Firefox 3 Beta 1: The Memory Use Says It All

I’ve been a long time Firefox fanboy. I was one of the 10,000 people who contributed, and had their name featured in the NY Times back in 2004. I’ve long preached to anyone who would listen that Firefox is a better alternative to Internet Explorer, particularly back in the days prior to IE 7.

Then my love affair with Firefox started to end. Firefox 1.5 (and the earlier versions, I started at 0.7) never skipped a beat, and unlike IE it had tabs, which were a god send to me as it was to many others. Mozilla launched Firefox 2.0, and suddenly my internet experience started to sour. I’m a heavy tab user, so it’s not unusual for me to have 15, 20 and even more tabs open, it’s how I read my feeds in the morning, opening up the stories that interest me for later reading. Firefox had what has been called by others “memory leaks,” which in laymen’s terms meant that it tripped out your memory on a PC, froze up and crashed…and far too regularly. I became a Mac user this year, and the first thing I did when I started up OS X for the first time was to download Firefox, hoping that perhaps it was a PC problem. It wasn’t. Same memory problems, same crashes. Mac fanboys told me that it was my fault for using plugins, so I deleted Firefox and started again without the plugins. Same problems, constant freezing (even with 4gb on a MacPro) and crashes. I switched to Safari for a time, and as much as it was a decent browser, it doesn’t play nice with all sites, in particular with the WYSIWIG backend on WordPress blogs. Then came Flock 1.0. I’d never been a Flock fan before, always believing it to be nothing more than Firefox with plugins (Flock is based on the Firefox engine). Having watched the demo at TechCrunch 40 I downloaded the beta of Flock 1.0 and surfed away without incident. Some how the folks at Flock had tweaked the underlying Firefox engine to stop the memory issues.

firefox.jpgI was hoping that Firefox 3.0 might finally fix the blight that was Firefox 2. Firefox 3 Beta 1 has been released for testing (download here) so I fired up Firefox 3 and Flock with the exact same tabs opened, hoping that perhaps Mozilla had finally heard the protests of its loyal user base. The stats (image right) say it all.

It didn’t crash in my testing, but having said that the test was fairly short. Firefox was never a browser to crash immediately, usually teasing the user with functionality for some time before deciding that enough was enough, then freezing or crashing all together some time later.

Others have more positive reviews of Firefox 3. I can only hope that by the time it gets to full release it’s as stable as Firefox 1.5 was.