This week Mozilla released Firefox 7, touting increases in HTML5 standards compliance as well as reduced system memory requirements. I downloaded it to try it out, and for the most part things are as advertised.
Firefox 7, or as I like to think of it, Firefox 4.3, is the 3rd release since Mozilla began it’s 6 week release schedule. I’m not really a fan of the schedule because of the strain it puts on Enterprise users, but I can see the benefits. One compromise I wish they’d have thought of is a hybrid, releasing .x increments every 6 weeks, and larger full number releases on a longer time table. It would allow businesses to take the slower upgrade path, while still getting updates into the hands of power users quickly. Also it would keep the numbers from getting overly large.
However, as much as I can wish, that isn’t the case, and the browser I have been testing bears not the number 4,3, but instead 7. Be that as it may, it’s still a very nice upgrade, especially from the point of view of a man who hates interface changes. There are none, even in the menus; all changes are below the hood, with a single exception of asking the user to enable feedback for Mozilla. Since that is only asked once after installing, I don’t really count it.
The big story here is MemShrink, a new feature which decreases Firefox’s memory usage, supposedly by 30% to even 50%. This obviously called for independent testing, so I before installing, I recorded some numbers. Using Firefox 6, I opened to Google, let it sit a moment to stabilize, then recorded the memory usage. I let it sit for 3 hours, and again recorded. I then opened Facebook, Google News, and TekGoblin, recorded, then let it sit for 3 hours before recording again. Finally, I opened up 3 YouTube videos, one tab with the live streaming from Rio that YouTube has going on now, Facebook, Blogger, Google+, and Purdue’s Blackboard.
I then installed Firefox 7, and repeated. Here is what I got.
The orange is Firefox 6, Blue is Firefox 7. Dark colors indicate increasing usage after several hours. As the chart shows, FF 7 uses less memory in all cases, from light to heavy loading. The big benefit though is the improvements on memory leakage. Memory usage doesn’t go up as drastically over time.
Along with the other misc improvements, Firefox 7 is a worthy minor upgrade, and definitely worth downloading. Not sure it deserves a full new number though.