Mozilla cracks down on slow starting Firefox add-ons

By on April 4, 2011, 8:00 AM
Firefox's expandability through add-ons is often cited as a key feature of the browser, but it is also known to be a source of sluggish performance and slow startup times, particularly when running several add-ons simultaneously. Things have notably improved with the release of Firefox 4, but there's still work to be done, and as such Mozilla is starting an initiative to get add-on makers to optimize their programs.

According to Mozilla's Justin Scott, Product Manager for Add-Ons, the average Firefox extension increases startup time by about 10%. The actual impact in seconds will depend on the hardware and software a user is running, but the company estimates that installing 10 add-ons will double the amount of time it takes the browser to launch.

To that end the company will begin running automated performance tests on the top 100 add-ons and post the results here on a weekly basis. The worst offenders currently include the FoxLingo Translator/Dictionary and Firebug website debugging tool, both of which slow down the browser's load time by 74%. The popular Xmarks ranks ninth with a 30% slowdown, and FastestFox, which promises to make browsing faster, will slow down Firefox 33% when launching.

Mozilla is contacting the developers of the worst performing add-ons to encourage them to improve their performance and will provide a performance-measuring tool for them to test against. The company says that developers should be aiming for a "5% start-up impact or less."

Within the next two weeks, Mozilla will add a warning to any add-on that slows Firefox's startup time by more than 25%, and in an upcoming version of the browser, third-party add-ons from standalone software vendors will not be installed unless the user specifically approves the installation (think browser toolbars and the like). This should have a significant impact on Firefox performance and give users back the control they should have over their add-ons, according to Scott.

User Comments: 10

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Very nice! I like the fact they contact the devs for those addons as well.

Jesse Jesse said:

This is great, exactly what we need to get firefox running the way it should. I use 3 of the extensions mentioned in this article regularly: firebug, fastestfox, and xmarks. Fortunately, startup time doesn't matter much to me, it probably increases it from .5 seconds to 1.5 seconds.

TeamworkGuy2 said:

Nice, I like the idea.

Hopefully Firefox can stay on developers' good side, I can image some designers/programers getting upset over an email from Firefox asking them to improve the performance of their add-on...

Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

What I find puzzling is extensions for Chrome doesn't seem to slow down at all no matter how many extensions are installed.

Well, I guess 70% of zero is still zero though, but still...

MrAnderson said:

Why not rearchitecture the browser so that plugins can load later? So all the base browser functionality is ready to go and other plugins can load in the background.

They current way is dated and they should engineer another way if it is becoming an issue.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Rick said:

What I find puzzling is extensions for Chrome doesn't seem to slow down at all no matter how many extensions are installed.

Well, I guess 70% of zero is still zero though, but still...

Ah...starting a flame war. Cue another war of the browser fanboys, lol.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Oh jeez, maybe there are some of us out there whose choice in browsers is not dependent on whether it takes 5 or 7 seconds for the browser to start. Id' rather have addins that I want rather than a super duper fast browser that doesn't.

war59312 said:

So now who is copying who? :p

You guessed it. Firefox copying IE.

Good, about damn time. lol

Win, Win for both user groups. So I'm happy.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

So now who is copying who? :p

I just don't understand the big deal about browsers copying each other. The way I see it, if it works, who gives a flying monkey where they got the idea from? Not me.

Some say "well, it means they aren't being creative." ......and? I don't care if they're being creative or not. I don't use a product because it's creative, I use a product because it works and it does what I want. Where it gets the stuff it gets doesn't matter to me. Just give me what I want and i'm happy :P But that's just me.

I'm sure if I were on the other end of the equation, and this was happening to me (someone copying what i'm doing), I would be mad. Who wouldn't be? But you know what? I'm not on the other end. So why should I care? I got what I want and i'm happy.

PinothyJ said:

Does anyone else see the irony of FasterFox being number eight on the list...

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