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Firefox 3.0 a memory hog?

This morning I came across an article on Neosmart claiming that Firefox 3.0 is, despite the best attempts of the Mozilla dev team, still a massive memory hog.Well, is it?
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

This morning I came across an article on Neosmartclaiming that Firefox 3.0 is, despite the best attempts of the Mozilla dev team, still a massive memory hog.

We’re sorry to have to break it to you, but if you thought it was too good to be true you were right. Firefox still uses a lot of memory – way too much memory for a web browser.

We haven’t seen it reach 1GiB+ like we have with previous versions, but it’s quite normal for Firefox 3 to be sucking up ~300MiB of memory right off the bat, without a memory leak (the difference between memory leaks and normal memory abusage is that in a memory leak you’ll see the memory usage keep increasing the longer the browser is open/in-use).

OK, time for some testing. Here's what I did.

I took two identical VMware virtual PCs, both running Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit. The systems were given a meager 512Mb of RAM. I then took both browsers for a good two hour browsing session, visiting some of the Internet's best "hot sheets" websites and loading up 30 tabs for each browser (remember, IE7 and Firefox 3.0 are running in different virtual machines).

Note: I tried to keep the browsing as similar as possible for both browsers.

The results are pretty dramatic and fly in the face of Neosmart's findings. Here are a couple of screenshots after two hours of usage:

Internet Explorer 7

  • Memory usage: 319,260K
  • Total system: 436MB

 
IE7

Firefox 3.0 RC1

  • Memory usage: 159,168K
  • Total system: 376MB

 
Firefox 3.0

Seems pretty clear to me which browser is the winner - and it isn't Internet Explorer 7! Not only did IE7 consume more system resources, it made the system noticeably sluggish when running with 30 tabs loaded. Firefox 3.0 on the other hand felt fast and responsive throughout.

But this test does raise some interesting questions:

  • How much memory should a browser ideally consume?
  • Could the browsers be slimmed down? (Probably)
  • Does memory usage matter?

Thoughts?

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