Mozilla to make Firefox memory issues a priority

Mozilla to make Firefox memory issues a priority

Summary: One thing that has put me off using Firefox more is the crazy levels of memory usage that the browser sometimes seems to exhibit. The Mozilla development team have long claimed that the issue that users are experiencing is not a bug but in fact a feature. However, now that Mozilla is looking to port Firefox to mobile platforms, the issue has become a high priority.

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One thing that has put me off using Firefox more is the crazy levels of memory usage that the browser sometimes seems to exhibit.  The Mozilla development team have long claimed that the issue that users are experiencing is not a bug but in fact a feature.  However, now that Mozilla is looking to port Firefox to mobile platforms, the issue has become a high priority.

Christopher Blizzard, Mozilla board member, explains:

For a long time there have been a lot of complaints about the memory usage in Firefox and anything else that used the Gecko engine. And looking at the numbers for what Firefox would use for memory, they seemed valid. But on the other side of the story, I know that the Mozilla team has been pretty diligent about fixing memory leak bugs. Allocations are tracked closely across checkins and leaks are fixed when they are discovered. So why the different perceptions for what people were seeing in the field and what the programmers were tracking during a development cycle?

As Mozilla starts down the path to running in the .mobile space we are spending time looking at memory pressure issues more closely. .Stuart and .Vlad. spent time .looking at the behavior of the allocator during some simple tests. and it sounds like the early data suggests that Mozilla really doesn’t leak that much memory at all. But it does thrash the allocator pretty hard and that’s what causes the perception of memory leaks. There’s a lot more information in .Stuart’s post of course, including some good visualizations..

Reading between the lines, I'm getting the feeling that these memory leaks (assuming that's what the problem is and not some something else that makes it look like a memory leak) hasn't really been a priority because users (fanboys?) are happy to put up with it and restart the browser on the PC.  However, this kind of issue would kill Firefox on the mobile platform and be embarrassing to the Mozilla.  Therefore, before we see a mobile version of Firefox, the development team need to clean up the code more.

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Personally, I much prefer Opera to Firefox, not only is it lighter but it's faster.  Opera also make excellent browsers for mobile devices.

Thoughts?

Topics: Hardware, Browser, Mobility

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21 comments
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  • You'd have to be a little anal...

    ... to be worrying too much about memory use these days. I've been using Firefox for years and haven't noticed any memory-related issues with it. I suppose if I had a heap of analysis software monitoring it, I could probably determine that it may be using more memory than necessary. But in practice, it's rarely obvious (if at all).

    I'm happy with its logical interface, plenty of add-on features which allow me to tailor it to me needs and the knowledge that it is being constatntly improved.
    Big Scoddie
    • Re: You'd have to be a little anal...

      I disagree. Memory is not infinite these days. I'd agree with you if we were talking about harddrive space, but memory (RAM) is a different story. If a decent machine has 1GB of RAM and Firefox regularly hits 250-300MB of RAM used (like my install does), it starts to slow things down a lot. It's silly to accept an application taking up that much memory that never gets released.

      It hasn't stopped me from using Firefox for most browsing (I guess I am silly). However, for some JavaScript intensive sites, I oftentimes will move to IE or Safari for Windows when things slow down. Safari screams compared to Firefox. I haven't installed Opera yet.

      I am pretty sure a chuck of the memory issue is due to the extensions I run. However, the problems still occur when running Firefox in Safe Mode. It's slower to grow its memory usage, but it still gets up there.
      hemmeter
    • It is an issue, and needs to be fixed

      I've using FF since version 0.7, and it was only after v2.0 that I encountered any problems with it- namely the humongous memory leaks(OK so I was running XP SP1 on a 256 MB machine back then, and the issue was less obvious once I upgraded to 1 GB RAM, but back then it really slowed things down). Even now, I still have trouble with FF RAM usage going up to 600MB on Kubuntu Linux when opening 6 0r more windows/tabs, and the usage stays high even after exiting FF completely, but goes back to normal on restarting X. And it happens in safe mode too, so it's not just the add-ons. Now I've been hearing all these stories about how it'll be fixed in FF 3, so for now I'll put up with a little memory hogging in return for the safest browsing experience out there with NoScript and AdBlocker.
      balaknair
  • Tip #13

    [url=http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/15-coolest-firefox-tricks-ever.html]Limit the browser cache if you have < 1GB of memory[/url]
    D T Schmitz
    • RE: Limit the browser cache

      People should do that instead of complaining.

      Anyway, my Firefox does run well and smoothly in a 128MB PC (yes, 128), but I prefer the nicer features of Opera.
      pablo Dante
  • Sure it's not a memory leak...

    While I am no programmer, I do understand the concept behind a memory leak and I tell you that it sure looks like there is one. If I leave Flock open for days (which I often do) the memory usage of the flock.exe can exceed 150MB. Restarting the app using the built in "restart flock" option drops it immediately down under 50MB.

    It obviously hasn't put me off using Flock because the functionality is ideal for me, and considering I have to restart it less than Outlook I am OK.

    I do wish they would "fix" it though...
    ruprick_z
    • What the flock...

      Just wait until your regularly scheduled Windows reboot; that should take care of it. :)

      Zing...........................
      D T Schmitz
    • 150 MB?

      Amateur. My wife's firefox gets to 1.2 GB
      rpmyers1
  • RE: Mozilla to make Firefox memory issues a priority

    It surprised me to find I am running 42 extensions inside the latest non-beta version of Firefox on my laptop with no memory issues at all. Thunderbird, with far few extensions is much more of a memory hog. That could be because we are running the calendar with it, or that each of our blogs have their own email addresses, all coming though this one installation of Thunderbird.

    All of the Firefox extensions are programs of their own, one running my banking, another mp3 and mail and blog entries and IM and time management and...

    And still, no memory issues for me.
    tree26936597@...
  • FirePox! FirePox! FirePox!

    FirePox!
    No_Ax, shadetree and the rest of my operatives here, this is the new term you are to universally use for this piece of crap!
    FirePox! - "A Pox upon thee"! We got 'em on the run now! Keep up the pressure! For further instructions:
    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    ceosteveballmer@...
  • Memory leaks = bugs

    Let's call them like they are. Any memory leak is entirely due to the programmers (who will blame the OS of course).
    tonymcs@...
    • The OS can cause memory leaks

      The interactions between the OS and programs are so complex today that even the best written programs, with the best programmers, are going to have some memory leaks.
      The problem with Firefox (which I have seen myself with the 3.0beta build) is that it is in NORMAL SITUATIONS that the memory leaks happen. I've seen Firefox get up to 250MB on my computer memory wise, when I am doing nothing but watching online video.... not a high stress situation or at least it shouldn't be, though IE7 gets up to 120MB when I view those same pages so it might be a problem with the OS itself.
      Leria
  • RE: Mozilla to make Firefox memory issues a priority

    Every program has its little issues. I remember when Photoshop used to crash for no apparent reason every so often. Woe unto you if you weren't saving regularly.

    Admittedly, Firefox is a little slow, even slower with the recent updates, but it's still my browser of choice because it's hella fun to use. Gotta love those extensions.
    NCWeber_z@...
  • Firefox is too bloated

    Firefox is too bloated
    qmlscycrajg
  • Lots a tabs lots a megabytes

    The amount of memory Firefox takes up on my laptops has always correlated well with the number of sites (windows and tabs) I have on view. And there is the Adobe Flash penalty to consider. Many of the tabs I have open seem to be crammed with ads animated with Flash and a couple of pages are YouTube videos I intend to play back. 330 Meg for 8 windows. Now watch me fire up Eclipse and do some coding ;)
    cardiff space man
  • Firefox Memory

    It isn't the memory use I object to (84MB at the moment and number one on the list...and I run a P4 3+K MHz processor with 4 GB RAM XP Pro). It's the infrequent sudden crashes of Firefox for no apparent reason I wish didn't happen. (I do love those extensions:)
    mjburns@...
  • RE: Mozilla to make Firefox memory issues a priority

    For me, Thunderbird needs attention. Its latest release caused my email directory system to be altered, not quite a total disaster, but close. Very frustrating. I rely upon email folders. Having a botched folder system is not handy.
    aspergerian
  • Mail clients are huge memory hogs

    I have never viewed the problems as memory leaks as this isn't something that builds up over time. The memory problems pop up very quickly. I don't use Firefox much. I have tended to stick with Netscape. That being based on Gecko as well, I haven't noticed memory problems too often. I do see the browser hang periodically, which is annoying.

    Where I do see the memory problems is with the mail clients. I used the Netscape client and it tended to use a lot of memory. I switched to Thunderbird because Netscape stopped providing a mail client. I have noticed the same issues with Thunderbird in that it hogs my memory to the point that I can't do anything else until it stops what it is doing.
    brosegh@...
  • Meh

    Yes Firefox certainly seems to have memory leaks (or is this a 10.5 Activity Monitor bug?): http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/6154/wtfjz6.png but it works good enough for me and at this point I'd rather not seek out another alternative browser unless something really goes wrong with Firefox
    John Musbach
  • Memory not an Issue?

    I have a Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop with a dual core processor and a decent amount of memory, but I have to remember to close Firefox before I leave my computer or else when I get back the computer's almost frozen from the memory leak. Make no mistake - it's Firefox (this computer is used for gaming so it's not a bad computer, Firefox is leaking). Hopefully it'll be fixed in Firefox 3.
    PhoenixRising 925