What’s Wrong with People who Whine about Firefox

I found this on Slashdot. People there have been doing this kind of whining for a long time. The person is talking about memory leaks in Firefox.

Replication is easy, windows XP or higher, any firefox that is currently actively developed on and a recent flash plugin. Open about 100 tabs of various sites, taking care to make these a representation of the (type of) sites the average user visits and start browsing in them. I can guarantee you that you’ll have a bigger than 1.5GB browser that will crash in less than a few hours.

This is apparently proof that the previous poster, who claimed not to experience the memory leaks, is a liar. But wait a second… who in their right mind has “about 100 tabs” open at the same time? Who in their right mind would expect that “about 100 tabs” would take less than 1.5 GB of memory? Who in their right mind would expect that such a condition should be sustainable for more than “a few hours?”

All of the people on Slashdot, that’s who. These people are ridiculous. I rarely keep a browser window open for 30 minutes, never mind “a few hours.” And when I do keep one window open for “a few hours” or more, it certainly isn’t with “about 100 tabs of various sites,” but more like five tabs. And by the way, that’s about as many tabs as I ever used–five.

And don’t think I’m picking on this one post as though it’s unique. My personal favourite complaint, now long-lost of course, is that somebody can’t keep Firefox open for a week straight without it crashing. You don’t say. Go figure.

And apparently the Firefox developers are ignoring bug reports, specifically about memory leaks. But how is that possible? Over the past few releases, one of the big selling points has consistently been that the browser will use less memory.

This isn’t even to really get started on the rant about why people think it’s good for their software to use as little memory as possible. The phrases “uses a lot of memory” and “is memory inefficient” are often used on Slashdot, especially against Firefox, as though they mean the same thing. I would be glad to have my browser use 3 GB if it did so in a responsible way that made my browsing faster. The key is that it wouldn’t need that much memory to function, but that with that much memory it would be better. Sure, there are situations where “a lighter memory footprint” is desirable, but there are plenty of situations where I have five tabs open, Firefox is using 200 MB of memory, I have 3 GB free, and I think “what a waste.”

The original comment appears here.



  1. Well, even if You don’t keep browser open for more than 30 minutes, I keep for one would keep it open for days, if it hand’t crashed. I also currently have 101 tabs open (yeah, I just counted them and surprised myself). What I can understand is that it such set up takes up a lot of memory, what I don’t is a fact that modern browsers easily crumble under such heavy load.

    I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon to have that many tabs open and use basically don’t even close browser unless restarting computer. One should complain (fill bugs) if the browser crash. And one also should complain if it takes up more memory than it should (i.e. if it leaks memory). These are valid complains. But they are not specific to firefox, I use midori for various reasons and it suffers similar issues.

  2. I have 4 firefox windows open, and while I haven’t counted them I’m sure its probably around 100. My laptop has an uptime of around 16 days and Firefox has been running most of that time. Its currently sitting around 1.5Gb RAM but often goes to 2. I don’t complain about it, but then I do have 4Gb RAM. I’ve also noticed a massive improvement in its memory usage in the Firefox 4 -> 8 timeframe. I’m also a little unusual in that I don’t have flash installed.

    Ultimately your usage of no more than 5 tabs no more than 30 minutes might well work fine for you but it doesn’t mean the others are wrong either.

  3. I, on the other hand, DO use lots of tabs and keep very long running windows open. But I also don’t have the same experience with memory leaks as the quoted poster. The current window has been open for at least two weeks, with currently 68 tabs open but having opened, used, and closed several hundred others (perhaps thousands). Firefox is currently using 1.7G, but that amount can and does go up and down with the number of open tabs so if there is leaking it’s minor.

    I’m not sure the premise of this article (nobody should use 100 tabs at a time or keep long-running Firefox windows open) is sound, but at the same time I don’t think the original commentary about memory usage is especially useful either. Perhaps their situation is that they *do* experience this, but to imply that one user’s experience is the general case is a logical fallacy.

  4. What’s wrong with expecting a browser to survive a week of active use without crashing? Why is a week significantly different from 10 minutes?

    That’s the problem with a lot of applications, Firefox included. Things fester in memory and leaks happen. A good application will clear up after itself and its children (ie, plugins). If you open 100 new tabs and then close them, memory should be released in full. If I open 100 tabs over the course of a day (a number I frequently exceed), memory usage should not slowly pile up. I should not have to stop what I’m doing once a week to check each tab (for something in-progress) and restart Firefox. If any of that happens, Firefox is not behaving well.

    In short: I don’t understand why it’s unreasonable to expect software to be good. This post hasn’t changed my view.

  5. My tabs count is low, under 10, maybe 3-4 on the average, but I have the browser open all day long, from morning to evening, if the computer is open, the browser window is open too. And almost all the time one of the tabs had a heavy, AJAX-intensive social network page.

    The result? my computer, with only 1GB of RAM halts to a crawl and I have to kill Firefox a couple of times each day to be able to get the work done. This is with Firefox 8 on Fedora 14.

    At times is really painful but I continue to use Firefox.

  6. One of you generously called my post an “article,” which I don’t think it is. Let’s be fair: it’s a one-sided rant without sound reasoning. To be honest, the rant is more about people on Slashdot than it is about software problems. But since we’re on the topic, and since at least a few people here seem to keep their browsers open for weeks, my question becomes serious: who are you, and what are you doing?

    I’ll concede right away that, if somebody uses Firefox differently from me, it’s probably not “wrong,” but just different. I would push this some more: I believe that, if an application will do something, you can expect it to do so without encountering errors–whether or not what you’re doing is something envisioned by the developers.

    As far as I can tell, everybody I know turns on their computer when they want to use it, then shuts down when they are finished using it. I understand there are people out there who leave their computer running all the time, and who rarely log out, restart, or quit applications. But what I don’t understand is why. I occasionally leave my computer on ‘sleep’ for up to two hours or so, I never use ‘hibernate’ and that’s probably because it doesn’t work reliably.

    So for those of you who have about 100 tabs open, and who leave their browser running for a week or more… what are you doing? Is it 100 websites that you visit regularly? Is it just that you didn’t close the website when you were finished, but you probably won’t go back? Do you use your computer so frequently that shutting down is impractical? And do you ‘sleep’ or ‘hibernate’? What about when you sleep? Do you keep your computer running something like BOINC, or is it just ‘on’ (or ‘sleeping’ or ‘hibernating’) doing nothing?

    In short: I agree that Firefox should be able to stay open for a week without errors, and my post was really just whining about Slashdot commentators. But I’m genuinely curious about the use patterns that prompt somebody to have their browser open for that long.

  7. I don’t usually have more than 15 tabs open–rarely I’ll have 20, but only for a short period; reading news, etc.. However, I do often have a browser open for days. I will hibernate my computer (because sleep doesn’t really save any power on my desktop with the fans still blowing wind and who knows what else still running) but rarely will I power it down, because it does save a little time.

    As far as the browser, I see no reason to close it unless it’s been updated or becomes unstable. If I’m just going to open the same sites anyway, or even if I’m not, it’d save some time if I left it open and it’s not (or shouldn’t be) burning any significant amount of CPU cycles while it’s idle–if it was, I’d find the offending site and close it, if possible.

    Generally, I know it’s not realistic to expect large programs which have many (development) priorities to operate without some sort of memory leak or instability here or there, but at the same time I think it should be reasonable to expect the browser to remain stable after running for a few days (assuming a sane number of tabs, but even with more tabs it shouldn’t degrade too much).

    Ideally, we’d have all (user-space, at least) programs written in a(n always) garbage collected language with decent or great performance, or written well enough that there are no leaks in a language without garbage collection…but that’s asking a lot. Such a program would likely have to be written from scratch with that in mind, and would take a lot of dedication and scrutiny (of course, depending on the size of the program).

    disclaimer: Although I have written a few programs, I don’t consider myself a really competent programmer.

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