Is Firefox Getting Bloated?

Published on May 17, 2007

I just read an interesting article over at Wired that essentially asks “Is Firefox Getting Bloated?” The article compares Firefox to SeaMonkey. I was a Mozilla browser user well before it was named “SeaMonkey”, and well before Firefox 1.0 was released. During that time, I really came to despise the bloat in the application. Firefox was an incredible breath of fresh air when it was released: light-weight and responsive.

Personally, I feel that Firefox still exhibits both qualities. But I can see the argument made by the Wired article. Additional features, some of which many users may not actually care about, are creeping into the code base. Built-in support for microformats (something that I still don’t fully understand) is coming in Firefox 3.0. Do users really need this? Mozilla apparently thinks so. Many users may disagree.

There are certainly areas where Firefox could improve (in-browser support for both Java applets and PDF files are horrible). But I think Firefox is in great shape now. One thing I know for certain is that I’m never going back to Internet Explorer. (Side Note: I recently installed IE 7 on my work laptop … man, is it horrible.)

What do you think? Is Firefox too bloated? Too lean? Just right?

7 Comments

enc

i think it’s too bloated and every time you get additional toolbar or addon it gets bloated even more. Normal FF sessions takes about 200mb of ram. Yeah, sure, i’ve got 1gb of ram and what’re those 200mb compared to it. well, i must say it does matter.

i agree with you on improvements in Java applets and PDF files. Though they could do something about their XUL/ECMAScript support. I think it can run faster.

IMO, it’s not as bloated as the article makes it seem however it’s getting that way. The main idea is keep the “core system” as non-bloated as possible and add tool bars and plug-ins as you see fit. Performance will improve/degrade based on the number of OPTIONAL add-ons installed. However the more and more they add to the “core system” the more it’s becoming bloated. Should be interesting to see what all the final version of 3.0 has in it.

Enc, the memory issue that you’re referring too have been around for a while. It’s not so much bloat, unless you have a lot of plug-ins and tool bars installed, it’s just memory management. It’s an issue that die-hard zealots don’t acknowledge for some reason. There is a setting you can adjust to fix it, http://lifehacker.com/software/firefox/dealing-with-firefox-memory-issues-171301.php

The memory issue has always been a sticking point for those who like to bash Firefox. I griped about this last year (Memory Consumption in Firefox), and I can certainly see people’s argument. However, I don’t fully agree with the complaint.

Let’s assume that I have 1 GB of memory in a computer, and Firefox uses 400 MB of that memory. That leaves me with 600 MB available to use for the operating system, and whatever else I have running. Problems (i.e., system slowdowns) would only begin to be noticed when I completely ran out of physical memory and had to start using virtual memory. I have to believe that few people encounter this problem on a regular basis. So why do people complain? The memory is there to be used, correct?

I don’t discount that there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. I just think that people are too often quick to throw rocks, without having a decent justification for it.

Homer: Well, I admit it looks bad, Flanders, but haven’t you heard of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? [Homer gets hit in the head with a rock.]

Todd: Got him, dad!

kip

I totally agree about PDF files. I’ve found the PDF Download plug-in is pretty useful – when you click on a link to a PDF file, you get the option to download it, open it using the browser plug-in, or open it outside of Firefox (there’s also a “view as HTML” option I wouldn’t recommend). Although I don’t know how much of that is Firefox’s fault and how much is Adobe’s: I seem to recall saving PDF files to disk to avoid the plug-in back in my IE-using days…

Let’s assume that I have 1 GB of memory in a computer, and Firefox uses 400 MB of that memory. That leaves me with 600 MB available to use for the operating system, and whatever else I have running. Problems (i.e., system slowdowns) would only begin to be noticed when I completely ran out of physical memory and had to start using virtual memory. I have to believe that few people encounter this problem on a regular basis. So why do people complain? The memory is there to be used, correct?

While your argument is valid, you have to ask yourself, “why is a WEB BROWSER using 400MB of memory?!” Memory is there to be used however not everyone has 1Gig of RAM and when you get down to the nitty-griddy, theres no reason for a web browser to use that much memory. I run SQL 2000 and SQL 2005 (both standard) on my work laptop with 1Gig of RAM and even when I put it under heavy load it’s never used more than 350MB. I’ve had Firefox use 290MB on the same laptop before I killed it. It should never have been that high.

I love Firefox and still use it, and will continue to use it until something better comes along. I just wish they would fix some of their “features”.

While your argument is valid, you have to ask yourself, “why is a WEB BROWSER using 400MB of memory?!” Memory is there to be used however not everyone has 1Gig of RAM and when you get down to the nitty-griddy, theres no reason for a web browser to use that much memory. I run SQL 2000 and SQL 2005 (both standard) on my work laptop with 1Gig of RAM and even when I put it under heavy load it’s never used more than 350MB. I’ve had Firefox use 290MB on the same laptop before I killed it. It should never have been that high.

I whole-heartedly agree. It seems odd that a web browser should consume so much real estate in the system’s memory. One could argue that Internet Explorer (being built-in to the Windows operating system) consumes nearly as much, but Firefox is clearly taking up a lot of space. I personally don’t have a problem with it, especially at home where I have 2 GB of memory. 🙂

enc

i’ve tried this one, but it didn’t help as after minimizing the memory has been taken back. Another “solution” may be downgrading your FF to a lower version number (i.e. 1.5).

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