Firefox 13 is going to be pretty grand. I’ve been using the beta for a while now and it’s faster than the few previous versions that we’ve seen. What makes Firefox 13 the speediest release of the browser to date? A host of improvements thanks to Project Snappy.
Lawrence Mandel, Firefox Engineering Program Manager, says that Firefox realized that the browser was getting slower around fall of 2011. To combat this problem, they started Project Snappy at the end of last year. This led to some speed improvements in Firefox 11, but the main contributions are coming in Firefox 13.
The first Project Snappy update was actually mentioned in our previous coverage of the Firefox 13 beta – the new tabs-on-demand feature. If you have Firefox save your tabs from the last browsing period, opening the browser again would cause Firefox to slow to a halt as it loaded up all the previous tabs. Tabs-on-demand effectively eliminates this problem by allowing the user to selectively load tabs from their last session. Mandel says that this effectively reduces “processing requirements, network usage, and memory consumption.”
The second part of Project Snappy is the cycle collector. As we all know, browsers can take up quite a bit of memory. As HTML5 and other Web applications become more sophisticated, be prepared for the browser to take up even more memory. Cycle collector combats this by freeing up memory that is no longer being used by applications after you quit out of them. While it’s been in use before Firefox 13, cycle collector is much more advanced in this release as it spends less time examining memory usage and more time freeing up said memory.
The final optimization from Project Snappy is start-up. If you have ever used Firefox, you know that it can be awful with its start-up times. Mozilla has found that the code has a number of “unoptimized routines” in it when it comes to start-up. In Firefox 13, they have fixed a variety of problems that were having an impac on start-up times for the browser. They will be continually monitoring the situation, however, to see if any further improvements can be made.
This is just the beginning for Project Snappy. Mozilla says that future releases of Firefox will see even more improvements. Those improvements will be targeting memory usage, shutdown time, network cache and connections, menus and graphics.
Whenever I mention that I still use Firefox, many Chrome users love to gloat how fast their browser of choice is. It was a valid point and one that I hoped Mozilla would soon address. Those prayers have been answered, so hopefully my friends and I can start arguing about other differences between the two browsers like Chrome’s inability to effectively use Tor.