Scott Gilbertson kindly interviewed me for his article: More Firefox Bloat- Say It Ain’t So, Mozilla. I offered so much more than a single sentence to his original query, so I thought I’d pass along the discourse (and my own self-correction) here:
I’ve got Mozilla’s perspective as well as some outside open source people, but I was wondering if you wanted to offer a user perspective. Do you have any great Firefox anecdotes about RAM usage freezing the system or memory leaks or anything like that — end user oriented issues.
Heh. Firefox has always been plagued by memory leaks (at least, as far back as I can remember). Mind you, I’m nothing more than a casual Firefox user – having been a Maxthon advocate since it was called MyIE2.
Firefox didn’t take off because of its core stability – it took off because it was a decent enough alternative to a Web browser that had been abandoned (Internet Explorer). Didn’t hurt that it had “open source” karma, either. Some people love the simplistic nature of Firefox, but I’m one who believes that minimalism is a gigantic weakness.
The issue isn’t really about cluttering Firefox with more features that could slow it down and make it more unstable – the issue is in not fixing outstanding, documented, replicable bugs before adding more features to the core.
I was using Mozilla for years, and it never grabbed much attention. The Firefox project was timed perfectly – the world was pissed off at Microsoft, and looking for a valid alternative that they weren’t finding in Opera (at that time, shareware or ad-supported).
Personally? I don’t think Firefox is all that fast – nor has it ever been. 😉 If Opera could get their UI act together, I’d take them as serious competition on the desktop. Then again, IE and Firefox are hardly shining examples of amazing interfaces…
“Heh. Firefox has always been plagued by memory leaks (at least, as far back as I can remember).”
Are there any specific issues you can think of?
Actually, let me kindly retract that assertion?
Which isn’t to say that Firefox is not without its share of issues. I haven’t really seen it lock up on me any more than I’ve had Internet Explorer lock up on me.
I can tell you one thing: Firefox’s browser security implementation is far and away better than Internet Explorer’s. FAR and away. Whereas IE requires you to refresh the entire page just to download a file that you may have clicked on, Firefox pops up a dialog with a countdown timer.
Moreover, the Firefox model for plugins / addons is astoundingly cleaner than Internet Explorer’s.
So, why not use Firefox? Eh, I really like the way Maxthon has been for me all these years. Maybe one day I’ll switch. But not now. I don’t feel the need. Granted, I’d just as soon use Lynx than Internet Explorer 7 or below!!!
What are your views on the open source model? Does the fact that Firefox is buggy/leaks memory have anything to do with it being open source?
Personally, I love open source seven ways from Sunday. I use Miranda IM, which is an Open Source instant messaging client. I really only like using open source software for my Web operations.
The issue I generally have with open source software is the lack of a cohesive UI. Firefox plugins are all over the map. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe that Apple’s design ethic has made the world understand that you could have elegance alongside functionality.
Or why do you think the developers haven’t fixed the memory leaks and other issues you mentioned?
How many millions of people use Firefox? Can you imagine if each one of them wanted to see something different in their core browser? 🙂 I think optimizations are continually happening, although I’d argue that the general UI in Firefox 2.0 was a step backwards (and I noticed that several Firefox enthusiasts agreed with me).
Are they just not listening or are there other reasons?
You can only pound so many nails at one time. To compete further, I do believe that Firefox must contain more “awesome” functionality out of the box. Otherwise, you’re having to run a browser with a zillion plugins – and none of them aware that other plugins might be running. You have a more stable program if said items are actually integrated into the base.
IE6 had a lot of problems with standards and other rendering issues, but there weren’t many complaints about memory leaks or fairly basic problems for day to day use (excepting security issues), why do you think Firefox was able to gain so much market share even when the browser really wasn’t even stable?
IE6 really sucked THAT much. People were ready for a change – and that was enough of a tipping point to steal mindshare. Microsoft screwed the pooch, but they’re not going to give up the ghost again.
It’s not just about standards compliance – it’s about raw speed and core functionality coupled with compatibility.
NOTE: I may need to clarify my earlier points on the speed of Firefox. I think, as far as page rendering is concerned, Firefox beats IE – hands down. Launch time for Firefox, however, has always been horrible. Moreover, I like Firefox on OS X more than I like it on Windows.