Geek; Programmer; Pythonista; FOSS enthusiast, evangelist and contributor; Melange developer; opinionated about programming languages; crazy about cars and air-planes; choosy in watching movies; loves Bangalore, San Francisco and Southern California; and most importantly addicted to coffee!
Madhusudan C.S.
map (thoughts) => words;   reduce (words) => this;
May 31, 2008, 2:36 p.m.


   It was sometime in end of June 2007, it was my 4th Semester study holidays and I did not have much work to do. I was just doing some small researches on something totally useless as I thought then, since I had no interest in studying at that moment. I was just doing some useless empirical tests on Mozilla FireFox's memory usage since there were lots of complaints about FireFox's resource consumption. I don't quite remember the figures correctly now, but roughly when I opened 5 FireFox windows with an average of 4-5 tabs per window, FireFox was consuming a shocking 500+ MiB(514 I think, not sure of the exact figure) of memory. Much more shocking was that memory usage was spiraling, meaning when ever I close a tab or a window it is expected that the memory used is reclaimed back, but that was not happening. Also those many number of windows and tabs being opened are common for an average user. Fortunately I had 1.25GiB of RAM but I started feeling, "What about others?" And also there was a nice comparison about IE 7, Opera 9 and FireFox 2 (the latest on which I had got these results) then in many newspapers like Times Of India here. Though in terms of features FireFox was leading, IE 7 was a clear winner in terms of resource consumption. I felt this was a major setback to the growing credentials of FireFox, since most of the users back then did not have machines having more than 512 MiB of RAM. So I felt most of them would simply forget about FireFox and start using IE or Opera.

Flashback inside a flashback: Rewind back again, to 2004.

   Being a great fan of Free and Open Source Softwares, I always loved Mozilla FireFox. Back in 2004 just before I got my DialUp connection at Home I had this habit of reading those Tech magazines like Digit and others. There I had read that there was a new browser, in one of its most humble beginnings, with loads of features and security mechanisms compared to which IE comes no where close. And that being an Open Source Software first thing I did when I got DialUp connection was to download it and install it. Aah amazing, I was shocked to see its all new cool features. The whole world of internet then started looking altogether totally so very different to me. Previously I had thought Internet=IE(Since IE itself had Internet in its name) and vice-versa and there could not be internet connection without IE. How stupid or foolish or call it rubbish :( But Mozilla FireFox had changed me. The experience was really amazing, different and I was totally convinced to use FireFox and no other browser henceforth. What really stunned me was FireFox's robustness and extendability. Its Addon concept was so amazing. It did provide millions of additional features of which the user could choose what he wanted, without bloating the whole browser. It thus kept the size of the core browser under 5MiB then and being a DialUp user it was such a huge advantage to me. When FireFox 2 was released there was so much of hype that I still remember downloading it at an average speed of 700Bytes per second the whole night since there were servers were jammed. He He He. I am quite crazy when it comes to Mozilla FireFox.

Fast forward to June 2007 again.

   I tried out Opera and it was not convincing, and I had almost transformed into the one who hated Micro$oft products like anything about this time around. So I had already stopped using Winblow$ and had totally switched over to GNU/Linux or specifically to Ubuntu for all the daily activities. So there was no question of IE at all. I started Googling on how to improve the efficiency of FireFox 2 's trying to find if there were some hacks available. I found lots of complaints from users who had found similar results like me. Many of them said because of these resource constraints they wanted to move out of FireFox and try something else though they were great fans of FireFox. Right then I found a post somewhere from one another fan asking all such desparate souls like me to be patient. He said, Mozilla had learnt lesson and in their upcoming release, under development FireFox 3, they were concentrating mainly on memory and resource consumption issues. So I went and saw the release schedule desparately to see when I get my hands on it. It was scheduled to be released on September 2007, but due to the new lesson that Mozilla had learnt they had to do lots and lots and lots of work and rework. So they had indefinitely postponed the release date and had removed the schedule totally from their websites. Back then FireFox 3's Test Release Alpha 5 minefield was available for testing purposes only and I thought of giving it a try.

   Initial experience was not so impressive, infact very bad. It sucked like Hell. I could not find any major changes in any way. Then it was followed by Alpha 6 and 7. I tried both of them and felt bad still more. I used to switch between FireFox 3 Alphas and FireFox 2 since I had good RAM capacity on my machine. I lost all the interest in FireFox's development in sometime. I felt that my dream of "one good Open Source project, FireFox" overtaking Micro$oft's product in terms of business and market share was shattered into millions of pieces and I started feeling heavy at heart(But FireFox really had the capability). I did not quite try out Alpha 8 and 9.

   But things started changing. In November 2007, Slashdot reported the release of FireFox 3 Beta 1. It praised FireFox 3 and its team of developers endlessly. I had never followed the things that were happening at Mozilla's stable after Alpha 7. So this shocked me a bit. Thought of giving Beta 1 a try. I could not so simply forget Mozilla's efforts since I was a great fan of FireFox. More surprises was in stores for me when I installed it. Ufffff... Things had suddenly started working for Mozilla. I donno how, but certainly this was the turning point in the development cycle. Lessons learnt by Mozilla had started showing up at this point. I could not point out one thing as the best feature. Everything looked great. I simply thought of trying the same empirical test that I had done on FireFox 2, I had not done this properly on Alphas. WOW!!! was the result of this test The very same test with 5 windows with an average of 3-5 tabs each now did not consume more than 100MiB. I was overwhelmed. All the reports and reviews said Mozilla had brought over several thousands of improvements to its previous versions. The reviews said Mozilla had fixed close to 300 Memory leaks!!! Unbelievable. Accessibility features were improved greatly. The address bar really looked great. The "Suggest URL" feature that appears when you start keying in characters was amazing. It had suddenly become extremely intelligent and suggested exactly what I wanted. Buttons, Icons and Bars had also improved greatly in terms of Accessibility. GNU/Linux version had a more native look and feel now. I could not simply stop praising FireFox 3 Beta 1. The Save and Quit for last tabs closed was really an amazing feature. I asked all my friends to give it a try. Few of them complained about being not able to use the true power of FireFox i.e Addons. But could not help, this was a test version and all the Addon developers were instructed not to port their Addons since APIs would change a lot and they had to rework all over again. Anyhow it was a trade-off between "Having Addons" versus "Having Great Features, Perfomarnce Improvements" to use FireFox 3.

   After this I never looked back. I totally stopped using FireFox 2 and completely switched over to FireFox 3 Betas. Every Beta brought over 1400 to 1500 changes and around 300 memory leak fixes. That sounds great, eh? Yes thats really great since release period between Betas was mere 3-4 weeks. In the process, a big leap forward was the release of FireFox 3 Beta 4. It brought a nice visual refresh and the fastest javascript rendering ever. Javascripts ran 400% faster than Beta 3 and it was the fastest among any browsers. Being an obsessed user of GMAIL, the backend of which is written largely in AJAX which is nothing but Javascripts to the core, this was a huge gain. This meant that GMAIL now worked 400% faster. Then came Beta 5, the last of all the Betas, it was good with lots of improvements but used to break at times. At the same time around Ubuntu shipped its Long Term Support Version, Ubuntu Hardy Heron with FireFox 3 Beta 5 built in as the default browser. This made me to stick on to FireFox 3 Beta 5. Later FireFox 3 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was released. But most unfortunately it broke quite a few things on GNU/Linux. But Winblow$ version got still better and it rocked. The address box now looked a bit ugly in GNU/Linux and it had quite a few problems. I almost instantaneously switched back to Beta 5 but I was very confident that these things would be fixed in the final. But I would say Beta 4 is still the best FireFox till date. I can even go to the extent of saying that FireFox 3 Beta 4 is undoubtedly the best browser I have ever seen till date. But anyhow it is now said that Mozilla is in the process of releasing its Release Candidate 2 which will fix most of the bugs thus make itself ready for the final release. So finally now the Mozilla's flagship product is scheduled for release in mid June.

   What do we do now? I request you all to just spread the word about Mozilla's Amazing Work and its release of FireFox 3, Best browser Universe has ever seen till date. The FireFox community plans to make the release day, called as Download Day a great success. The Community wants the Download Day to make it into Guinness Book of World Records as the most Software downloads in a single day. The Download Day begins from the very moment Mozilla announces the availability of FireFox 3 to the next 24 hours. I request you all to make this a great success by downloading FireFox 3 from Mozilla's servers on that day. If you like to support the cause, please PLEDGE yourself at Download Day Website(Click Here or click on the Download Day Logo at top left corner on this page). Please inform your family, friends, neighbours and everyone you know using Internet about the latest and the greatest browser to be released this June. Please ask them to download it on the Download Day. If you pledge at Spread FireFox aka Download Day website, it will notify you of the download day.

   And if someone asks why one should use FireFox, rather FireFox 3, you can just give the link to this blog article, or just summarize it like this. We have really 14,000 reasons to use FireFox 3.
Reason: FireFox 3 brings in a staggering 14000 improvements over its previous version and these are the best five.
Five things to love about Firefox 3

Finally I would love to conclude this article with a Big Thanks to FireFox 3's development team, Quality Assurance and Marketing teams and of course Google for funding this amazing project.(Yes Google funds nearly $ 56Million to Mozilla every year). There is a lesson that every software developer or developers' team, no matter whether they are Open Source, Free Software or Proprietary Software developers, must learn from FireFox team. FireFox team is really a role model for any software developer. They learnt from their mistakes very early in their development cycle and will definitely reap the benefits as soon as FireFox 3 comes out to market for production usage. There is no doubt in FireFox 3 becoming the most dominant, widely used browser in the market. Probably now each and every developers team can go ahead calling FireFox team, arranging sessions on how they achieved all these things and taking inspirations and motivations for their future. Hats Off To FireFox 3 team again. I wish FireFox 3 a great success and I would really love to see it capturing the entire browser market, thats my dream anyhow which is very likely to come true very quickly.

-- Yours lovingly

PS: Offlate some of them were interested in knowing exact number of bugs actually fixed, which includes new features included also. So I like to update this section every time I get the updates. FireFox team has fixed 17,077 bugs from FireFox 2.0.0.x till May 23rd, 2008. Click Here

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