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Decision leaves Opera and Microsoft with the only 64-bit browsers, though Google will soon join the pack

Fans of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation have waited... and waited... and waited more still, for Mozilla's popular Firefox browser to add 64-bit support.  With pickup of 64-bit SKUs of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system rapidly accelerating, it certainly seemed a 64-bit browser would be just around the corner.

Instead Mozilla has made the curious decision to pull the plug on the long-delayed project, while offering only small clues as to why the decision was made.

The announcement was posted by Mozilla Engineering Manager Benjamin Smedberg on the Bugzilla development page.  He ordered Mozilla employees and community developers:

Please stop building windows 64 builds and tests.

As for why the he opted to pull the plug on 64-bit for now, he comments, "Many plugins are not available in 64-bit versions.  The plugins that are available don’t work correctly in Firefox because we haven’t implemented things like windowproc hooking, which means that hangs are more common."

Firefox laptop
Firefox 64-bit development is dead for now. [Image Source: Flickr/dimnikolov]

Mozilla may soon find itself in lonely territory.

With Oracle Corp.'s (ORCL) Java and Adobe Systems Inc.'s (ADBE) Flash now supporting 64-bit Windows plug-ins, both Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 and Opera Software ASA (OSE:OPERA) have made the leap to 64-bit.  Meanwhile Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome, one of the most popular browsers due to its clean UI and strong GPU acceleration, has added 64-bit support in Linux and is in the process of porting its changes to Windows.

In other words, soon Mozilla may be the only browser maker without a 64-bit browser.

Of course, Windows compatibility libraries ensure 32-bit applications (like Firefox) can still run on 64-bit Windows.  But there is a small performance penalty associated.

For that reason one has to wonder whether Mozilla might come to regret its decision to halt development, even if it is only a temporary one.

Source: Bugzilla



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No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Guspaz on 11/22/2012 12:44:12 PM , Rating: 3
The big benefit to 64-bit software is normally that they can exceed the 2GB addressing limit present for processes on a 32-bit OS. But this isn't a factor for 32-bit browsers on 64-bit systems for two reasons:

1) 32-bit process on a 64-bit OS can use 4GB of RAM if compiled with the "large address aware" option, giving you double the RAM per process without supporting 64-bit.
2) Modern browsers use a multi-process architecture. Because of this, any one TAB can use up to 4GB, allowing the browser as a whole to far exceed 4GB of RAM

So, on a single-process 32-bit browser on a 32-bit OS, the entire browser was limited to 2GB of RAM usage. Today, a modern 32-bit browser on a 64-bit OS can easily use tens of gigabytes of RAM without ever supporting 64-bit.




RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By andre-bch on 11/22/12, Rating: 0
RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Taft12 on 11/22/2012 4:10:35 PM , Rating: 2
That's essentially the only benefit of ANY software compiled for 64-bit operating systems. I don't know why you feel the need to challenge him, he explained it quite well.


By rs2 on 11/23/2012 9:00:12 AM , Rating: 2
But Flash needs those extra GB's! You know, for achieving maximum suckiness.


By heffeque on 11/23/2012 2:23:18 PM , Rating: 2
No it's not. FAIL.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By vXv on 11/24/2012 8:09:40 AM , Rating: 3
That's simply not true.

Native 64-bit apps (on x86_64) have other benefits as well like more registers, better (more efficient) calling convention, faster 64bit math, increased security (due to the larger address space).

Whether all of them are visible / noticeable in a specific app is another question but saying that being able to use more memory is "essentially the only benefit of ANY software compiled for 64-bit operating systems" is plain wrong.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Trisped on 11/24/2012 4:22:06 PM , Rating: 2
The truth is that performance tests clearly show that unless you are specifically using a 64 bit only feature, or need more then 2 GB of RAM.

What it really comes down to is that all of your memory references have doubled in size. Instead of needing 32 bits to address your object you are using 64. Some would think that this would be a benefit, as 32 bit addresses have to be converted to 64 bit addresses by Windows, but Windows has to convert all memory address, 32 bit or 64 bit. This is because Windows keeps track of memory allocation to prevent programs from accessing or altering other applications and to enable features like paging.

So yes, there are some performance benefits to 64 bit applications, but unless you are using a 64 bit feature extensively the extra cost in RAM and performance is not worth it.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By vXv on 11/24/2012 7:32:35 PM , Rating: 3
> The truth is that performance tests clearly show that unless you are specifically using a 64 bit only feature, or need more then 2 GB of RAM.

Not sure what you mean by "64bit only feature" but every 64bit application benefits from the additional registers available when running on a x86_64 CPU.

> So yes, there are some performance benefits to 64 bit applications, but unless you are using a 64 bit feature extensively the extra cost in RAM and performance is not worth it.

It is actually the opposite the performance you lose due to the higher memory (and cache) footprint is negible compared to what you gain from the enhancement in the 64bit ISA.

For instance look at:
http://www.iinuu.eu/en/it-guru/windows-7-32-vs-64-...

Most cases where 32bit is faster are in the area of ~5% i.e hardly noticeable in real world apps. While the the test cases where 64bit is faster the performance gain approach up to 50%. That's a huge difference ... its like going from a 3GHz to a 4.5Ghz CPU (assuming linear scaling).

Or another test focusing on linux:
http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item...

"The performance advantage of 64-bit over 32-bit Ubuntu is clear. If you are still running the 32-bit version on 64-bit capable hardware you should really consider switching"

So unless you are memory constrained (i.e your system is under memory pressure) you are better of running 64bit applications.

In addition to performance you'd benefit from enhanced security as well.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Argon18 on 11/26/2012 11:56:01 AM , Rating: 2
It's funny, the only people claiming that 64-bit "isn't needed" are those running Windows. The one platform that lags behind all the rest in 64bitness. Lol.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By vXv on 11/26/2012 5:52:12 PM , Rating: 2
I am not using windows (OK I am not in the "no one needs 64bit camp" either) ... so there might be some truth in that ;)


By Argon18 on 11/27/2012 2:18:03 PM , Rating: 2
I know, I was agreeing with you.


By Trisped on 11/27/2012 10:56:40 PM , Rating: 2
Your support (http://www.iinuu.eu/en/it-guru/windows-7-32-vs-64-... is testing 1 version of a program in two operating systems. This would be like running Firefox in Windows 7 x86 and comparing the results to running Firefox in Windows 7 x64. In both cases the application is still 32 bit. The only differences (if any) will be the result of MS coding of 32 bit emulation on the Windows 7 x64 machine, but since they are the same binaries (you are not using the x64 binaries) there should be little noticeable difference.

The problem is that most companies already realize that 64 bit apps are easy (just change the compiler) but actually perform slower then 32 bit apps, so they do not bother releasing the 64 bit versions. This is why all major games which do not hit the RAM limitation do not have a 64 bit version available.

There are a number of situations where having more registers, larger address space, and 64 bit instructions can be advantageous. In these cases the code was rewritten to take better advantage of these features, resulting in modest to large performance benefits. Even so, these are more the exception then the rule.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Cypherdude1 on 11/26/2012 2:47:06 AM , Rating: 3
I think it's better that Mozilla, for now, concentrate on their current 32-bit FireFox browser. I have Win7-64 Pro and 16 GB RAM. I use both IE9 32 bit and FireFox. While I use FireFox for most purposes and I like it better, FF has numerous bugs. Yes, I do like FF better. However, sometimes it can be really irritating. Everyday it seems I come across another bug. Here's one which I just came across tonight. Open this link, then click on the "Basic Essentials, Sterling Denim Jacket" picture on the right side:
http://www.drjays.com/shop/P1369938/basic-essentia...

You will see that FF does nothing. However, if you drag and drop the link in the picture to any FF tab it will open. Open the same URL above in IE9, do the same thing and you'll see IE9 works correctly.

On your secondary monitor with FF, go to http://www.corel.com , simply place your cursor over the Corel menu/submenus. You'll see they open to the left side and you can't see the submenus. In IE9, open the same URL in the same secondary monitor and they work correctly. It's irritating to have to switch to IE9 just to see the Corel products in their menu tables.

Also, in the secondary monitor, there is the blank frame problem when Tools > Options > Advanced > Hardware Acceleration is enabled in FireFox.

I have already notified Mozilla about the blank frames problem several times through their Help > Submit Feedback feature but they have not fixed it. They keep updating their S/W. I am currently using FF 16.0.2. Every time I upgrade I hope at least the blank frames problem will be fixed but it's not. FF is now at v17 but I don't expect it to be fixed either.

It appears Mozilla is overloaded with their 32 bit browser so perhaps it's best they concentrate on it and not allocate any resources to a 64 bit browser.


By TheJian on 11/26/2012 11:34:29 PM , Rating: 1
If a page is DESIGNED to run on IE you'll see that. I get the same thing on some MCP sites. I have to use IE to use the pages because MS hates the fact you might come to their site in Firefox etc and so they program their pages to NOT work in anything but their own IE.

It's not firefox's job to be compatible with that site. Write that site and tell them to be compatible with WEB STANDARDS rather than programming purposely to piss off Firefox. You're blaming the wrong people.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By CityZen on 11/22/2012 12:56:33 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Modern browsers use a multi-process architecture.

True

quote:
Because of this, any one TAB can use up to 4GB, allowing the browser as a whole to far exceed 4GB of RAM

Not true, in the case of Firefox.

Firefox only uses a couple of processes (firefox.exe and plugin-container.exe). This has advantages and disadvantages, but that's another discussion. The point is that the main process (firefox.exe) is limited to 2 GB of RAM on a 32 bit OS and to 4 GB of RAM on a 64 bit OS. However, given that Firefox is the most memory efficient browser when dealing with a huge amount of tabs it would take a lot of tabs and add-ons to even reach that limit. My guess is that you'll need about 400 to 500 open tabs to reach 4 GB (I'm running Firefox with dozens of add-ons and have at times over 100 tabs open, I know what I'm talking about)


By Guspaz on 11/22/2012 4:53:55 PM , Rating: 2
You're right; it seems like the multi-process migration in Firefox was put on hold about a year ago, much like the 64-bit version was put on hold today.

Well, it still applies to Chrome, and IE, anyhow.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By mindless1 on 11/22/2012 9:52:40 PM , Rating: 3
UNLESS you really, REALLY like to use some of the add-ons that have memory leaks.

Right now I have only 11 tabs open in 4 FF windows, with FF using over 400MB of memory. If I keep only this # of tabs open it will eventually climb to roughly 1GB, within a few hours at most.

We can't fault Firefox dev. team for that, but it is a reality that one of the things that makes the browser so great, the add-ons, is also a potential source of high memory utilization.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Taft12 on 11/23/2012 3:33:14 PM , Rating: 1
Can we call this the Adobe memory tax?


By Trisped on 11/24/2012 4:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
I have not found Adobe plugins to leak memory.

Usually this is the result of a free plugin which does not properly clean up after itself.

In any event, if leaving a page open for 1 hour results in the use of more RAM you will probably benefit from finding the plugin which is leaking (Adobe or otherwise) and disable it.

Note: some change in memory usage is normal, like if ads are updated every 15 minutes, or you are watching a video. Simple, static pages should not have these issues, so if you are sitting at Google's home page and the memory usage keeps climbing then you have a problem which should be fixed.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By zzynko on 11/23/2012 9:13:40 PM , Rating: 2
It would seem that your choice of add-ons is rather the question, isn't it.

As of Tuesday when I restarted the computer due to windows updates, I have had an average of over 20 to 30 tabs open at any one time on Firefox Nightly 19.0a1 with about 12 add-ons running. It is using around 500MB right now with 22 tabs open, ranging from heavy flash to plain HTML. So, excuse me if I don't agree with your opinion, I've yet to see a session getting close to what you describe (1GB) in the recent past.

Since I've been running (Minefield) Nightly almost exclusively since the flash support arrived, I had only one instance when it neared the 1GB (890MB with 14 tabs open) mark and it was in the early days of (flaky) 64bit flash development.

The preference of Firefox Nightly usage on a daily basis compared other browsers haven't precluded me from initiating others sessions in IE9 64bit, but it takes me longer to accomplish the same task in it. Chrome becomes wobbly (unresponsive/crashing) with 10 to 12 tabs open and uses more resources than Nightly with twice the amount of tabs open.


By mindless1 on 11/29/2012 3:31:53 AM , Rating: 1
But you're not getting my point, that I'd MUCH rather pay money to increase memory in the system than do without the FF add-ons, they are central to my use of that particular system and at this point I'd just stay off the internet before I'd surf what are today sites so obnoxious that it is intolerable without some add-ons and I don't mean only the two most popular nor that it has anything to do with broadband bandwidth, I just despise some of the asshole ideas put out there these days.


By Argon18 on 11/26/2012 12:00:17 PM , Rating: 2
Adobe plugins do generally suck, with their closed proprietaryness that nobody but Adobe can fix.

But quite frankly, when today you can buy 16 GB of RAM for under $60, is a few hundred megabytes of utilization really that much of a concern? I agree that code efficiency has plummeted in recent years, but with tens of GB of memory in consumer desktop PC's, I can see how nobody cares.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By overzealot on 11/23/2012 9:40:04 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Firefox is the most memory efficient browser

I'm calling BS on this.

Since you didn't cite your sources and I haven't seen any testing in a little while I went ahead and tested myself.

I'm running Windows 8 x64.
Using the most recent versions of FF, Chrome, Opera, IE10.
12 tabs:
Firefox 214MB
Chrome 89MB
IE 10 320MB
Opera 242MB

32 tabs:
Firefox 381MB
Chrome 93MB
IE 10 722MB
opera 394MB

From this, I would say that Firefox is second most memory efficient when handling a standard user's number of tabs, but would probably settle close to Opera when it comes to a huge (100+) number of tabs.

URL's used for first 12 sites:
http://www.anandtech.com/
http://www.tomshardware.com/
http://whirlpool.net.au/
http://www.wikipedia.org/
http://mamedev.org/
http://distrowatch.com/
http://www.engadget.com/
http://www.weather.com/
http://www.ebay.com/
http://www.alexa.com/topsites
https://www.google.com.au/
https://login.live.com/
The next 24 were the first 24 links from the Wikipedia Article of the Day, up to No. 32 Squadron RAF and including the other references Microsoft Security Essentials , Illinois (album) and Conservation of slow lorises .


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By CityZen on 11/24/2012 1:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
No, no BS. But I appreciate that you did you own testing and I accept your results. However, my personal experience tells me otherwise. I find Firefox to use less memory than other browsers (IE, Opera and Chrome) when dealing with 50+ tabs and 50+ add-ons.

I also looked up a few benchmarks to see if independent testing corroborated what I see. Here are the tests I could find:

Toms's Hardware - Web Browser Grand Prix - Memory Usage with 1 tab and 40 tabs (http://www.tomshardware.com/gallery/memoryusage3wb... )
LifeHacker - Browser Speed Tests: Chrome 19, Firefox 13, Internet Explorer 9, and Opera 12 (http://lifehacker.com/5917714/browser-speed-tests-... )
Ghacks - Chrome uses way more memory than Firefox, Opera or Internet Explorer (http://www.ghacks.net/2012/06/21/chrome-uses-way-m... )

As you can see, these independent tests confirm that Firefox is very memory efficient under heavy load.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By overzealot on 11/24/2012 7:35:45 AM , Rating: 2
The Tom's one is a bit to old to be meaningful, but the other 2 are interesting. I think I'll retest on my laptop tomorrow.


By overzealot on 11/24/2012 11:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
Using the Chrome taskman it's 770mb.
Yeah, that makes more sense.


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Trisped on 11/24/2012 4:59:14 PM , Rating: 3
There is something wrong with your Chrome numbers.

I currently have 9 tabs open (4 Daily Tech, my queue on Hulu, a google search, a Mozilla support page, locations of CiCi's Pizza near me, and a new tab). Chrome's task manager reports:
Browser:...................120,468K
Tab: DailyTech............32,940K
Tab: DailyTech - .........37,536K
Tab: DailyTech - .........72,888K
Tab: DailyTech - .........33,636K
Tab: queue | Hulu.......71,684K
Tab: Google Search.....18,396K
Tab: Firefox Help.........18,076K
Tab: CiCi Locations......52,880K
Tab: New Tab ............ 12,820K
GPU Process..............120,660K
Plug-in: Shockwave Flash 161,872K

I am using Chrome 23.0.1271.64 m on Windows 7 x64 Pro.
These results are not designed to be a benchmark (which is why the links were not provided) but instead to point out that the previous benchmark seems unreasonable.
It may also be important to note that I am currently using 3.6 GB of 24 GB of RAM. Most applications this would not be an issue, though I have noted a few MS applications (like Office and Visual Studio) try to be intelligent with RAM, resulting in them using more RAM when it is available).
To get these results I took a screen shot since the values keep changing on the DT pages.


It is possible that you are using Windows Task Manager to get your results. If so, then you will need to find all of the Chrome processes since each tab has its own process. Personally I prefer the Task Manager tool built into Chrome, but I have heard some users question its accuracy and truthfulness.


By overzealot on 11/24/2012 11:03:26 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, was just using the Windows task manager - and under Win8 it puts most of the Chrome threads under "background tasks" which is why I didn't spot them.
:(


RE: No big deal, 64-bit browsers are useless
By Demoure on 11/22/2012 1:23:56 PM , Rating: 2
Multi-process is even more of a pain in the ass for the coders than simply compiling for 64-bit. 64-bit browsers are not useless.


By schmandel on 11/23/2012 9:00:45 AM , Rating: 2
This copy of Firefox 64 bit under Linux has 38 threads running. Several years ago I ran FF 32 bit for plugins and such, but there's no need for that now.

Memory utilization is no big deal. With the 32 bit browser it tended to vary widely and sometimes benefit from a browser restart.

When I saw the headline, it seemed bad until I considered it was Windows only, where it may make sense.


By sviola on 11/23/2012 10:34:05 AM , Rating: 2
Well, 64-bit applications have more advantages than just memory allocation. For example, in Windows 8 64-bit applications can make use of HEASLR and better DEP security while 32-bit processes can't.


By sviola on 11/23/2012 10:34:28 AM , Rating: 2
Well, 64-bit applications have more advantages than just memory allocation. For example, in Windows 8 64-bit processes can make use of HEASLR and better DEP security while 32-bit processes can't.


By Jeffk464 on 11/24/2012 10:10:30 AM , Rating: 2
Since google released chrome it seems the main reason for firefox is for linux users. I switched from firefox to chrome and would never go back.


By Kimmono on 11/25/2012 3:42:48 AM , Rating: 2
After reading the article and comments, I installed Waterfox and found it much faster than Firefox and Google Chrome.

The first time I launched Waterfox it launched the same 13 Windows and about 160 tabs I had open in Firefox.

It is as snappy as if I only had one windows and a few tabs...


By gamerk2 on 11/26/2012 10:22:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
2) Modern browsers use a multi-process architecture. Because of this, any one TAB can use up to 4GB, allowing the browser as a whole to far exceed 4GB of RAM


Which as I programmer I find abhorrent, because of the overhead that's involved in inter-process communication.


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