Firefox 3 Early Review
Firefox 3.0, the first major new release of the popular Mozilla browser in quite some time, has been out for a few hours now and I’ve installed it. Thus far, I haven’t noticed much change other than that one of my favorite extensions, Google Browser Sync, is at least temporarily unavailable.
Computer World‘s Steven Vaughan-Nichols is thrilled, however. He’s noted, as have many of us, that Firefox has actually been getting worse in recent months, as constant updates seemed to make the performance more sluggish and causing far-too-frequent browser crashes, obviating the very thing that made so many of us switch from Internet Explorer.
What was happening was that Firefox’s bad memory management habits were zapping me. For example, Firefox 2.x used different-sized chunks of memory. Then, as it constantly grabbed and released memory, its memory map began to look like a beaten-up jigsaw puzzle. Here a hole, there a troublesome spot where someone had torn off part of a piece to make it fit, and so on.
In addition, Firefox 2.0 kept full-size copies of images in memory. When you displayed a JPEG or any of the other compressed picture formats, Firefox kept the full-size uncompressed images in memory even if you weren’t currently looking at them. Since a single 100k image can eat up a megabyte-plus of memory, this old way of handling images can waste memory quickly.
Mozilla’s engineers seem to have fixed that — or at least improved it — in Version 3. Now, if you’re not looking at an image, it’s been saved in memory in its original compressed format. They’ve also worked on the memory map issue.
That, along with some improvements in security and cache handling means faster loads and fewer crashes. Indeed, “in the weeks I’ve been running Firefox 3 on multiple systems on the same exact same PCs doing the same work as I was doing with Firefox 2.x, I haven’t seen a single freeze-up.”