Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

20Feb/06Off

The Curse Of Success

The memory hogging cache feature in Firefox has been in the back of my mind for the last couple of days simmering and making me wonder exactly what the future holds for Firefox and the current fascination for many folks with it. I've been using this browser since it was called Phoenix and ran out of a subdirectory of my home directory and did not get along with its older brother at all. That said, I find myself disabling an increasing number of things in about:config with each new release as it seems that the disturbing road Firefox is following is something akin to the really dumb decisions that Galeon developers made about the direction their browser was taking way back when. In the case of Galeon, as much as their chowder-headed-ness grieves me as I really loved that browser when it was still human configurable and would do exactly what I wanted it to, I am willing to give them a slight break as the entire Gnome desktop environment has shifted into cater exclusively to the day one user and no one else mode.

The thing that concerns me more than anything else is the perception that nascent adopters might have of Firefox when they have a couple of tabs open and the browser starts chewing through memory like a rabid badger and crashes. People who develop Firefox have recently voiced similar concerns about the possibilities that extensions might cause the same sort of negative opinion about the browser as they frequently cause instabilities and memory leaks of their own. The crucial difference here is that extensions are a separate piece of the browser and although they may be bundled with specific versions of Firefox (think of the allegedly user-friendly Linux distributions if you need a concrete example of this idea at work) they aren't an included part of the core application that is enabled by default in every single instance of the browser out there.

Making this setting default is a terrible fucking idea and every time that a user with a substandard amount of ram or some other constraint invisible to developers has a terrible experience with the browser that terribleness spreads outward in terms of expectations and the general public idea of how well the software functions. In that case, I would much rather see the slight increase in page load time than the browser crashing or, as far too often happens with Windows, the browser making the OS get freezy or crash. I know a little about the mysterious workings of browsers (again, I'm really wishing for the implementation of the sarcasm tag in HTML here) so I can simply disable "features" that cause instability or the rampant consumption of available memory. That really doesn't matter though since the interest of FF developers has more to do with new adopters looking for an alternative to the horrors of IE. Crashing doesn't give them much of an alternative. Using sketchy default configurations isn't wise especially since the rise in Firefox usage has a lot to do with people having good experiences with an alternative browser and the novelty of using a browser that isn't the default installed with their operating system. That lead is very fucking easy to lose. For me, it doesn't matter. If the current direction of the project continues to delve into territories of unreliability I'll just switch to something else but for many that simply means going back to the comfortable familiarity of IE. It would be a shame to see all of the advocacy efforts done on behalf to be wasted. IE7 is allegedly a much closer competitor. Take heed and don't fuck this up.

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