Disappointed in Firefox 1.5

I have to join the ranks of those unhappy with Firefox 1.5. I’ve been using Mozilla browsers forever – long, long before Firefox. I switched over to Firefox right around the time it was called Firebird.

At Smallworld/GE we put great focus on making sure our clients would run in IE 5/5.5/6.0 and Mozilla 0.8/0.9. Most people at the time thought we were nuts – why bother with a browser that no one used. But Mozilla was much more standards compliant and offered good debugging tools (Venkman). It was the right thing to do, and since I was in charge of the development group, I made sure it happened.

Fast forward four years – I was quite excited by the release of Firefox 1.5. It was great to finally see SVG make it into a mainline browser and the canvas functionality also looked intriguing.

However, when I upgraded I was met with disappointment. First, Venkman didn’t work and it took a non-Mozilla employee to fix it. Talk about a marketing blunder – it sends totally the wrong message to the large numbers of developers who love to work with Mozilla/Firefox because of its openess.

And of course there is the obnoxious memory usage, which is explained away using the tried-and-trued trick of as designed. I’ve used that one once or twice before 🙂

I suppose you could consider the above nitpicks, but the most damming bit is that Firefox just doesn’t work well on Windows. I tend to open a large number of browser windows with a large number of embedded tabs – so at any given time I’ll have 15 or 20 pages open. This has always worked in previous versions of Firefox and Mozilla. With 1.5, within half an hour I’ll try to load a page and Firefox will spike the CPU at 100% and hang. As far as I can tell this is random, but it always happens, and some websites are worse than others. If you wait about 20 seconds, the CPU usage may drop and Firefox will once again become responsive. But every page you load after that will have the excruciating CPU spike and wait. And more often than not, Firefox will never return and the CPU usage will remain at 100%. Thus I find myself killing off Firefox with Ctrl+Alt+Del multiple times a day.

Remembering that I’ve used Firefox for 3 plus years now, I thought maybe the problem was caused by cruft in my profile. So I backed it up, wiped it clean, and started with a fresh slate. I even uninstalled Firefox, cleaned everything out, and reinstalled. No difference.

From talking to people, and from my observations, these problems don’t seem to happen on Linux (no idea about the Mac). But that’s still no excuse for not delivering a quality product on the most widely deployed operating system.

I fear that 2.0 will be no better, since it is based on the same underlying 1.8 Gecko rendering engine. I hope I’m wrong.

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