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Firefox Browser Going On A Memory Diet

Mozilla officials admit Firefox continues to rely on a monolithic architecture that can lead to instability and memory leaks.
Galbraith wants the Mozilla developer community to help solve Firefox's memory problems, and those of other applications, by creating an open source tool to make application memory garbage collection (GC) -- the process by which programs clear unneeded objects from memory -- easier to understand and manage.

"We plan on the initial implementation of this tool to be simple," he explained. "For memory usage, we want to introduce the ability to visualize the current set of noncollectible JavaScript objects at any point in time (i.e., the heap) and give you the ability to understand why those objects aren't collectible (i.e., trace any object to a GC root). For the cycle collector, we want to give you a way to understand when a collection starts and when it finishes and thus understand how long it took."

Firefox is still quite popular and its usage continues to grow. It captured a worldwide market share of 21.77% in February, according to Net Applications. It remains the most customizable browser, with a wide selection of plug-ins. Firefox developers also are working on technology like the Ubiquity command line interface that no other browser can yet match.

But without fundamentals like speed and efficient memory usage, Firefox could lose ground.

Mozilla has been slow to deliver Firefox 3.1, which was supposed to be available in December and is now scheduled for the second quarter of 2009, owning to technical issues with its TraceMonkey JavaScript engine.

Firefox needs the speed that comes with TraceMonkey. And it needs the stability and efficiency that come with well-managed memory usage. It can't afford to innovate at the edges while remaining bloated at the core.


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