Firefox 7 Reduces Memory Footprint

Mozilla has released a new version of their Firefox browser that attempts to reduce the amount of memory it uses.Firefox has garnered a lot of acclaim for being open source and the ability to radically customize it, but in the past it’s been a major memory hog, a problem that Google’s Chrome browser has only magnified.

Firefox screenshot

Coming six weeks after the release of Firefox 6, the new version is part of Mozilla’s new rapid release cycle. You can either download it from their Web site or update it automatically in Firefox if it’s already installed.

There are almost no changes in the interface from the last version, with almost all of the improvements under the hood.

The browser already feels snappier, even after upgrading and with quite a few extenstions. Of course, this might be due to the placebo effect. My copy of Firefox takes up about a gig of total RAM, and about half of that is actually resident. Launching Chrome launches a bunch of processes, each with about 300 megs of RAM, which adds up. Mozilla claims in a blog post that they’ve reduce memory usage up to 50 percent by launching a project called MemShrink. Of course, a lot of it depends on the way you use it, though there have been reports of users having hundreds of tabs open and still being able to browse smoothly.

If you’re using Windows, the new version uses hardware rendering on the Canvas with Direct2D. This means faster and smoother graphics performance.

There’s also a new option for users to send performance data back to Mozilla. If you’re concerned about your privacy following recent dust-ups with Facebook and others, Mozilla has a strict privacy policy and won’t collect anything that’s personally identifiable. Mozilla thinks that if they know how their browser works in the real world, as opposed to rather contrived testing situations, they think they’ll be able to make their browser perform even better.

And of course, they’ve fixed some security issues, another important reason to upgrade your browser. There are also a few other minor changes, such as support for MathML.

This version is a definite improvement over the previous version. It seems that Mozilla is not just copying Chrome’s rapid release cycle, but actually using it to actually make their browser a more pleasant experience for use with the modern Web. If you’ve defected to Chrome or any other browser because of Firefox’s issues in the past, it’s worth reconsidering returning with this version. If you’re a developer, you probably use every browser you can get your hands on anyway just for testing.

We covered the release of Firefox 5, and the top 25 Firefox extensions for developers, as well as the Tor Browser, a version customized for anonymous browsing.