I spent too long on Friday screwing around with stuff on my work laptop in an effort to make Firefox's apparent performance not SUCK ASS. Ever since I upgraded to Ubuntu 9.04 I've been somewhat unhappy, mostly as a result of the well publicized issues with Intel Video on Ubuntu 9.04.

I read about possible hope with upgrading the driver which also required a kernel upgrade, so I did both and rebooted. And, as I hoped, video seemed a bit snappier.

But Firefox still SUCKED ASS.

At this point I was REALLY PISSED. Sure my new video was nice and all but making new tabs (or switching between them) was still slow, and the disaster known as the "awesome bar" (how to disable) still sucked.

So on a whim I went and installed Google Chrome. It totally rocks on my Samsung NC10 netbook (running WinXP), so I figured what not give it a try.

It turns out that Chrome on Linux is DRAMATICALLY FASTER THAN FIREFOX!.

It's been quite stable on Windows, so I'm hoping the same is true on Linux and I can just switch over to it. As of now, Firefox is my primary browser on only half my computers. Chrome seems to be slowly displacing it, just like Firefox replaced the bloated pig known as Mozilla years ago (and the long since stagnant IE on Windows).

It's funny. Browsers seem to be like Internet companies. Every few years a new, small, faster one comes along to kill off some (or all) of the previous generation. I guess this is just the latest in that constant evolution.

It'll be interesting to see how this new competition really affects Mozilla Firefox.

I spend most of my day in gnome-terminal (to screen, mutt, irssi, etc.), GNU Emacs, and a browser. When they're not fast and stable, my life sucks.

Posted by jzawodn at August 03, 2009 06:44 AM

Reader Comments
# jr said:

For what it's worth, I run Shiretoko under 9.04. It's as fast (if not occasionally faster) than firefox on Windows Vista. (Just did a test load of my blog page: 6.97s on Vista, 5.52s on Linux. It's hard to get total render time off of chrome, but my simple count shows chrome clocking in at around 5 seconds as well.)

Shiretoko is the "firefox-3.5" build (not the default Firefox) for apt-get. You'll also need to add a few links to get apps looking for "firefox" to point to "firefox-3.5" as the executable.

I do run an NVidia card on my linux box, but it's still damn zippy.

on August 3, 2009 08:12 AM
# Dave Dash said:

(disclaimer, I work for the Mozilla Corporation)

It seems pretty obvious that performance, especially of the myriad of components+extensions in Firefox is less than desirable.

To carry your analogy forward, I guess the existence of Firefox caused Microsoft to continue developing IE and release IE7 and IE8 and pay attention to things like standards, and match us on features (tabs, for one).

I think ultimately this competition is good. In some ways, having only IE as a competitor is easy. But I think the advances that Google Chrome and even Safari will bring to the table are huge to the browser space. They are very fast apps - and that's going to force Mozilla to focus on performance.

on August 3, 2009 08:30 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I agree completely. Frustrating as it may be, in the end things are going to improve A LOT.

on August 3, 2009 08:33 AM
# Phaoloo said:

Chrome is quite faster than Firefox, but many users esp developers won't move to it because of the lack of add-ons. I still keep IE on my computer to test my site and in some cases, IE is handier than other browsers.

on August 3, 2009 08:34 AM
# DenisB said:

I guess the Awesome Bar is an aquired taste? I really love it, I turned the history log way up and delete stuff from the history I don't want there. Thus it works awesomely as a quick way of going to pages I use frequently (but don't have open in a tab).

As for Chrome on Linux.. Well, it's rough still, developer build is usable but not much more. And if one has a pretty modern PC (netbooks probably excluded) Firefox performance is more than adequate for my uses (on Jaunty with nVidia proprietary drivers). I don't buy the "DRAMATICALLY FASTER THAN FIREFOX!" hyperbole. It isn't true for day to day usage for me at least.

on August 3, 2009 08:40 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


The problem is that the awesome bar is slow to render. Functionality wise it's good, but it's one of the things slowing me down it turns out.

You'd be surprised by the difference in performance on my box between Chrome and Firefox 3.0.xx in basic tasks like scrolling fast (PageUp, PageDown), tab switching, and so on. It really adds up.

on August 3, 2009 08:44 AM
# RYan said:

Firefox is only bloated if you have a lot of extensions. Chrome is fast but without adblock-plus extension, I have to see all the blinking banners selling me one night stands in LA too.

on August 3, 2009 08:53 AM
# Chris said:

I quite agree. I've noticed, with FF 3.5 on Windows, that Firefox tends to use up an entire of my cores for no apparent reason and freeze for a while.

I haven't tested it on Linux yet as I'm a Fedora guy and haven't upgraded to Fedora 11 yet.

This is **incredibly** annoying, and I would seriously switch in a minute to either Opera or Chrome if either had support for my critical extensions or some equivalents (Flashblck, Adblock Plus, and Firebug, mainly).

I do need to try disabling some extensions, to be fair, but overall I'm not very happy with 3.5. Mozilla had better work on performance. I'm sure the Chrome devs are working on extension support - and if Firefox isn't performing better by then, I will switch and never look back.

on August 3, 2009 09:04 AM
# Chris said:

Well, some Googling reveals that Chrome is beginning to get extension/addon support. I will be investigating this later today!

(I really should double-check these things *before* posting, but I assumed I would have heard about such a development. Ah, well.)

on August 3, 2009 09:09 AM
# Craig Hughes said:

I switched for a while to using Safari as my primary browser due to Firefox slowness -- mainly slowness when you try and launch it was my issue. But I've since upgraded to a new intel x25-m g2 drive in my laptop and now firefox (and everything else) launches pretty much instantly.

Yes, I had lots of addons in firefox. Safari's web dev helper stuff is nice, but FireBug is way, way better. Can't live without Firebug. There's adblock things for Safari, but they're kind of hacky compared to Firefox's addon management. I have about a dozen other addons which won't run in safari.

So I've switched back to Firefox. I'll tell you what Chrome/Safari. If you can let me run Firefox addons, I'll ditch FF for good. Just a compatibility layer to allow 90% of FF addons, how hard can that be when you're Google?

on August 3, 2009 09:47 AM
# jer@nyquil.org said:

Firefox has been progressively getting suckier and suckier for me on Ubuntu as well. I know from past experience that if I delete my profile it will become super-snappy for a while, but I don't really like that solution.

I've been using dev snapshots of Chrome on linux for about a month now, and it's been kind of hit-and-miss.

For about a week, I was getting new daily builds of Chrome come through my updater, and some days were really good. Some days were really crashy. I haven't seen an update come through in at least a week, so maybe they're purposefully not putting them out until things work better.

In any case, the last version I got is really, really fast -- 'drammatically faster' is not just hyperbole.

It does indeed have add-on support, but that support is really buggy. If I start up Chrome with --enable-plugins, I can generally watch a youtube video or two before flash starts crashing. It has support for AdSweep (the adlock extension for Chrome), but I've yet to have that not crash on me. Alternatively, AdSweep has a 'userscript' version (like greasemonkey) that can be used, but I've not had any luck with that either.

So I run it without enabling plugins, and if the need arises to view some flash, I just fire up another window with plugin support. Kind of a pain, but nowhere NEAR the pain of trying to do anything with my horrible sluggish firefox.

I've been a firefox user since it was called phoenix, and was actually just likening Chrome to that experience the other day, so it's kind of funny that you make the same comparison. With Chrome I was seeing daily progress and far superior performance in much the same way as I did when phoenix was just a bastard stepchild of that behemoth Mozilla.

Hopefully more snapshots start coming through soon.

on August 3, 2009 10:09 AM
# Wilfried Schobeiri said:

Firefox is hardly the new IE. Sure it's slow and has memleaks galore, but it still renders properly. Which is why it will never be the new IE.

That's not to say that I don't understand your point. I miss the days when you could buy a cheaper computer with the reasoning that you only ever needed it for browsing and email. My browsers are consistently the #2 memory and cpu hog on my work computers, beat out only by gcc.

on August 3, 2009 11:45 AM
# rick said:

"You'd be surprised by the difference in performance on my box between Chrome and Firefox 3.0.xx..."

No, I wouldn't.

So you're saying that the dev build of Chrome is fast and the previous version of FF isn't. This isn't news. Try the current version. And turn all of your extensions off. No, you can't compare a Chrome with no extensions to a FF that might of tons.

on August 3, 2009 12:53 PM
# Simon said:

Slow or not, Firefox is an awful browser, just awful. The only good browser out there at the moment is Opera - it's a wonderful piece of software.

on August 3, 2009 05:02 PM
# Keith said:


Regarding the awesome bar -- it's definitely a performance sucker, but there are ways to improve it. Have you tried reducing the default history to something like 7 days instead of 30 days? You can also tweak the awesome bar so it ONLY queries from history or bookmarks (rather than both).

I've found that with an extremely large bookmark library and lengthy history, awesome bar does render very slowly (and it even impacts other areas, like when it pauses to reread or update the sqlite databases). When I shrunk the data pool for the awesome bar, it helped significantly.

There is still a small delay (half a second or so) when typing the first couple of characters, but then it's pretty fast.


on August 3, 2009 10:23 PM
# Alden said:

I pretty much agree. Ever since I upgraded to Firefox 3.5, it's been slow. Even shutting it down is slow. Once the window disappears, it seems to sit there writing data to the disk for 30 seconds before the process shuts down. It was even worse when I had Google toolbar on, so I had to take that off and make do with the inbuilt search box. I don't know what changed between versions, but I'm not seeing the much hyped speed increase from 3.0.

Chrome, by contrast, is much faster. I would switch to it in a snap, but for the lack of extensions (I find working without Tab Mix Plus downright painful, for instance).

on August 3, 2009 11:20 PM
# jer@nyquil.org said:

As an update, I accidentally ran a recent update of chromium-browser instead of google-chrome, and found that it's really, really nice. Plugins work a lot better, it's got the Chrome-on-Windows-style in-build window controls at the top, and is generally way more stable. I've had it open for 24 hours straight, and flash still works. Flash has gotten chunky in that time, but it hasn't died altogether! :)

on August 4, 2009 01:57 PM
# DenisB said:


I stand by my claim (I use Google Chrome as an SSB for an internal app, and try to check it's development from time to time) that for me Firefox vs. Chrome on my PC is not dramatically different in overall speed. Especially not rendering. My PC is an AMD something rather, around 2GHz, nVidia Geforce something rather 256MB vidram.

on August 4, 2009 02:10 PM
# DenisB said:

I have done the exact opposite of what you suggest, I have turned history way up, and enabled searching in both history and bookmarks. It's extremely snappy for me.

I'm wondering why you guys see so horrible rendering speeds with the Awesomebar and I dont. Did you ever do sqlite vacuuming? Do you have the kernelpatch which fixes filesystem performance?

on August 4, 2009 02:13 PM
# Keith said:

@DenisB: I'm running Windows XP, not Linux, so no kernel patches for me. Probably should have said that from the start -- apples and oranges, and all that. I just assumed that this feature would have some performance hit regardless of platform, but perhaps that's not the case.

I've never done any vacuuming manually; again, I've assumed that the browser does this automatically, and that's usually what freezes it up for a minute at a time here and there. (It's worst when the browser has been running for a day or more.) But if you do it yourself, that could possibly explain why you aren't seeing the same issues. I'll consider trying that.

on August 4, 2009 02:53 PM
# Dan V said:

I'm not going to argue one way or another about speed, but I will say this: My 9.04 FF install was becoming slow too, in fact, some pages would down right lock up over the past week - pages I'd been visiting just fine.

After some troubleshooting, I found that it was my haphazard clicking "yes" to firebug upgrades. The new firebug is insanely, stupidly slow when it's upgraded from 1.3 for some reason. I checked out the firebug forums and the author's only solution was to start with a new profile! Hah! So not much of an upgrade was it?

Anyway, after a new profile and some frustration with FB no longer supporting sane preferences, I was able to get it back to pretty good speed. Fortunately, I use Xmarks to keep my bookmarks so I didn't lose anything.

on August 4, 2009 04:38 PM
# Corvida Raven said:

Welcome to the club Jeremy! I had the same issue which caused me to switch to Chrome almost completely after my initial trial with the browser. Firefox is definitely becoming the new IE.

From the mockups of the next couple of versions, they're going to try to go the Google Chrome route with their design, but don't they understand we don't need a new design? We need better performance!

on August 5, 2009 08:30 AM
# Ryan said:

Don't give up on firefox so fast. Not till Chrome develops all the awesome extensions which firefox provides.

on August 5, 2009 09:46 AM
# anant shrivastava said:

well i might have agreed with you all in case chrome would have supported such a large array of plugin's and still managed to beat FF.

I don't think that will happen so soon.

so still sticking on to the good FF as my large amount of time have been saved by those extension's time and again

on August 6, 2009 08:43 AM
# John said:

Awesome Blog... Thanks for your Information.

on August 7, 2009 05:04 AM
# Lloyd Watkin said:

Firefox is the defacto browser for developing however with all its useful addons. Sure once chrome gets these it would be worth looking at. For speed I find you can't really beat the latest safari and opera browsers.

on August 7, 2009 05:50 AM
# Poker rakeback said:

Chrome is a nice browser. To be honest i like pretty much all things google. The reason that i still use firefox is the plugins. They're invaluable.

on August 8, 2009 01:53 PM
# Nick said:

You know about the SQLLite no-sync mode and how it affects Linux? See http://nicklothian.com/blog/2009/05/05/fixing-firefox-performance-and-lock-ups-on-linux/ for details, but the point is that if you create a new config key “toolkit.storage.synchronous” and set it to the integer 0 to stop Firefox lock-ups on Linux.

I still find Chrome faster, but that stops Firefox being annoying to use.

on August 9, 2009 04:02 PM
# Andrew S said:

I upgraded today to firefox 3.5 on my linux desktop (debian/stable on an old dual core xeon box); it's noticably less slow (browser launch with loading ~30 tabs took about half the time) and fixed an annoying crashing bug that i frequently encountered with 3.0.

Still, i've been rather disappointed with the progress of Firefox over the past few years. (four clicks to accept a self-signed or expired SSL cert?)

on August 13, 2009 12:45 AM
# Rob said:

I agree with everything you say but i guarantee i have a slower browser/computer than you. Its a die nah sore.

on September 9, 2009 11:33 PM
# dining room furniture said:

I agree. Firefox is getting slower and slower in my computer and I don't know why that is why I often use Chrome. But still, I found Firefox more reliable because of all the tools I installed in their.

on September 18, 2009 10:32 PM
# Lisa Beck said:

Thank you Sirs, very good blog very interesting wish you the best thanks for all information.Wish you get back to me! Thanks

on September 27, 2009 05:21 PM
# Lisa Beck said:

Thank you Sirs, very good blog very interesting wish you the best thanks for all information.Wish you get back to me! Thanks http://www.goldcard-shop.com

on September 27, 2009 05:23 PM
# golf clubs for sale said:

Great, firefox was starting to get a little annoying and slow not to mention started showing me pages all wrong, like they were stripped of html or something, it was weird. i'm gonna download this asap. hope it's good, I also like opera tho, and i really dont' like IE at all.

on October 14, 2009 07:49 PM
# MagicJack said:

I am going to have to check Chrome out because I love firefox and did not think anything could beat it.

on November 5, 2009 09:43 AM
# ZXT said:

After using Chrome for a couple of months I went back to Firefox as my main browser. Chrome is fast alright but it lacks even the basic features and add ons.

on November 18, 2009 12:52 PM
# said:

why we should use the Chrome instead of Firefox

on December 14, 2009 09:36 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.