is bollocks since it only hides the adverts. Likewise the Chrome download manager is quite crap, it doesn't tell you what speed the download is.

    I tried to like Chrome but it doesn't feel complete yet.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Java != Javascript

      See above.

  16. Patrick O'Reilly

    Catching up with Opera you mean.

    I think you may be mistaken, you mean catching up with Opera 10.5. As we saw before christmas, Opera's latest development release is faster than anything else out there.

  17. Antony Riley

    Chrome / Firefox / Sunspider

    Firefox 3.0.16 -- 5349.8ms

    Firefox 3.5.6 -- 2013.8ms

    Firefox 3.7a1 -- 1405.8ms

    Google Chrome -- 729.6ms

    Ubuntu Jaunty x86 running on a AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4000+

    That's with ad block plus installed (no noscript, it breaks the web) on all 3 firefox.

    Personal choice: I run firefox 3.7. Chrome is unstable with flash sites, and likes to flicker when redrawing the screen.

    Regards IE8, I think it does appallingly in most javascript benchmarks, so I don't know why the article mentions it as a contender. For religious reasons I refuse to use any version of IE (Anyone who's done any reasonable amount of web development / javascript over the years should be able to understand that).

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    "Never mind multi-core, even multi-threading would help :("

    Same thing in this case -- unless they are using multiple processes (isn't Chrome 1 process per tab?), they will be multithreading. But since multicore CPUs are now common calling it multicore support sounds nicer I guess. That WILL be nice for sure, compared to the current situation where one CPU-hog bit of Javascript or flash bogs the whole browser. Really this won't even require multiple cores, after all every modern OS can schedule multiple threads on a single processor too.

    @AC "IE 8 fast?" I agree, I don't know what El Reg's talking about, I've never heard anyone claim IE is fast (admittedly IE8 benchmarks are better than 6 or 7, but still). I think IE8 might by multithreaded though, so that's probably what this "catching up" refers to.

    1. Bill Gould
      Gates Halo

      Re: IE 8 speed

      IE8 starts up faster than FF and has since release. FF is just getting fat and slow. If they trim it down and fix the memory issue it will be great again.

      However, until other browsers let me use add-ins like adblock, noscript etc I'll keep on with the Fox.

      1. CD001



        IE8 starts up faster than FF


        Not really, IE8 draws a window on the screen faster than FF but then sits there for six months while it thinks about loading your homepage - loading up the GUI is not the same as loading up the program - I've managed to hang IE on a few occasions by trying to cancel the homepage load and go somewhere else (then it refuses to load anything).

        Even when IE IS loaded up - the time it takes to open a new tab could almost be measured on a geological scale - several species of weird lizard-men could evolve and become extinct in the amount of time it takes to open a new tab in IE.

        You're right though, Firefox isn't perfect, I really hate the way it handles caching for instance and in many ways Opera is better (especially once you've tweaked opera:config) but, like you, I use too many Firefox add-ons to change unless I have to.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I wouldn't agree they're the same, even in this case. Multicore lets them do several things genuinely in parallel, multithreading would allow one tab to wait for something to complete without every other tab and window pausing until it finishes.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Forget speed, what about memory?

    If it wasn't for the vast amount of (incredibly useful) extensions that the Gecko engine has I'd bin it for a 100% Webkit environment this very minute. It's always been the worst in terms of performance, but worse, has an approach to memory management that makes a collander look solid: 10 tabs and a couple of hundred refreshes later and I'm in swapland.

    These leaks have been with FF for years, when will someone get around to fixing them?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm not trying to be funny, but I've never really had an issue with memory footprint with FFffffffffox, on my 16GB of RAM workstation, 6 gig gaming rig, 4 gig laptop or one gig netbook. Sometimes various of those machines have uptime in weeks too (when I need them for something that outweighs the guilt of not switching off at the wall.

      Maybe my useage patterns are freakish- it's possible... but how do I trigger these leaks? I run up to date release versions on Linux, MacOSX and Windows without problems- common plugins between them are noscript, adblock, and chromatabs plus. Tell me what to poke with a stick please, that I may be enlightened.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Memory issues and random thoughts

        eeePC 901 running XP. 1Gb RAM, no swapfile. Latest & current "normal" release of Firefox.

        Browsing, various sites, multiple tabs. After a while all the pictures will vanish - this includes toolbar buttons. Then in a bit FF will "die" with a "Sorry!" message and a request to send a bug report. Meanwhile the Windows '!' icon appears on the taskbar to tell me that Windows is out of memory.

        Might be the browser. Might be an add-on. I blame the _browser_ because it cannot tell me otherwise. Really, would it not be hard to add a "memtrace:dump" pseudo-URL to report on what memory claims are active by the browser and by the add-ons? Is this rubbish endemic to Windows? God I miss the RISC OS taskmanager. If I add up all the memory allocations reported by ProcessExplorer, I'd have some 6Gb installed! The numbers just don't add up, and it would be really nice to open the pseudo-URL, see that add-on "X" is claiming 80% of the memory, and uninstall it. Or maybe the browser is just full of memory leaks?

        I put up with this because:

        1. FF runs the add-ons that provide both a sense of security, and an effective filter against web advertising Whatever it is, I don't want it, thanks.

        2. FF will return with tabs loaded, so it's at best a minute of inconvenience. Reload it and use the time for tea&pee.

        3. Chrome? Hell no. Perhaps if I *trusted* Google I might trust Chrome, but I don't.

        4. MSIE8? Everybody is right. It loads in a flash, seriously. Set "about:blank" as the intro page it appears so damn quick it makes most of the rest of Windows look slow. Sadly, the slowness seeps in when you actually try to use MSIE8 to do anything. And what's this with "Compatibility view"? If they stuck to everybody else's standards instead of inventing their own, we wouldn't need this. And, for what it is worth, the MSIE8 UI is bloody awful. Moving the menus, the reload/stop icon, restricting how likely you are to ever undo their stupidity. Way to make a visual metaphor then cock it up. Nice work Microsoft. Oh, and for the nerdy ones among you, using the WebControl ActiveX to parse custom URLs (like "myapp:blahblah" which is picked up by your app to feed data to the web control on the fly) - how badly did MSIE8 break it?

        Safari... Opera... And all the rest. Bugs and irritations aside, I'm happy enough with Firefox, and I'm too lazy to change. I really don't see the point in benchmarking JavaScript tests because there is so much more behind how responsive a browser feels, from how fast your internet setup can retrieve data (try pinging a server in a far-flung place) to basic UI nonsense. Examples? MSIE8 stuck with an obsession to save everything as an .mht file. Oddly it can WRITE these files no problem, but it reckons it needs some version of Outlook to be able to load them back in again. Saving a photo with MSIE8. Doesn't matter if it's the El Reg logo or some out-of-focus oddity on flickr - MSIE8 takes many times longer than FF. I know, I know, I'm comparing with a browser everybody knows to be slow, however it might be useful to compare "real life activity" instead of simple benchmarks.

        How quickly on a browser can you open a tab and go to Google? Under a second on Firefox. ^T, type 'G', it autosuggests Google, press Enter, done - there it is.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Neal 5

    another firefox patch then

    and 1 more, and again,again,again,again,again,again,again,again etc,etc etc,

    actually, I reckon that FF actually stands for fuckin+ fixme.

  22. WinHatter


    Multi-core support ... because some IT directors think they can run their Enterprise Class Application in a browser.

    That is the kind of stupidity that never ceases to amaze me. They fail to realize the Classy application will run in the same "context" as JS-pr0n ... that should worry them.

  23. Scott Brown

    Errmmm....Moz point out a flaw in his cunning plan.

    Justin Dolske says... January 5, 2010 7:18 AM

    It's fantastic that you're excited about the early 3.7 development work, but there are a few issues with your post that I think should be clarified...

    1) There's no need to compile your own 3.7pre build -- we make nightly builds available (see It helps if people use these, because these builds keep themselves up-to-date automatically, and will report crash data to us (opt-in, natch) so we can catch problems early.

    2) Doing your own compile for performance comparisons usually isn't a good idea, we've already spent a lot of time tweaking how things are built (eg Your inclusion of "--enable-optimize=-O2" has, in fact, likely made your build slower than the official builds! If you're really keen on doing your own build, the steps at are really all that's needed. We don't recommend people put extra stuff in their mozconfig unless there's a very specific reason for it.

    3) The Electrolysis work to date has largely focused on backend work, mobile (Fennec) work, and getting plugins (eg Flash) running in a separate process. The work on, err, electrolyzing Firefox itself is just ramping up. So, unfortunately you're not really testing Electrolysis yet.

    4) Electrolysis itself won't really help with things like Sunspider -- speedups there are due to improvements in the JS engine itself. Electrolysis is more about stability and security, and performance when running multiple tasks on a multicore box.

    5) As other comments noted, multiprocess != multithreaded. Firefox is already multithreaded (eg, top reports 18 threads in my particular case), and web sites can already make use of that with web workers (see

    In any case, your basic point is correct. There's a lot of exciting things in the Firefox pipeline, and 2010 is going to be a very awesome year. :-)


  24. Michael Hoffmann


    Until the other browsers offer the same addons I don't care how slow FF is!

    I get a sufficient speed up through the sheer fact that FF addons filter most of the crap I don't even want to download.

    Get me Adblock, Noscript, Surfclarity, Xmarks, and friends for IE, Chrome or Opera and I'll look at them. Until then, don't bother me.

    1. luxor

      Who needs addons?

      Adblock in Opera just use the built in blocker.

      Noscript a simple javascript sorts that out in Opera.

      Opera link for bookmarks,,,,, etc.. etc.

  25. Neil Stansbury


  26. Paolo 1


    @BlueGreen - the 90's called, they want their Javascript memes back.

  27. Idiots _Quotient

    Get it Now

  28. Lord Zedd

    Too late

    Version 3.5 already has multi-thread support in OSX.

    EVERY application in OSX is natively multithreaded!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumped FF in favour of Chrome

    Although I have a huge amount of respect for FF, it seemed to get slower with each iteration.

    I eventually switched to chrome because whilst it always seemed to perform really well and had an excellent minimalistic intuitive interface, it now finally supports important things like flash blockers etc. As a result I very rarely fire up FF now, and only get lumbered with I.E. for updates and stuff.

    I guess that the problem for software writers is that quite a lot of people will have a similar (lazy) mindset to me. It is very unlikely that I will change browsers again until google screw chrome up so badly that it bogs down and/or becomes intrusive, and I am sure this will happen at some point.

    So, it is not really that another browser will have to win me over by offering some wonderful feature set, more that the current one I use will have to finally become such a royal pain in the arse that I simply can't be bothered with it anymore.

    That is what happened with both I.E. & FF.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    How fast?!

    I'm sitting here on my work laptop. It's awful, and I work for a major, global, company - and I have checked, and my laptop isn't ready to be upgraded.

    Want to know my result in IE7? 54903.2ms

    Holy cr*p that's bad.

  31. Paul Banacks


    IE - Microsoft. Enuff said.

    Chrome - I trust it as much as I trust Google after their CEO said "Privacy is for those with something to hide."

    Opera - Nice, but why pay for a browser? Perhaps so you can feel special or something, fuck knows. IMHO there are better things to waste $ on.

    FF - Free. Standards compliant. Plenty fast enough.

    My choice is obvious.

    1. Pandy06269

      Since when...

      ... did you have to pay for Opera? I think you have to shell out a little for their Mini version for your phone (which is the same with any half-decent app on the likes of the iPhone or Android stores) but their desktop version is free the last time I looked (30 seconds ago.)

      I don't personally use Opera for a very different reason.

    2. Joe Ragosta


      @paul banacks

      "FF - Free. Standards compliant. Plenty fast enough."

      Safari - Free, MORE standards compliant (100% on Acid 3 since Safari 4 was introduced), Faster than Firefox.

      Yep, easy decision.

  32. Joe Ragosta

    Speed tests

    Why in the world would you do a speed comparison between browsers without testing the fastest browser out there - Safari? With Safari 4.0.4 on Mac OS X 10.6.2, I get 595 - on a 3 year old PowerBook (Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz).

    Stating that Firefox is the fastest browser is like claiming that your car is the fastest one out there because you tested it against a Chevy Malibu and Ford Focus.

  33. markp 1

    firefox... slow? unpossible.

    I'm not sure what planet the slowness claims come from, but I'm using 3.5, rather overloaded with add-ons that were put on for website testing that I no longer do, plus the usual NoScript and all... and it runs fine. I'm not left tapping my fingers waiting for it to do stuff, unless I've got a ton of tabs open (I'm talking 25+ here), and that's mainly swapfile hammering when bringing it back up after a system restart or similar (several of those tabs are persistent-use).

    This is on a near-4-year-old single core ultralight laptop with 1Gb by the way. Not exactly a speed machine. It's starting to have serious performance difficulties with more recent flash games and sites, and games are now totally out of the question. But general web surfing scoots along just nicely.

    Mind you I have a fear of both Chrome and Safari that brings me out in hives, so I can't properly compare with them. But it's definitely tons faster than Opera, and only a tick less than IE8 --- which I have to mark right down regardless because of it's chronic instability and occasional random hang-ups on opening a new tab (length variable between 0.5 sec and infinity), both of these particularly common when you open more than 10 tabs, making it unusable in a modern setting. I'll take losing the odd 1/10th of a sec on various ops over having to start over from scratch every hour or so.

  34. luxor

    Re Pandy06269

    You don't pay for Opera.

    Epic fail.

  35. CC
    Thumb Up

    3 days using and all is well

    Compared to Opera, Safari and IE8 (Ugh), this supposed Alpha is quicker, more stable, smoother and more trouble running media and everything else asked of it with low memory usage (not to exceed 129 megs on Hulu (watching online video) and average 56 megs just going site to site.

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