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Print 66 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Nov 29 at 3:31 AM

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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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.
:(


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