Mozilla promises big memory savings with Firefox 7

By on August 10, 2011, 4:30 PM

Despite being ranked as the second most popular web browser, Mozilla’s Firefox has a storied past largely due to unresolved memory leaks. As with its predecessors, Firefox 7 will implement various memory leak issues, according to Mozilla developer Nicholas Nethercote. Nethercote has been posting a weekly progress report on the official Mozilla blog regarding MemShrink, an initiative that began in June to eradicate Firefox’s memory inconsistencies.

“Firefox 7 uses less memory than Firefox 6 (and 5 and 4): often 20% to 30% less, and sometimes as much as 50% less,” said Nethercote. “In particular, Firefox 7′s memory usage will stay steady if you leave it running overnight, and it will free up more memory when you close many tabs. This means that Firefox 7 is faster (sometimes drastically so) and less likely to crash, particularly if you have many websites open at once and/or keep Firefox running for a long time between restarts”.

Mozilla’s browser has been criticized for needing large amounts of RAM and then not freeing that memory once windows or tabs have been closed. Nethercote acknowledges these shortcomings, indicating that some versions were more efficient than others. He praised Firefox versions 3, 3.5 and 3.6 but said things deteriorated with version 4 partly because of all its new features, aggressive JavaScript garbage collection and image decoding.

The Mozilla developer feels that Firefox sometimes gets an unfair perception because of buggy browser add-ons.

“I always cringe when someone files a bug report complaining about Firefox’s memory usage and they have many (e.g. 10, 20 or more) add-ons installed. The chances of all of those add-ons behaving themselves is pretty low, unfortunately. For example, one user found that the CyberSearch 2.0.8 add-on causes the places SQLite database to grow to over 300MB. Another user found that one or more add-ons caused that same database to grow to 1.2GB(!); the add-on(s) responsible has not yet been identified.”

According to NetMarketShare, Internet Explorer remains the most popular web browser with a 52.71 percent market share. Firefox trails at 21.47 percent and Chrome is climbing the proverbial ladder at 13.49 percent. 

Firefox 7 is expected to launch on September 27. A beta version will begin testing early next week.

User Comments: 16

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Seems like good news to me. I remember back when people were wondering where that plugin-container.exe came from. "Firefox 7 uses less memory than Firefox 6 (and 5 and 4)" Would this mean Firefox 3.6 is superior in a way still? Or was that just not included...

Route44 Route44, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

About time. It was Broni from our Virus and Malware Removal forum that informed me that it really wasn't my system but FF's memory leak that was freezing my online experience. This should have already been fixed.

Guest said:

Even if add-ons increase memory loads, I've worked with purely vanilla Firefoxes and have noticed the memory leaks build up over the years. I used to recommend the use of Firefox to non-technical users on older WinXP and Win2K computers just because of the better standards compliance and update security model (especially when upgrading to the latest IE wasn't possible). No add-ons, no themes, yet people still remarked how "heavy" it feels. All that wonderful paging.

Relatedly, it also be nice to see a metric on how much an add-on will affect Firefox performance. Right now, I just work off of experience (Adblock will increase startup times, WOT will increase load during searches, etc.), but for others who don't have the know-how or mind for these things, it couldn't hurt.

Recycle said:

I've been using Aurora (Firefox 7 alpha) and I can confirm that it's lighter in terms of memory usage, and I'm not gentle on it by any means (frequently 20-30+ tabs).

Puiu Puiu said:

It seems mozilla is pushing FF7 as the next major version, just like ff4 was for ff3.6 and ff8 should be for ff7 like ff3.6 was for ff3.5.


Does anyone get extra CPU usage while using this? I mean heavy CPU usage. I've had maybe around 100 tabs one time and I didn't have any trouble but I use 5 tabs and it freezes xD.

Guest said:

Firefox 5 seems to use more than Chrome, but i never did a side by side comparison.

Guest said:

FF 4 was a horrible experiment on it's most reliable user base. 5 wasn't much better.

I carry around 3.6 on a usb stick so if I see it on clients computers, it's an immediate "upgrade" from 4 or 5 to 3.6.

Best browser around, hands down. Even if it does eat my memory for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Guest said:

OK, so they brought down memory usage and leakage, and by a darn impressive margin in some cases. That's good in itself, but how does this translate to UI response snappiness, 'cause it's that last point that FF kept screwing up on and forced my hand to Opera 12. Still I find FF easier to work with in a multiple sessions scenario, and FF comes in an x86-64 flavour; a thing which I'd call an necessity 'cause I'm used to open a boatload of tabs.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Route44 said:

About time. It was Broni from our Virus and Malware Removal forum that informed me that it really wasn't my system but FF's memory leak that was freezing my online experience. This should have already been fixed.

I was having exactly the same issue, but once they rolled out 5.0.1 update things have improved considerably.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I'm using the nightly builds of Firefox 8 in Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and both 32 and 64 bit versions are definitely much more responsive than Firefox 5.01.

ChrisG683 said:

Everyone loves to ignore how much memory Chrome chews up due to the multi-proccess tabbing. FF5's memory usage is really good already, but on the Nightly's it's amazing how much they've cut back on the memory usage. Once they finally start implementing the Electrolysis project (UI and content separation) it will really cut down on any advantages Chrome will have.

Guest said:

Still waiting for FF 6 to be released.

Guest said:

$30 for 4GB of RAM, who cares about memory usage? No one complains that everything is taking up more and more space, hence the need for increased harddrive sizes. But if applications begin to use more memory, then that's a problem. You buy a bigger harddrive when you need more space, well if you're having a problem with using too much memory, buy some RAM. It's dirt cheap.

Guest said:

Yeah, I was just at a local computer store and they had 12GB or Corsair DDR3 RAM on sale for 70 bucks.

RAM isn't expensive, memory really is a problem of the past for most cases.

Route44 Route44, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

First, if your system can handle all that RAM then fine. But a large majority don't have the need or don't have the motherboard to run so much RAM.

Besides, purchasing more RAM isn't the issue. The issue is with Fire Fox's memory leakage.

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