The web browser is probably one of the most important applications we run on our computers today. For many, it's the one application that remains open during an entire work day and is the means by which we connect, share, troubleshoot, learn, create, entertain and socialize. Think about what it would be like to go through your day without launching your web browser at all. Given that the web browser is such an important component of modern computing, it goes without saying that the stability and performance of a web browser is critical to its success and utility. In the last year or so, the performance and stability of the popular Firefox web browser has started to crumble.
Firefox has a memory leak problem (and has for some time starting around version 4, possibly even version 3). Mozilla's support site even states, "Firefox sometimes uses more memory (RAM) than it should. This can make Firefox slower, and in extreme cases, it can even make Firefox crash." The article then goes on to provide suggestions on how you (yes, YOU) can help Firefox use less memory. It's just sad that the web browser that upset Internet Explorer's dominance back in the early 2000s, and that was once the browser king in techie circles has started to show its age. Now on version 8, Firefox is performing extremely slow and is consuming too much memory for users that run the browser for an extended period of time with multiple tabs open.
For example, I'm running Firefox 8 on Mac OS X 10.6.8 and have the following app tabs pinned: Gmail, Hotmail, Google+, Twitter, and Google Reader (with additional tabs occasionally opened as needed). I'm using the following Firefox add-ons: Ad-Block Plus, Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (Google), Firebug, LastPass, NoScript, RSS Icon (necessitated by Mozilla removing the RSS icon from Firefox), Stylish, User Agent Switcher, Web Developer, and Xmarks. I've had Firefox running since this morning at around 7:30 am and it is now about 4:15 pm. Firefox is currently consuming 1.31GB of memory and spiking the CPU utilization around 15-26% with switching between tabs and user input becoming extremely sluggish:
I tried switching to Google's Chrome browser for a few weeks and noticed better performance, but I found myself missing the add-ons (notably NoScript and Ad-Block Plus, which don't have equivalent-performing Chrome counterparts) that I have become dependent upon over the years. There are also certain features of Firefox that I prefer over Chrome. Such as when a pinned app tab lights up whenever there's an update, a new email, tweet, etc. Or, the ability to customize the user interface using Stylish to reduce the excessive space between bookmarks on the bookmarks toolbar.
Firefox has been a web browser favorite of geeks and power users in the past due to its rich ecosystem of add-ons and its ability to be highly customized. It has also not suffered from as many security exploits as Internet Explorer over the years. Third party developers have even developed Firefox add-ons to help fix
the memory leak issue, which is particularly telling of the loyalty of
the Firefox community. Between March 22, 2011 and Nov 8, 2011 Firefox went from version 4 to version 8. Firefox 9 is planned for Dec 20, 2011 with regular release cycles planned up through March 13, 2012 when Firefox 12 will be released. Regardless of the rapid release cycles and promised fixes to the browser, Firefox continues to be plagued with serious performance and stability issues. Let's hope Mozilla is able to resolve these issues soon, otherwise, there's going to be a major migration to Chrome and other more stable browsers. Thoughts?