Apr 20, 2010

No More, Namoroka: Firefox 3.6 Sucks

The Mozilla development team released Firefox 3.6, codenamed Namoroka, on 21 January 2010 after some anticipation; Firefox 3.5 was a step forward in features but two steps backward in performance. As a minor update, Namoroka was a chance to optimize the last release.

So, now that it's out, did it alleviate some of these problems? Well, let's find out by looking at what 3.6 offers over 3.5.

First and most visible is support for skins, called personas. Firefox developers have been tinkering with the XUL format and they cite its power. They also claim that it has been under-utilized, so personas were a "natural addition."

TraceMonkey received a performance boost, caching more bytecode in RAM using the new "Stored History Integration Table" system which dynamically stores each JavaScript routine as an object in memory in order to more quickly access it during execution.

Firefox's plugin system also received an overhaul, and now lets the user know when a plugin is incompatible. Mozilla also included support for full-screen Theora and WOFF, the Web Open Font File format, as well as additional but otherwise unspecified performance and security enhancements.

Overall, it's a nice list of bullet points for the bump from 3.5 to Nakamora, but the fact that performance wasn't a priority already points away from optimization and to new features. And the features are actually not new at all, but fixes for issues that should have been taken care of during the initial design stages or other numerous upgrades.

For instance, Firefox has been skinnable for years using XUL, and personas are just a hack to this system that allows the user to use bitmapped images as toolbar backgrounds. You are not mistaken if you just had a flashback to Internet Explorer 3.

These personas also slow the browser down, negating any advantage from the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine. One writer on the web even suggests that the TraceMonkey enhancements were done in anticipation of new-feature bloat. Talk about the tail wagging the fox!

Plugin incompatibility usually occurs when a plugin was written for an older version of the plugin system, which demands a question about the wisdom of upgrading the plugin system for Nakamoru the first place. But that's just how Firefox developers roll.

Now, if you're running an incompatible plugin, Firefox alerts you at startup and launches the plugin manager, a JavaScript-based app that contacts Firefox's plugin server and swaps all kinds of metadata in a frantic attempt to update your third party add-ons.

Several of the changes are plainly just developmental masturbation. For example, Theora is the least-used web video codec, with ⅛ the penetration that the newer QuickTime X has. And WOFF is an open standard that Mozilla wants to support for political reasons that isn't actually in use anywhere.

So what exactly are Mozilla development managers doing?

If a private company with an opaque development model like Apple can apply the breaks and optimize an entire operating system, à la Leopard to Snow Leopard, why can't a public, transparent development team be bothered to do the same for something much less complex like a web browser?

And we're expected to report bugs and donate to them? No thanks. First, they need to quit dicking around in nature reserves and get back to doing their jobs. Or maybe there are too many developers? In any case, Firefox continues its slow descent into bloated, steaming software development Hell.

Until Mozilla can optimize Firefox, say no thanks to Nagasaki and any other cutely-codenamed pieces of trash.


  1. Ozgur Kazancci4/28/10, 5:50 AM

    Wow, I totally agree with every word!
    Yes, I say "No thanks" too.
    No, I won't give a half giga of my physical memory only to browse the internet.
    Firefox is totally a joke. But a terrible joke.

  2. FireFox 3.6, 3.6.2 & 3.6.3 are total garbage. The browser is barely usable for doing general web-surfing. It crashes often but the worst part is the way it continually hangs up and stalls out completely.

    For the first time in many many years, I had to start using a new browser, Opera. I can say I am not a major fan of the way Opera responds BUT it DOES respond, so therefore I use it.

    A quick search of the web shows a huge amount of people complaining but we hear nothing from the Mozilla crew. It's as if they don't care.

    Well, guess what Mozilla, it looks like your quickly digging your own grave.

    Thanks for the memories. Sad beyond words.

  3. http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/77216

    This will help get rid of the trolls causing trouble at Kuro5hin.

  4. I see others have come to the same conclusion, Bye Bye Firefox, hello IE-8

  5. Devil's Advocate:

    I use FF 3.6.6 on MacOSX 10.6.2 and works just ok.

    ¿ Faster than Camino, Safari 4/5 & Opera ? ( I use all of them) I don't know, but I can't really find a noticeable difference. The coding of the websites or the use of Flash seem to be more relevant to my overall "speed appreciation" than the browser in use.

  6. I look a great comparison into wikipedia and OPERA is better nowadays. Konqueror could be in second place.Mozilla Firefox and Goolge Chrome are similar in functionalities.
    But nobody need to come back to the most suck EXPLORER: everything microsoft´s release is so useless, thats why Explorer left behind in Windows 95 or 90´s but TODAY we need to use SECURE, MULTIFUNCTIONAL and COMPATIBLE net browsers

  7. Form over function....