Security, Webkit & Browser Bloat

Some might say past versions of Windows have been that already, though I must warn you I am a big fan of Windows 7. Moving onto security there has been a new approach to this seen in Chrome whereby Google automatically updates users to a new version, the process is invisible to them and takes the responsibility of upgrading out of their hands. Could we see something similar from Firefox in future?

"I think a balance has to be found. We tend to be very, very fast in patching Firefox. Sometimes in less than two or three days vulnerabilities are fixed and a new version has been shipped. We have gone halfway by downloading the new version in the background and saving their session between upgrades but we like to notify the user and give them choice. Google has made a decision that is not ours."

"Why? It is important to be up to date but for us allowing the user to remain in control essential. Updates can sometimes remove features as well as add them and sometimes third party extensions are not immediately compatible with new versions {something Google will have to consider when extensions become available in Chrome} so we remain on the side of choice."

There has been suggestion that a move from the Gecko engine to Webkit might be a good move for Firefox?

"I think Webkit is a really good browser engine, but I think Gecko is superior to Webkit. People who choose Webkit have to sit around a table with Google and Apple and decide what are the future features to get inside Webkit - it is not exactly a very comfortable position to sit next to those two giants. From a technological standpoint there are good reasons to stay with Gecko and I think there is also still a lot of potential for it in terms of optimisation. We have seen that Firefox 3.5 will be much faster than Firefox 2 {up to 10x} and it can go a lot faster yet. {Users can discuss the speed of Firefox 3.5 at Mozilla's Show Us Your Speed website}."

Finally Tristan, if you don't mind me ending the review with a suggestion rather than a question?

"Not at all."

Extensions are the heart and soul of Firefox for many but they can weigh the browser down, especially if poorly coded. I know many users spend a great deal of time trying to identify these bloated add-ons and I think it would greatly help if a tool was included in Firefox which would show the resources taken up by each installed application. Perhaps even written on the add-on's page itself, so a user can make an informed decision about whether each extension is worth its performance footprint or not.

"The cost of using an extension is usually very small but you are right, they can add-up. This is a very interesting and smart idea. I am going to write this down now and take it to our head developers. Thank you, you have just contributed to the Firefox development programme."

Fingers crossed, eh guys...

Note Tristan was unable to speak about the bundling of Internet Explorer with different versions of Windows since Microsoft is currently involved in legal proceedings with the European Commission concerning anti-competitive behaviour.


Firefox 3.5 Beta

Show Us Your Speed



June 4, 2009, 6:50 pm

Cool little interview Gordon. Couple of typos in the first para you might want to fix btw.

Nice that you asked him about Chrome. That must've been such a kick in the teeth for Firefox. When a company like Google go "you aren't good enough, we've built our own" it's about as big a damning statement as can be made. He answered the question like a good politician.

I don't think the browser can ever replace the OS, it'll always just be part of it, even tho it will become a larger and larger part. You'll always need to drop into the OS for things, file and media player management, editing photos/videos, IM, etc, etc. Think of the dangers of giving the browser full control of your computer file system. Anyway, if they tried to build everything into FF it'd be an even bigger bloated beastie than it is already and their problems would pale under the supposed monopoly issues MS has.

Talking of which I've never understood the furor over MS bundling IE with their OS. How else could people get onto the internet? MS has provided a valuable service and people complain? Why should they bundle ever other web broswer out there? For most people IE is fine, if you want choice then it's easy to download something else. If you're too stupid to realise there are other browsers out there, then I don't think you need them.

Anyway, roll on 3.5, I only use FF for debugging these days, it's IE or Chrome for everything else, FF has become too slow, hopefully this update will make it competitive again.


June 4, 2009, 7:03 pm

@HK thanks HK - they were spotted seconds after it went live but you must've started reading by then. Fixed :)

You make a lot of valid points. I think however MS could bundle each of the major browsers with Windows - after all it does bundle hundreds of third party drivers. So at the point of installation you could simply tick with one(s) you wanted to use...


June 4, 2009, 9:24 pm

Yeah quiet day, so first port of call TR and I caught it before you'd fixed it :-)

I suppose they could, but then why not also do the same for IM clients, mail clients, etc, etc. It'd quickly get out of hand and be bloated beyond even normal MS standards and require multiple disks. I think simply some "suggested download links" when you first open IE (like they do for other search engines) would be enough, though even that I don't think necessary. Anyway, I don't think they deserved to be sued for the millions (or is it billions?) that they did by the EU. It's political correctness gone mad as is so often the case these days. You're trying to put out the best program possible (and whether you meet that goal or not) you shouldn't have to worry about politics; it's counter-intuitive.


June 4, 2009, 10:47 pm

:¬( I was hoping for some Fennec talk... good interview, though.


June 5, 2009, 12:59 am

If you want the browsers to be bundled with Windows, then you will also have to be able to update the browsers through Microsoft Update. Simply because the browser you get with your installation will be pretty outdated when you install your OS and this can be prevented by using Microsoft Update. So if Opera and others want to be bundled with Windows then this can only be done with Windows 8 at the earliest, as such cooperation requires a bit of time to get going.

But to be honest, I'm with HK on this one. Too much politics can't be good for the development of good software.


June 5, 2009, 1:05 am

Hmm, but would I buy a used car from this man - niccce piccie ;)

Oh and sorry Tristan, I have moved to Opera these days. - But then I always have looked through the other end of the telescope to everyone else!


June 8, 2009, 1:39 am

@Helmore - I don't think updates would be a problem. Browsers themselves automatically look for updates when they start anyway and you'd be notified by FF or Opera about the newer version as they do now. In the case of Chrome it would just update you automatically - with Google resistance is futile ;)

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