Browsing on Linux

Swiftfox is broken on the latest Ubuntu (10.04), and the forums are ghost towns.  To run it you essentially have to run Firefox first every time.  So I figured I’d reassess my browser usage with a simple test: benchmarks.  I had gone to Swiftfox out of frustration with Firefox’s noticeable sluggishness.  Now that it was a pain to use and my favorite distro had rendered a once functional program annoying, it was time to look further afield.

This fellow had a few benchmarks to try, and I gave the only one still up a go.  Here are my results by browser (key: I ran the test three times, with the format “first render” | “refresh” | “close browser and render again”):

Chrome: 1.6070001125335693 | 1.3510000705718994 | 1.5179998874664307

Opera: 2.129999876022339 | 2.1589999198913574 | 2.301999807357788

Firefox: 7.715000152587891 | 5.833999872207642 | 5.708000183105469

Swiftfox: 4.740999937057495 | 4.521000146865845 | 5.492000102996826

An important note, during each render the entire Firefox interface would freeze until the page finished rendering.

As you can see, Firefox lags significantly behind the others.  Swiftfox makes up the difference, but not reliably.  (I was occasionally getting results of up to 8 seconds for both Firefox and Swiftfox).

The point is, Firefox and Swiftfox even at their best can’t hold a candle in speed to Chrome or Opera.  Further, the way they freeze the entire ui while rendering makes browsing multiple pages a chore if any one of them takes a while to load.  How useful does that leave tabbed browsing?

Using Chrome and Opera more regularly, I’m struck by how snappy the interface is, and how I can open new tabs without having to wait for the browser to finish thinking.


3 Responses

  1. The next version of Firefox is switching to the new process-per-tab model. That should help some. But unfortunately, Firefox is just going to find itself behind the curve. I even prefer to use Chrome for Mac even though it’s missing some major features (application shortcuts). It’s just more pleasant to use on a regular basis.

    • It will help some. So in theory only that tab will freeze utterly while it renders a difficult page. Only that tab will become bloated and need to be closed. But somehow I don’t trust their dev chops. The original reason for Firefox – a light fast alternative to Mozilla – has long been lost. I expect the browser itself will still have ui issues when any one tab has a problem, and there will still be stability issues that impact the browser as a whole. (Chrome has this to some small degree). On Linux each of the browsers have some issues, none of them are perfect. Chrome has some poor ui decisions baked in, as does Opera. But both are fast (Opera is on occasion quite unstable) to the point of making Firefox look almost unusable in comparison.

      • Yeah in general I agree. But I doubt it’s due even in large part to lack of dev chops by the Mozilla dev team. They are bogged down by a legacy codebase. They’ve probably replaced or improved major parts of it at this point. But I’m sure there’s still a bunch of code in there from early Netscape days. It’s a business decision to invest in the time and effort to rewrite.

        That decision should’ve been made a while ago though considering the success that Firefox has had. Opera has never really been a threat, and you can suck pretty bad and still be better than IE. But Safari and Chrome have put the pressure on them to get back to excellence. That can only be good for us.

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