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.

  1. trans
    April 14, 2006


  2. April 14, 2006

    FF on Linux does sound slightly better, Charlie, but it’s still got its issues. memory usage is much worse that in 1.0.

    that said, i can’t see myself switching off of FF b/c it’s become a platform for me as much as it is a browser. browsers are much easier to abandon than platforms.

    i’ve used this hack (http://digg.com/software/Lower_Firefox_s_Ram_Usage_With_This_Simple_Hack) from digg as well and it does help. not a solution, but it helps.

  3. Morten
    April 14, 2006

    If you want good javascript-debugging I would really recommend the script-debugger that is in Visual Studio.NET. I use to use Venkman as well, until I discovered that VS could debug javascript as well (although you would do this on a IE browser though).

  4. Jeff Schiller
    April 14, 2006

    Memory leaks are a big problem in Firefox, agreed. But I’ve heard that has 3 fixes for memory leaks and more work in fixing memory leaks has gone on in Firefox 2 and trunk development.

  5. Charlie
    April 14, 2006

    Hi Stephen, agreed on not abandoning Firefox, and thanks for the tip. I don’t mind one bad release, it happens. However, I am a bit worried about some of the quotes that I see from people in the Mozilla foundation which sound like they are in a bit of denial. But then again, quotes can get easily taken out of context.

  6. Charlie
    April 14, 2006

    Jeff – good news. Coincidentally, my Firefox just updated itself to so I’ll see soon enough. Fingers crossed.

  7. Charlie
    April 14, 2006

    trans – Yup, I have opera installed on my machine. Its amazing how far its come in the last few years. We couldn’t support it at GE / Smallworld because it lacked almost all DHTML functionality (I suppose its now called Ajax). Now it seems to work like a charm.

  8. Charlie
    April 14, 2006

    Hi Morten – Yes, the javascript debugger is useful. I actually tend to use the Visual Studio debugger more, but it is similar. It has one big advantage over Venkman – it can debug background threads which is very handy when tracing through the results of an Ajax call. Venkman can set breakpoints in background threads, but can’t actually step through them. I assume that’s a bug but haven’t ever dug into it.

  9. contact2mymail@gmail.com
    March 10, 2008

    in my programme ajax calls cant support in mozilla firefox
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    make a replay