Today, I ran an upgrade of my laptop, which runs Ubuntu. A nice little feature that came with this particular upgrade is a working installation of Firefox 3. About 2 months ago, I upgraded to Firefox 3, but it was in an unusable state, so back to Firefox 2.0 I went. With this working version though, I have to say that a downgrade back to Firefox 2 won’t happen again. There were algorithmic improvements to the code base in Firefox 3 that makes it faster and more efficient. As a person who often makes do with 1 Gb of RAM (imho, Linux needs no more than this for any normal needs…) the efficiency that I’ve seen from this code base is heads above the memory consuming monster that was Firefox 2. For those of who have 4gb of ram, you may not feel the pain when a program slowly leaks memory until a `killall -9` is in order, but it is a giant pain, and a manisfestation of careless coding. I’ve seen this version of Firefox run much more cleanly, and with less memory leakage than Firefox 2 could have ever hoped to have. Clean, beautiful algorithms manifest themselves in more ways than just memory consumption. Startup times are noticeably shorter than they used to be. CPU time used is also lower. I frequent sites that have flash video that I watch as a background distraction when I’m studying or coding. I’m not exactly privy to the inner workings of online flash video programming, but I’ve always blanched at how much CPU-munching occurs when I’m watching The Office on nbc.com. Although there’s still a CPU-smorgasborg going on, the proprietary Adobe flash module I use gobbles about 30% (rough estimate) less CPU than it used to, so I’m happy about that.
Sure, Firefox is algorithmically beautiful. The sad truth though is that 99% of people don’t appreciate this. What is appreciated is what you see on the screen. And in this regard, Firefox 3 does not disappoint either. The best improvement made was the adoption of native program controls in both Firefox’s controls, and in actual websites. What does this mean? Take a look for yourself.
As you can see, the HTML-dictated button to search google looks the same as the controls present in my default systiem calculator. When I first heard of this improvement, my thoughts were, frankly, “Eh, so what? That won’t make a big difference.”, and I’m happy to say that I was wrong. The system-wide interface is now present in the browser, and it feels so much more like you are using a program than just bouncing around a webpage. Everything feels so much more seemless, and its a great experience in graphical usability.
Its not all sunshine and chocolate though, there are a few small bugs to work out (i.e. text sizes sometimes being misjudged) but once the release is made, I’m sure that the most popular open source browser will only be more popular. Open Source Software for the win! 😀 😉