Firefox 55 Is Great Yet Its Marketshare Is In Freefall
Written by Ian Elliot   
Monday, 31 July 2017

Mozilla just sent out an email to its developer mailing list which basically says "you're a dev, you know stuff now tell your friends - Firefox is great!". And you know what? It is.


There are lots of reasons to dislike Firefox and Mozilla - they both make big mistakes and annoy their users far too often. I switched from Firefox to Chrome some time go simply because Firefox was getting things very wrong and Chrome looked fast, sleek and shiny. It seems that large numbers of browser users followed my example and are still following it. This is so pronounced that even former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal has written in his blog the the end is nigh for Firefox.



The battle is over and Chrome has won.

Gal suggests that the reason is a shift from desktop to mobile and the edge that this gives to Safari and to a lesser extent Chrome. On Apple there isn't much point in having Firefox as a front to Safari's rendering engine and on Android users generally stick with what they are given. So it really doesn't matter what Mozilla does - as the desktop dies so does Firefox.

This is grim stuff but there might be some hope after all. As long as, that is, that humans are rational entities. Since I switched to Chrome I have been increasingly unhappy with the way it behaves, particularly under Windows 10. Some of these problems might be due to Microsoft, but some are most certainly down to Google and the implementation of Chrome.

We all know that Chrome is a memory hog and it leaks resources. If you dare to use many tabs you will quickly discover that over time Chrome uses more and more memory until you reach a point where everything on the machine is running like cold treacle. The solution is to uses the Task Manger to list tasks by memory use and terminate the one that is at the top of the list. In my experience it always is an instance of Chrome. This works, but you shouldn't have to do it.

The surprising thing, as that most of us know, is that Chrome uses a better threading architecture than Firefox and it still doesn't do a good job.

Now the good news is that Firefox 55 is much, much better. So much so that it beats Chrome by a mile. Mozilla developer Dietrich Ayala posted that he was able to have 1,691 tabs open in 15 seconds using Firefox 55 whereas 54 took four minutes. Not only that but Firefox 55 only used 500Mbytes while 54 used 2Gbytes.

With Firefox 55 not that far from release this is clearly good news, but for more modest numbers of tabs even the current 54 has the edge over Chrome. Its new multi-process architecture already makes it fast and more memory efficient. I've been running both Chrome and Firefox side by side for a while now and Task Manager reveals that Firefox usage is down in the 100Mbytes per instance while Chrome tops out at 200Mbytes or more. It also takes much less CPU to keep a multi-tab Firefox page open.


You can lookup the benchmarks on the Mozilla site. I'm not reporting benchmarks, just that Firefox gets the job done noticeably better - so much so that I've moved back to Firefox. Will anyone follow me? After all, I'm a developer so I should know - well according to the Mozilla email I should.

So if you have been using Chrome for a while give Firefox 54 a try and if you are a heavy tab user you should notice the difference - but make sure that Multiprocess Windows is enabled because it gets turned off if any add-on doesn't support it. If Firefox 54 doesn't impress you then wait and try 55 because that surely can't leave you thinking that Chrome is best.

If you agree, then do what Mozilla asks and tell all the innocent users that you meet to change to Firefox - they will notice the difference.

Are we rational yet?


More Information

The 100% fresh, free-range, ethical browser

Firefox memory usage with multiple content processes

The New Firefox and Ridiculous Numbers of Tabs

Firefox marketshare revisited

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Last Updated ( Monday, 31 July 2017 )