Firefox 11 review: Firefox has jumped the shark

Firefox 11 review: Firefox has jumped the shark

Summary: Not very fast, really unstable, and falling in popularity, does Firefox have a future?

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Firefox 11: It is not just that good.

Firefox 11: It's not just that good.

Ever wonder where the phrase “jump the shark” came from? It's dates back to the once wildly popular TV show Happy Days. It's widely accepted that the show lost its way, and its audience, in an episode where the lovable hero “Fonzie” jumps a shark on water skis in a pathetic attempt to keep the audience's attention. I wonder how if Firefox jumped the shark when its parent company Mozilla decided to put Firefox on a hyper-accelerated release schedule last summer. Today, five releases later, Firefox keeps falling farther behind Google's Chrome in popularity, it's not very stable, and it can't keep up with Chrome in speed.

I'm not happy about this. I've used Firefox before it even hit the 1.0 mark. In its early days, Firefox was the best Web browser around. It was the most popular open-source program on Windows for years. Indeed, even if you loved Internet Explorer (IE) and wouldn't touch Firefox with a ten-foot pole you owe Firefox a debt of gratitude. It was Firefox, which forced Microsoft to finally kill up the horrible IE 6. Today, it's a different story.

Chrome is the Web browser people look to for innovation. IE, while declining in popularity, has become a respectable Windows-only Web browser. Firefox? It's become an “also-run” operating system.

Take, for example, it's latest release Firefox 11, It's been out since March 13th. I didn't review it immediately because I wanted to give it a long hard look. I wanted to make sure that this somewhat slow and quite unstable release really was as bad as I thought it was. It was.

True, it does have two small new, nice features. First, you can now migrate your Chrome bookmarks, history, and cookies to Firefox. Second, if you enable Firefox Sync you can now synchronize add-on across your Firefox-equipped PCs as well as bookmarks, history, preferences, and passwords. So much for the good news.

I've been running Firefox for several weeks now on Linux, Mac OS X Lion, Windows XP SP3, and Windows 7 systems. It's only locked up once on my Mint Linux 12. On my 64-bit Lion and 32 and 64-bit Windows systems it's crashes on an almost daily basis.

Some of these problems, like crashing when using a locked profile are known to Mozilla. Others, such as a variety of odd-ball problems with Adobe Flash-enabled sites, seem to be all over the place. Some times on some systems Firefox works, sometimes it locks up, and I'll be darned if I can find a pattern. Yes, I know, I know, many people want Flash to just disappear and be replaced by some kind of HTML 5 magic video. Here's the truth of the matter, like it or not, we're going to be stuck with sites using Flash for at least the next three years, and browsers need to be able to deal with that simple fact.

On the more minor, but still darn annoying front, I, and others, have found that Firefox and Gmail don't get along well. I also discovered that Firefox 11 doesn't get along at all well with my Lenovo ThinkPad Synaptics touchpads. Since I use ThinkPads as my laptops of choice all the time, this one is really annoying. Since Synaptics touchpads are often in found on laptops, I'd be willing to bet money this is not just a ThinkPad problem.

On my dual GPU Macs, I've found that WebGL graphics are slower than they should be. At first I thought maybe it was just me, but it's a real problem. This one is due to be fixed in the next release of Firefox.

All that's annoying enough, but then there's the performance issues. As usual, tor performance testing, I ran Firefox against the latest release of Chrome, 18, and Internet Explorer, 9.08, on a Gateway DX4710 Windows 7 SP1 test box. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It’s hooked to the Internet via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 100Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.

On the HTML5 Test, which checks to see how compliant the Web browser is with the HTML5 Web page standard, Chrome won with 377 points out of a maximum 475. Firefox took second with 335. and IE was way, way back in the back with 141.

For my first performance test,  Firefox went up against the other contenders on Mozilla’s own Kraken 1.1 benchmark. In Kraken, which like most Web browser benchmarks measures JavaScript performance, lower scores are better. Here, you'd think Firefox would rise to the top. I mean it their own benchmark! You'd think wrong.

Chrome won easily with a score of 3,718.5ms. Firefox not only came in second with 4,552.7, that's actually worse than Firefox 10, which had a score of 4,342.6ms. IE 9 was left back on the starting line with 16,576.4.

With Google's new JavaScript V8 Benchmark Suite Version 7, where higher scores are better, Chrome, roared by the others with a score of 6,981. Firefox came in second again with a score of 5,728. IE was left eating Chrome and Firefox's dust with a mark of 2,112.

On the the grand-daddy of JavaScript tests, SunSpider 0.9.1, where lower results are better, IE finally won one with a score of 252.7ms. Firefox took second with 283.7ms, and Chrome brought up the rear of the pack with 297.8ms.

Finally, On the Peacekeeper Web browser test suite, which looks at JavaScript performance and also glances at HTML5 compatibility, video codec support and other Web browser features, Chrome won once more. On this benchmark, where higher is better and Chrome took first again with a score of 2,309. IE and Firefox were in a dead heat with IE nosing ahead into second place with 1,626 and Firefox hot on its tail with 1,634.

Notice something? I did. Firefox didn't win a single performance or standardization benchmark. It's been nice Firefox, but enough is enough. Looking ahead I see the big browsers as being Chrome and IE. Firefox? It's dropping back in with Opera, Safari, and other interesting, but not especially popular Web browsers. I hope, I really do, that Firefox can mount a comeback. But, at the rate of things are going, I can see Firefox being canceled from the line-up of must use Web browsers.

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Topics: Browser, Google, Microsoft

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125 comments
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  • Firefox 11 review: Firefox has jumped the shark

    I'm just going to go ahead and give you the cold hard fact that this problem is strictly with you and your systems. I've been running Firefox 11 since its release and have not had the problems you have encountered. Firefox has been stable and I can't remember any crashes on it. Its plenty fast, and don't tell me that you are so superior that you can tell a few milliseconds difference between page renderings because you can't. You are saying its slow because of some benchmark that you won't notice anyway.

    [i]Chrome is the Web browser people look to for innovation.[/i]
    No, it's not. I don't see any innovation in Chrome, its a copy of other browsers with no improvements on it. Unless you count spying on your users as innovation considering anything you type into the browser you hand over all rights to Google to keep as their own.

    The issue is strictly just the way you have your Microsoft Windows machines set up and whatever add-ons you are using for Firefox. Maybe a clean install of Firefox will give you better results but I just can't buy into the fact that its so unstable for you.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Firefox does have some problems

      Since version 8 or 9, I have the occasional freeze where I cannot do anything in Firefox and it max my Quad core CPU to 100%. It sometimes last up to 5 minutes and Firefox gives me back control after, like if it was fighting an infinite loop in javascript.

      I Also get some similar freezes when trying to close ads popup browsers and the Close and Minimize buttons in the top right corner starts flashing very fast but don't seem to get the window closed, lasts a couple of minutes then the window closes.

      Besides that, no problems, I've got Flash plug-in installed and an add-on to customize the menu (Menu Editor, I want to have the "Open in new tab" on the second place in the right-click menu has it always been until they changed it recently).
      lepoete73
      • Same happens to me...

        ironically, FF 11 works fine on Windows XP, but doesn't seem to like Windows Server 2003 which is the one on my desktop machine.

        On our company we get a enterprise certified laptop with XP and some of us got a Windows Server 2003 desktop. Nowadays, the laptops they hand over are still XP SP3 but the desktops are Windows 7 with VMWare images of Windows Server 2003... and again... most have had problems on the virtual machines, but not on the Windows 7 Professional host.

        Regardless, most have switched to Chrome, since it works smoothly on any of the three environments, although on my XP laptop it sometimes hangs during launching, but only on my home network, it never hangs on the enterprise network.
        cosuna
      • Same problem: 100% busy CPU, whitened UI, and crashes

        Mozilla does horrible work in terms of stability.

        What even worse, crash always kills current session, so when you try to run FF again, it starts with "Session:restore" dialogue, which only allows you run session saves like half day ago or even earlier -- [b]discarding whatever you did in the browser in latest hours.[/b]
        DDERSSS
      • Flash player crashes?

        Do you pay attention to the message window pop-up by Firefox, telling "Adobe flash player crashed"? I have the similar problems on my Win7-64bit machines for some time since Adobe started to update their flash player more frequently. I guess the adobe developers do not use 64-bit machines, therefore the flash player has became super unstable for me for the last 12 months. This is a unlikely Firefox problem.
        rice2999
    • Total clean installs

      every time and foul-ups every time.
      sjvn
      • Get a grip, dude

        Jeez...
        ScorpioBlack
      • Steven - your readers aren't as dumb as you think

        Nice try but your readers aren't as dumb as you think. Try doing something competently and you might be successful. Making claims that your clean installs always foul up just don't fly. Too many success stories out there you just can't bury, no matter how much you try.
        theoldman59
      • Hmmmm

        I suspect the real problem with FF, no matter how many of your problems are self-inflicted or not is that FF is not Chrome. On Windows there is still no reason to use another browser - IE works fine.
        tonymcs@...
    • He meant innovation as in...

      WebM, WebGL, JIT JavaScipt, "Chromeless" (or minimal) UI.... all those things that were later implemented by Firefox and IE and then were called by both as "innovative"
      cosuna
      • ehm.. who innovated?

        WebGL wasn't created by google, it was created by a large group of companies. the whole thing started with the experiments of Vladimir Vuki??evi??, someone at Mozilla
        aardmaat
    • some 2011 market share loss =/= FF is Dead

      yup. I think the author is a bit behind the times. 2011 was all about how cool chrome was and how nobody needed firefox anymore.

      Now firefox is looking actually quite competive with some major enhancements to the UI and JS engines coming out in the next few months. Chrome is fast, but everyone else is too. What else does it have? Its a platform for a corperate agenda. I like Google quite a lot but Mozilla is a non-profit driven for the greater good of the internet. Which do you trust more?

      Firefox has already stopped its massive hemmorageing of users. Give it some time and it will be gaining share again. "FF is dead zomg!" is so last year.
      happymissle
  • Without No Script, Ad Block, and Flash Block ...

    ... all of the others are non-starters. They don't even merit a place on my hard drive, much less being used for anything meaningful out there in the wild-west-web full of scams, hacks, and drive-by exploits.

    Sure, chrome may be infinitesimally faster and internet explorer may be imperceptibly slower, but none of that matters in the least when compared with the risk associated with using them.

    Regards,
    Jon
    JonathonDoe
    • Opera welcomes you

      All of the above are available for Opera, along with plenty of other functionality.

      Joey
      voyager529
      • Those plug-ins are a Godsend

        Otherwise you'd be inundated with Flash ads and other assorted junkware full of garbage trying to sell you something.

        I've also read somewhere that the developer for Adblock will come out with a version that will take care of HTML5 ads when they start popping up and polluting my screen. Looking forward to that.
        ScorpioBlack
      • Earth to Opera

        We still don't care.

        Yours

        Earth
        AdamWill
    • Without ad block,etc.

      Exactly. On my 7 machines, Mac, xp, 7 and ubuntu never have a problem. These mentioned adons are what makes browsing possible for me.

      Great post.
      gertruded
  • Firefox

    Never crashes on my Win 7 machine and delivers pages as quickly (to my eye) as chrome. Rendering pages seems cleaner and looks better than chrome and Adblock Plus on FF is the absolute best.

    I might switch to chrome even so for the plugins for google services. Holding me back are the following:

    1) I can't figure out how to get chrome to use the plugin I specify (in this case PDF-Xchange) to open pdf's in-line in the browser instead of the crappy PDF built in reader.
    2) I can't figure out to make chrome open MS office files directly in office instead of using the uber crappy google docs, when I click on view an excel file should open in excel.
    3) I can't add exceptions for ssl certs on self signed machines. My home linux server is not going to have a cert from Verisign, I don't need/want to be warned.
    4) LastPass does not work nearly as well on chrome or ie as it does on ff. For example LastPass simply cannot auto log me in to my ZDNet account when I am running chrome.
    txscott
    • 99% of FF Crashes

      Are caused by that POS plug-in called flash, the sooner that thing dies and goes to the same place as Silverlight the better place the internet will be for it.
      Alan Smithie
      • Actually .... 99% of crashes for ANY browser

        are caused by Flash. The issue is not only a FF problem. Not to defend IE or Opera and even Chrome but most of the crashes are also the result of the crappy Adobe product.

        The fact is very well known and documented.
        wackoae