Barely six weeks after Mozilla shipped the last version of Firefox, the company has released version 7 to address the memory problems that have dogged the browser in recent times.
Having implemented the best ideas from its MemShrink team, Mozilla reckons version 7 uses 20 percent to 30 percent less memory than version 6, and up to 50 percent less in some circumstances. Loading speed is also said to have been boosted.
"This means that Firefox and the websites you use will be snappier, more responsive, and suffer fewer pauses. It also means that Firefox is less likely to crash or abort due to running out of memory," said the official blog.
Exactly how much less will vary from install to install but the company does seem to have improved Firefox's basic footprint, taking a 130k load down to only 88k (excluding plug-ins) in tests carried out by Techworld across several PCs. As the load rises, however, the benefits seem to shave to perhaps 15-20 percent at best but again this will depend on a variety of factors.
This is not the first time Mozilla has had to respond to memory consumption issues, which were also a stated feature at the time of Firefox 3's release as far back as June 2008. By the time Firefox 4 turned up in March this year, complaints about memory bloat had become an established controversy once again.
Perhaps as significant as the memory redesign in version 7 is the fact that Mozilla has built in the ability to record telemetry such as CPU, startup speed and memory usage from each computer using the software as a way of researching real-world performance. This should feed through into long-term improvements and stop the bloat issue getting out of hand ocne again.
The first time the software is run, users are asked whether they agree to Mozilla gathering this data, a feature that can be manually turned on or off as a tick box in the Advanced/General tab under Options. All data was submitted using SSL and contained no personally identifiable data, the company said.
It is difficult to model a 'typical' computer in a lab environment. Surprisingly slow consumer hardware, changes in usage patterns, preinstalled bloatware all affect Firefox performance in surprising ways," said a company blog explaining the thinking behind telemetry.
Rounding off the performance theme, Firefox now makes use of the graphics chip in a PC to accelerate some HTML5 content such as animations and games.