year of the Gecko

Stuart put up a great post today describing the results of our intensive focus on memory use in Firefox 3 (and followed up, after many requests from commenters on his blog and elsewhere, with a graph including Safari and Opera). The memory gains are great, and they cover all sorts of improvements: leak fixes, allocator changes, new facilities to eliminate classes of troublesome entrainment, and better cache management.

It’s a time-honoured programming tradeoff that using more space speeds you up, but that’s not what happened here: our memory-reduction regimen actually made us faster in a lot of cases by making us more cache-friendly and by side-effects like using a better allocator. And we didn’t stop there, dropping the hammer on major performance gains in rendering and JavaScript as well, and leaving us as of today right at the top of tests like Apple’s SunSpider.

Productivity and feature wins in Firefox-the-application are really coming together as well, with the AwesomeBar leading many people’s lists of favourite new feature. It really has changed the way I use the web, and I feel like everything I’ve ever seen is right at my fingertips. Add to that the great strides in OS integration and theming for Mac and Linux and it really is shaping up to be the best browser the web has ever known.

I’m obviously excited; this feels like exactly the right sort of everything-coming-together that should be in the air on the cusp of the 10th anniversary of the original source release. It hasn’t been an easy ride, especially pre-Firefox, and nobody on the project takes our success so far for granted — which makes it all the more satisfying to see years of investment pay off in a fantastic product.

Other people are excited too, from users and journalists to extension developers and companies looking to add web tech to their products. In the mobile arena especially we’re seeing a ton of excitement about the gains in speed and size. A lot of people aren’t yet used to thinking of Mozilla as a source of mobile-grade technology, but they weren’t used to thinking of us as a major browser force either. It’s fun to break the model.

Fast, small, cross-platform, industry-leading stability, solid OS integration, excellent standards support, excellent web compatibility, great security, ridiculously extensible, a productive app platform, accessible, localized to heck and back, open source from top to bottom: it’s a great time to be building on top of Gecko, and Firefox 3 is just the beginning. Wait until you see what we have in store for the next release…

4 comments to “year of the Gecko”

  1. entered 12 March 2008 @ 11:21 pm

    “Wait until you see what we have in store for the next releaseā€¦”

    What do you have in store for the next release?

  2. Boris
    entered 13 March 2008 @ 1:39 am

    Sharks! And lasers!

    Or at least more CSS selectors and some yummy perf wins if everything goes right.

  3. entered 13 March 2008 @ 1:49 am

    wrt AwesomeBar, I see this and think of QuickSilver… yet I haven’t seen them mentioned on the same page, curious that.

  4. entered 19 March 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments on Gecko being a great app platform. I am working on a major project ($2M budget, 10 developers) using XULrunner as the basis for an internal corporate application. Everybody involved with the project has been amazed at what can be done with this environment. I hope Mozilla puts more effort into promoting this approach – it beats the heck out of AIR and Silverlight for building next generation web apps.