Well, if you haven’t noticed, the browser world is ripe with a myriad of browser, all essentially using each others engine. With the trident engine now being bent to match the W3C standards [or so Microsoft Claims] Opera’s engine, Safari’s and Chromes, and finally Firefox’s geko engine are pretty much the last set of well-known engines, Web kit seems to be taking a high priority because of its shared use by several key browsers, including chrome itself. The fact of the matter is that the engine is becoming less and less the draw for people to a browser, and now people are starting to look at other features within the browser itself. And when it comes right down to it, the feature bloat in firefox has finally caught up to it. The real problem from the get go wasn’t the browser itself, but rather the plugins that were developed for it. theoretically a clean firefox install is faster than one with all the plugins, but when you compare this to even opera or google chrome on windows, safari on a mac, and the likes it becomes clear that firefox is quickly beginning to keep its winter coat and fattens up.
It’s not so much the memory usage that bothers me these days, so much as just how heavy the browser feels. With chrome or opera, which are by default using their own kind of personalized skin that differentiates it from the OS, but just how much less clunky they feel. With so much focus on web apps, chrome gets it right in my eye, with just the tabs and the address bar and nothing else in between. There are only 4 real buttons to speak of [back / forward / refresh and go / stop ] Than two drop down menus that handle everything else. This is probably more an issue of style, but with web apps quickly becoming more and more complex, it becomes clear that the way to tackle this is to try to minimize the amount of chrome [heh] that the browser surrounds the page in. Again this is probably just me being picky, but it seems I’m not the only one who has noticed this.
Recently the Firefox team appeared to launch an assault on Reddit.com to try to remind people about their browser and how they are sending it on a weekend crash diet course. One of the large things that they mentioned for Firefox 3.6 was that they intended to make flash a separate process from the browser as a whole, this way if the flash process crashes it won’t bring the entire browser down with it. They have also mentioned some work to get firefox looking more like the rest of the browser out there, by changing up the basic look and feel they even went so far as to ask around the reddit community to find out what the browser needed to change to start becoming more competitive with all the browsers on the market [like chrome and the likes]. While I’m sure that there are very legitimate reasons for looking around, I’m also willing to put money that Firefox has noticed the drop in the web usage statistics with google’s pet project chrome now claiming nearly 10% of the user base according to Wc3 statistics. And while folks may make fun of the w3c stats because they are all web developers and thus not truly representative of the overall population, I would like to go out on a limb to say that web developers pretty much set the standard for the type of browser that people are going to slowly adopt to. While the stubborn corporate world who tend to hold us all back by being the type to stick with browsers such as IE6 for so many years, that now in my standard start to any html page, there is a lt ie7 conditional so that I can just deal with that browser’s failures on its own time. Lucky for us however, the market is changing and IE6 is starting to go the way of the dinosaur. But I digress, the point is that because web developers are ultimately the ones making websites, they are the ones who decide which technology is going to become popular. This year it would appear that the item of choice is the HTML 5 spec [one day we will see CSS 3 and css actually taking care of the vertical aspects of the page… one day], and with sites like google who happen to own youtube essentially dominating the American internet market, they are in a position to start forcing standards which in turn even the trident development team will be forced to pick up on.
But back to why firefox has failed me again, I either managed to get a corrupt version recently, or the entire browser has decided it was vacation time because anything remotely related to flash has gone belly up within the last 48 hours. In addition to this, when attempting to visit everyone’s favorite website [adobe.com] to go pick up a new version of flash, I am kindly redirected right back to where I started, thus for now, I have put the furry web crawler back in its file folder, and taken out its leaner, more webkit friendly brother chrome to do the majority of my internet surfing. I imagine it’s a temporary problem, but its something that has plagued firefox for a while now. The browser simply isn’t seen as stable any more, and whether it be plugins that are causing it, or simply bad website code, the issue is that the browser at some point is allowing it to take it down.
So hopefully the firefox development team was being serious when they said they were working on a brand new version of the browser that doesn’t spend its time dumpster diving in memory in hopes of finding a delicious mouse or bug to snack on, but until that point I’m afraid it simply can’t be trusted to do basic task, and like a grandmother at a nursing home must be led by hand to take care of even the most basic bodily functions.
It’s been a fun ride firefox, and when I need to run the web-developer toolbar i’ll come a knocking, but until than, it can go play in the file folder with Python and Django, to be listed as “Well that’s cute, but I don’t really feel like making a website today” kind of material.