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Thread: Firefox Myths

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    Firefox Myths

    Original Article ( via reddit

    Firefox is faster than Internet Explorer
    Claim sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

    This blanket statement is not always true. Relative speed results depend on many factors, including hardware-related.

    Internet Explorer typically starts up faster than Firefox the first time you double-click on the program icon. This is mainly because the core Internet Explorer engine is actually loaded into memory as your computer is starting up. Furthermore, not all components of the web browser are in memory when the browser window comes up. Some components, such as the favorites manager, are only loaded into memory when you access them, while Firefox loads everything at once.

    Internet Explorer also has a lighter architecture, using your operating system's native interface controls. In order to allow for its extension and theme systems, Firefox has an elaborate custom interface system that it must load on startup. This additional complexity to the program makes it slower than it would otherwise be.

    In regard to webpage rendering, Firefox is most often faster than Internet Explorer, even with its more extensive support for web technology. However, different browsers use different algorithms to determine and display the page layout, and sometimes Internet Explorer is known to be faster, especially with pages that are small, have a simple layout, or contain errors in the source.

    Firefox 1.5 leaks more memory than previous versions
    Claim sources: 1, 2, 3

    This statement is partly true, partly false. The observation most often attributed to this claim is the fact that Firefox 1.5 seems to consume much more memory than previous versions after browsing a few websites. However, this increased memory usage is actually due to pages being cached in memory in order to allow for quicker back-and-forward navigation, a new feature in Firefox 1.5. This system caches a maximum of eight webpages in your browser's memory at any time (or fewer if your system has under 1 GB of RAM). The maximum limit can be manually set by changing the browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers option in about:config. (Further explanation)

    On the other hand, there is also indication that some memory leak bugs in previous versions have a greater impact in Firefox 1.5 than before, although the sources of some of these leaks have not yet been found.

    It should also be noted that poorly-coded extensions can easily be the source of significant memory leaks, and that can only be fixed by the extension authors.

    Firefox is completely secure

    Word-of-mouth advocacy among the less technically inclined often produces oversimplified impressions of relatively complex ideas. A classic example is security, and the occasional misconception that a piece of software can make your system perfectly secure. Something as complex as a web browser will almost certainly have security vulnerabilities crop up from time to time. No major web browser or operating system has a perfect security record.

    There are some fundamental differences between the architecture of Firefox compared to Internet Explorer with regard to security (as is true with Linux or Mac OS X versus Windows), and Mozilla has shown a much better record than Microsoft at fixing its browser's vulnerabilities, as you can see in this security summary. However, there is never any guarantee that Firefox is perfectly safe, even when run supposedly isolated in VMware's Browser Appliance. Although you may be significantly less prone to attacks, it is still important to use reasonable caution when manually downloading files and plugins from untrusted websites, and make sure you are running an up-to-date version.

    Firefox was the first browser with tabs

    This isn't very widely believed, but every now and then someone expresses this assumption. The first known web browser with tab support was InternetWorks, back in 1994. Other browsers like NetCaptor and Opera implemented it in the following years, before Mozilla and Firefox. Firefox was the first web browser to really make mainstream awareness of browser tabs, but it didn't invent the idea.

    See the Wikipedia article on Tabbed Document Interfaces for more information.

    Firefox is fully standards compliant

    No web browser is 100% standards compliant. The web technology standards are very extensive and it often takes many years to implement all of the features of a standard, plus additional time to fix the bugs. In addition, the standards are always evolving and becoming more and more robust. Firefox (along with Opera, Safari, and Konqueror) is certainly a leader in the field of standards support, and is quickly adopting new emerging technologies, but it, like the others, does not yet have complete support for the current CSS, DOM, or even HTML standards. More information is available in this standards support summary.

    Firefox achieved 10% market share in its first year

    Although overall usage was certainly close to 10%, there is some doubt as to whether or not it actually hit that value within the first year of its 1.0 release. Most analytics firms regularly reported values above 10%, but different companies gather data in different ways and some reported slightly lower values.

    Web analytics firms typically gather data only from websites that use their products. Companies that provide low-cost or free tools often reported Firefox usage scores near 12%, while a few companies such as WebSideStory that have more expensive products often reported values closer to 9%. In other words, websites that are willing to spend extra money for analytics software tend to have a larger percentage of Internet Explorer visitors than websites that settle for cheap or free equivalents. Which of these would better represent the overall Internet population is debatable.


    This article was written by David Hammond. It may be copied, modified, and distributed freely as long as it attributes the original author and maintains the original license. See the license for details.

    This work is copyright © 2006 David Hammond and is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
    Last edited by tarun; February 27th, 2006 at 07:20 AM.

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