Is Firefox dropping the ball, like Netscape in 97?

Lately Netscape got overtaken by IE in 1997 - will Firefox in 06... I've been noticing a number of people criticising the performance of the latest versions of Firefox, since 1.

Lately Netscape got overtaken by IE in 1997 - will Firefox in 06... I've been noticing a number of people criticising the performance of the latest versions of Firefox, since 1.5. Nik Cubrilovic, a developer at online storage company OmniDrive, is the latest to point out performance issues with Firefox 1.5 and above:

"I can’t remember ever being an Internet Explorer user, and for the first time I am really struggling with the alternative – Firefox in this case. Today with only a couple of hours of web surfing I have had it crash on me at least 4 times, the last time it just kept on eating up more and more free memory while the application wasn’t even running."

Nik goes on to say that the main problem is memory leaks in Firefox:

"The problem seems to be that Firefox will not free up the memory once you close the tab, and with some pages it just keeps eating and eating into the free memory while using up all the free CPU cycles." 

This is a crucial juncture for Firefox. Its Spread Firefox! campaign is going full throttle and Firefox has definitely picked up users and support over the last year. As mentioned on the Spread Firefox blog:

"We've got some serious accomplishments under our belts.

Over 10% market share worldwide for Firefox, achieved in just over a year.

A thriving community for Firefox marketing that parallels the growth of the Mozilla developer community. "

But with IE7 coming very soon, with many of the features that Firefox has (tabs, RSS integration, etc), now is not a good time for Firefox to lose developer support. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but remember when Netscape got overtaken by IE circa 1997? From an article I wrote a couple of years ago in Digital Web Magazine:

"By 1997 Microsoft had finally caught up with and indeed overtaken Netscape in browser technology. While Netscape was the first to release its 4.0 browser, in June 1997, Microsoft soon trumped it with the release of IE 4.0 in October that year. IE 4.0 was widely seen as being a superior product—for example, IE’s stylesheet support was better than Navigator’s."

Well the signs are beginning to show that Microsoft may do it again - nearly 10 years later - and trump the technical leader in the browser wars. The ball is in Firefox's court though and it's by no means too late to stop the rot. Firefox desparately needs to keep the upper hand in browser innovation and performance.

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