Firefox Sucks : And a look at Tamarin

I’ve been an open source advocate for years now, and I think open source software is among the best thing that can happen to us. Bottom line; it empower people. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m a zealot, where for example I’ll try my best to cover its various problems.
I’ll say things as it is, so my clients will be informed, and can face it prepared (instead of caught off guard).

But **I** was caught off-guard by Firefox.

Nowadays I’m very much dependent to Firefox. It doesn’t crash as often as Opera on me when opening a lot of tabs (don’t ask me why, it just do), and it’s much more secure than Internet Explorer. Not to mention the extensions – I’ve been saved by LiveHttpHeader and various other tools many, many times.

However, speed-wise, especially with Javascript-heavy pages, Firefox is a snail.

I didn’t notice the problem because there wasn’t that many Ajax-ed websites back then. Firefox was snappy, secure, and made me very productive. Even if it’s consuming available memory rather happily, I didn’t mind.

Then Web 2.0 arrived. To my surprise, opening just a few of those can slow down Firefox to a crawl.

Many times I was typing my email on Gmail with the speed of around 1 character per second. Indeed I can type much faster than that, but then I’ll be watching the characters that I’ve typed slowly appeared on screen, one by one.
This is on 2 GHz machine with 1.5 GB of RAM, and little else running.

I tried Swiftfox. Unfortunately, it’s still the same. So clearly, the problem is not with machine-specific optimizations.

Day after day, this continue to cause me problems. Finally, I set myself on the journey to find the reason for this, and how to get rid of the problem.

After much browsing around, I think the main culprit are :

  1. SpiderMonkey, the Javascript engine used by Firefox, sucks. Really sucks
  2. Firefox uses SpiderMonkey for itself. Therefore, if a website is heavy on Javascript, then Firefox itself will be blocked while it’s processing that website, and become unresponsive.

I suspect that the 2nd point is actually the biggest issue. I don’t mind when it takes more time to render a website, if I can still switch to another tab and continue my work there.
Unfortunately, not only it’s really slow in most cases, sometimes it’ll even freezes for minutes.
Add extensions processing load on top of that, and it can get really ugly.

The first idea may be to make SpiderMonkey multi-thread. However, for various reasons (including portability, backward compatibility, and platform issues), and also other technical problems, this does not seem feasible to be done anytime soon. At the earliest, it will be on Firefox 5.

That leaves us on SpiderMonkey itself. If we speed it up, then it will speed up Firefox too.

Thankfully, on November 2006, Adobe decided to donate Tamarin to Mozilla foundation.
In short, Tamarin will be used in SpiderMonkey’s core; enabling various optimizations to be performed, thus speeding it up considerably.

Naturally, I was too happy and got all psyched up when I found out about it. Then it dawned on me, is this simply too good to be true ?

No, the Tamarin stuff is for real. However, there’s a bad news in relation to this.

The earliest we can expect to have a taste of Tamarin is on the Mozilla Application Framework 2 (aka “Mozilla 2”) which is used in Firefox 4, which is due on 2009.

We’re still 2 years away from a (much) faster Firefox !

Even then, there’s still no guarantee that Tamarin will speed up Firefox 4 (FF4) significantly, if the UI still freezes everytime FF4 is working on a time-consuming script.

Unless somebody managed to develop a clean hack to speed this up, please excuse me while I’m browsing the Internet in slow-mo.

Nowadays browser competitons are increasing, with Safari for Windows just released, Opera team stepping up for 9.5 release, and IE no longer a stale project — Firefox definitely could not afford to have slower progress than them. Let’s raise awareness on this issue, so we’ll all benefit from a faster Firefox.

67 thoughts on “Firefox Sucks : And a look at Tamarin

  1. Indeed, that’s why revamping Firefox’s UI (to block a little as possible) will be among the main thing that counts.
    .
    I wonder if it’s possible to separate the SpiderMonkey instances for UI and for website’s Javascript processing.

  2. This is happening to my FF2 when handling my corporate websites which is heavily Javascript enabled… 🙁

  3. using linux?
    then use firefox -ProfileManager, to manage your firefox session.

    1 window session for email, and other javascript friendly website
    1 window session for development
    optional window for other purpose

  4. Ugh…what a bummer, I myself were having problems using firefox (or what they oddly called “IceWeasel” in Etch, GPL-wise) regarding parsing of the fonts there. I am using Opera with no problem whatsoever right now.

    Have you tried using Flock instead?

  5. @Patrick – Thanks for the recommendation. That reminded me that I’ve been meaning to try out Flock for quite some time now.
    .
    Anyway, after trying it, it seem that while Firefox is stable, Flock still keeps on crashing on me. I can’t blame Flock indeed because it’snot even version 1.0 yet. I’m reverting back to Firefox & Safari, while keeping an eye on Flock.
    .
    @bayu – it seems like a great idea ! I’m giving it a try now.
    .
    I don’t like working with multiple windows of same app, but if it will enable me to be more productive, then it’s a compromise that I’ll settle with.
    .
    thanks for sharing !

  6. This has been annoying me too – firefox must be the slowest javascript browser out there. I tested a few browsers with this:
    http://celtickane.com/projects/jsspeed.php Safari for windows was the quickest by a mile. And loading gmail on it confirmed it has great javascript speed. Safari gave 500ms whilst FF was up near 4000ms. I’ve since got it down to 2800 by clearing the profile.

  7. I’ve been a committed FF user for 2 years, but since the advent of Web2 it’s become total crap. I’ve tried all the various developer builds, but they’re just as bad. It’s so slow as to be unuseable, and the text rendering is atrocious. As soon as someone writes a good developer’s toolbar for Opera or Safari etc it’ll be in the trash for good.

  8. Try Firefox 3.0 🙂

    Firefox 3 is MUSH faster than Firefox 2., and it is currently the FASTEST browser out there. The only competitor is upcoming Safari 4.

  9. I have tested FF3, and I’ve returned to FF2 due to following reasons: FF2 has a better look and feel (too complicated navigation bar in FF3, and WITHOUT the green arrow GO button) and also FF2 seems faster than FF3.

  10. Hmm.. I don’t know. I’m using FF3 and it looks pretty solid to me. Yes, although it had been a bit rough in the beginning which made me move back to FF2 for sometime, I guess the latest update releases did the trick. Don’t you?

  11. Initial releases of FF3 were so slow I want to rip my arm and throw at the screen. But with the minor updates, I think it just got slightly better. Now I’m just sticking with chrome 🙂

  12. So that’s whats happening to Firefox , I thought there’s something wrong with my OS because Firefox gets so slow on some sites. But after reading this I’m convinced there is something wrong with my Firefox Browser.

    I hope they fix the problem soon because I like Firefox and it will be such a shame have their quality deteriorate.

  13. I agree , at this very moment I’m using my firefox and I must say I’m getting a bit annoyed at how slow it has become. I’m losing valuable time because it takes soooo long to load the pages I’m accessing.

    I’m currently looking for browsers to use as alternatives , I hope the ones I find will be a lot faster.

  14. Since you identified the problem with Firefox, but there doesn’t seem to be a solution (for the time being, anyway), have you considered looking into other non-IE browsers? (I’m asking, not suggesting… I really don’t know if they’re any better.) Is Safari or Google’s Chrome any better performance-wise with these kinds of sites?

  15. Out of curiosity, are you still seeing these issues with the latest release of Firefox 3? I have found Firefox 3 to be very fast so far but do prefer to disable some of the new features such as the Smart Location Bar.

  16. @Vanity – Yes I’ve tried others :
    .
    Chrome : not so stable, dunno why. And it still crashes.
    .
    Safari : sucks big time – when it crashed, you lost all of your open tabs. At least Firefox is able to remember what you were browsing.
    .
    Opera : okay, but after a while will slows down too.

  17. @Mozilla – Yes, but not so bad anymore.
    .
    I thank Google Chrome for it — not too long after it’s released, Mozilla released new version of Firefox with much better Javascript performance. Hurray for Google.

  18. Your site is a refreshing change from the majority of sites I have visited. When I first started visiting web sites I was excited by the potential of the internet as a resource and was very disappointed initially. You have restored my enthusiasm and I thank you for your efforts to share your insights and help the world become a better place.

  19. I used FF from version 2.5,now I am using 3.0.I like it,at least it’s better than IE,that’s my 2 cents

  20. I’m using Firefox 3 (3.0.10) and it is OK for me (now). I agree that first time I kept one installation with FF2. Mainly I needed time for the URL completion feature which takes beside URL as well the title of the website into account.

    But no I feel comfortable with it.

  21. then use firefox -ProfileManager, to manage your firefox session.
    1 window session for email, and other javascript friendly website
    1 window session for development
    optional window for other purpose

  22. I am using firefox 3.5 now, much improved. Speed is generally faster but mine seems to take a while for a cold boot.

  23. I agree with that firefox sucks, as a matter of fact all mozilla products behave pretty sh**ty don’t know why but I am tired.
    I am glad that chrome has a possibility of installing some plugins.

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  25. Firefox is getting slower and slower. I’m using Google chrome instead, because I find Firefox slower and it’s affecting my work as a content writer.

  26. I also think like you that open source softwares are among the best things that can happen to us. Regarding firefox, I have been thinking of using it, but after reading this article I will have to reconsider it. Meanwhile, I may try my griddle electric unit, presto 07211 liddle griddle which is small but cooks nice eggs.

  27. Hanya saja karena ada stigma yang lebih negatif soal perjodohan, maka saya membuat posting ini, yang memberikan contoh sebaliknya

  28. There are some great ads on on Firefox that are not available on others, I could not work without it, but that is just my opinion

  29. I use FF for some of the plugins and stuff you can’t get on Safari, but you are so right, it is sloooow. It’s what some people call “bloatware”… bloated with too many add-ons.

  30. I wonder if it’s possible to separate the SpiderMonkey instances for UI and for website’s Javascript processing.

  31. Anyway, after trying it, it seem that while Firefox is stable, Flock still keeps on crashing on me. I can’t blame Flock indeed because it’snot even version 1.0 yet. I’m reverting back to Firefox & Safari, while keeping an eye on Flock.

  32. I’ve tried all the various developer builds, but they’re just as bad. It’s so slow as to be unuseable, and the text rendering is atrocious. As soon as someone writes a good developer’s toolbar for Opera or Safari etc it’ll be in the trash for good.

  33. uilds, but they’re just as bad. It’s so slow as to be unuseable, and the text rendering is atrocious. As soon as someone writes a good developer’s toolbar for Opera or Safari etc it’ll be in the trash for good.

  34. I’ve tried all the various developer builds, but they’re just as bad. It’s so slow as to be unuseable, and the text rendering is atrocious.although it had been a bit rough in the beginning which made me move back to FF2…
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