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Firefox 2 versus Internet Explorer versus WordPress

The great Firefox 2 vs. IE 7 memory test by Scobleizer is a very interesting, if not scientific, comparison between Firefox 2 and IE 7. The test compares the “memory footprint”, the amount of memory consumed between two identical setups.

In Scoble’s test, Firefox wins, as it does with many of those commenting. Some interesting points were brought up, however, which directly affects you, the WordPress user.

As a web page loads, it initiates a variety of code, programs, responses, hits on the database, graphics, and calculations. These can impact how much memory is consumed depending upon how many of these tasks are activated when viewing a web page. Code and programming such as PHP, Javascript, and Ajax, which currently make up a lot of web page programming, all use your computer’s memory when loading and working.

The WordPress Administration Panels on and full versions of WordPress include a lot of Javascript and Ajax. Many WordPress Themes now include Ajax features, on widgets as well as design elements. Ajax is what makes things fade, move, and change on a page without reloading, such as the delete spam feature on Akimset’s comment spam panel and the various “boxes” on the WordPress Write panel.

This means that users of WordPress and web pages featuring Ajax can become memory victims of poor programming code. As commenter Marcelo Calbucci explained:

The real problem occurs with rich AJAX applications like Sampa that creates and manipulates many objects, IFrames, AJAX calls, etc. On that case, in my tests, Firefox is faster than IE in terms of CPU, but it ends up consuming more memory.

Somebody writing a poor AJAX app can really drain a lot of resources from your browser, either IE or FF. But if the dev is doing a good job cleaning up memory, Firefox memory will most likely be higher than IE.

If you include a lot of WordPress Plugins or code with Ajax, Javascript, and such, you are increasing the memory usage and load people experience when visiting a web page on your site. YOU are influencing the speed at which their Internet browser runs.

If you have written WordPress Plugins or any code used on a web page, WordPress Theme or WordPress Administration Panel, take time now to test and check your code to make sure you aren’t one of those drains. Make it better, smaller, and faster, and you will win even more fans.

How Many Tabs Do You Have Open?

Firefox multiple tabs openPart of the discussion and debate on these Firefox 2 versus IE 7 speed and memory discussions revolves around the issue of how many tabs a typical user has open. Many claim that “nobody” has more than 20-30 tabs or windows open at a time in their Internet browser. I don’t agree.

While the “average” user many have only one or two tabs or windows open at a time, it’s only because they don’t know they can have more than one open at a time. This is new thinking to them. But I believe that most of the folks reading my blog and Scoble’s are web wise and they understand the benefits of multiple open windows and tabs.

On an average day, I will have more than 100 tabs open in Firefox. I do a lot of research on the various projects I work on, and at least 15 of those tabs are never closed as I work those blogs and websites for information. These include two tabs each for blogs I own and manage along with my feed reader and other social bookmarking sites I monitor.

On a heavy research day, it is typical for me to have 200-300 tabs open at one time. It may take one to two weeks before I finally go through all of them and reduce that number back to 100. It depends upon the project I’m writing.

With that kind of work load on my computer, combined with the rest of my programs and work, I have a ton of trouble with RAM from time to time. I work with a lot of RAM and huge hard drives, putting huge demands on my computers, replacing them every year or two in order to take advantage of the higher speeds and larger and faster drives. So I’m very interested in any program that does the work of an Mac truck but is the size of a pin head.

What have been your experiences so far? Remember, Firefox 2 is still in beta testing, so it might even be faster and better by the time the stable version is released.

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37 Comments

  1. Posted October 22, 2006 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    “On a heavy research day, it is typical for me to have 200-300 tabs open at one time. It may take one to two weeks before I finally go through all of them and reduce that number back to 100. It depends upon the project I’m writing.”

    I am dumbfounded by that information. I love tabbed browsing, but if I get more than 10-15 tabs open at once, it’s just far too cluttered to be productive. On the other hand, I work across three monitors, so if I *really* need more, I open a new window and load it up with the overflow.

    Of course, I’m also of the “clean desk” mindset, wherein I have to (mostly) clear my desk at the end of every day, or the next day just starts off badly.

  2. Posted October 22, 2006 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    200-300 tabs! I can only dream, this beast that I run can barely handle 5 tabs let alone 200. I can only imagine how much more I would get done if I could have more tabs… I’d always be able to keep a copy of Dice Wars running ;).

  3. Posted October 22, 2006 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “a very interesting, if not unscientific, comparison” – hang on! Is it scientific or isn’t it?! I can’t figure it out!! ;-)

  4. Posted October 22, 2006 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    You said, “Code and programming such as PHP, Javascript, and Ajax, which currently make up a lot of web page programming, all use your computer’s memory when loading and working.”

    I always thought PHP was a server side script and as such has no effect on memory usage client (i.e. browser) side?

  5. Posted October 22, 2006 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    i didnt know it was possible to have that many tabs open at once!!

  6. Posted October 22, 2006 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle,
    You are a tab monster. I may have 10-12 tabs open at once. Like you- I often have 2 tabs open to my own blogs- one to the PopStats page- and another to the admin- or when writing- to the blog to check things out.
    I wouldn’t call Scobels’s comparison scientific or balanced- all I know is I love FF 2- I couldn’t live without the spellcheck in forms anymore.
    Since I live on a mac- IE7 isn’t really an option for me- but, it does worry me from a QC standpoint- since I hear you can’t have 6 and 7 loaded on the same machine and unless MS forces the updates- developers are going to have a hard time making sites work with both.

  7. Posted October 22, 2006 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    David, I’m pretty sure Microsoft is all but forcing the IE7 update on all Windows users. It’s going to be an automatic update that users are allowed to opt out of. Most users, however, will just go through with the update without any thought. Should be interesting to witness the backlash.

  8. Posted October 22, 2006 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Jonathan—I can’t imagine having that many tabs open at once!

    I haven’t tested much in either IE7 or Firefox 2.0. In fact, I don’t even have them on my PC yet. I’m waiting for more of my extensions to get updated before I install Firefox and I don’t want to install IE7 on my PC for backwards compatibility checking. Not to mention the fact that IE7’s interface is really stupid. I have it on my laptop, but I can guarantee I won’t be switching anytime soon.

  9. Posted October 22, 2006 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, may I suggest you a secondary monitor, or even a second computer and some synergy goodness to unclutter your browsing experience.

  10. Posted October 22, 2006 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I find myself keeping 2-4 windows with 10 or so tabs each going. Firefox 1.5 was horrible memory wise, even with 512MB. Boosting to 1GB helped a fair amount. Firefox 2 seems much faster and less ‘sluggish’ when I have a lot of tabs open.

    IE7 seems more sluggish than IE6 sometimes, but until it’s really ‘released’ can’t judge it. Doubt I’ll use it much as Firefox has been good to me and I use a number of plugins.

  11. Posted October 22, 2006 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Many claim that “nobody” has more than 20-30 tabs or windows open at a time in their Internet browser. I don’t agree.

    I routinely have 100+ tabs open. Some of them are for work, but most are related to research for blogging.

  12. Posted October 22, 2006 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Wow Lorelle!

    “it is typical for me to have 200-300 tabs open at one time. It may take one to two weeks before I finally go through all of them and reduce that number back to 100″

    Makes me wonder a bit. Is this really so effective?

    First of all, how do you keep track of so many tabs?

    Second, it probably means you never shut down your computer(s). My experience says, some applications or part thereof will have memory leaks, albeit small. Over time you will have heaps of garbage, that only a restart will cure.
    I’m talking windows here, and as usual I might be wrong.

  13. Posted October 22, 2006 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    200-300?! There is something very unnerving with that. I suspect that this may require therapy! Seriously, though… I only wish I could be that organized, as it generally takes me weeks to go through my usual 60-80 tabs. Many of these are open more or less permanently for various reasons. I’m sure if I didn’t have a day job, I could sweep them away faster, but still. Clearing out 200-300 in a week or two is pure organizational talent.

  14. Posted October 22, 2006 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    As pointed out by Darren above, PHP has no direct effect on a reader/user’s computer. PHP is a server-side scripting language that is used to generate output that is sent over HTTP to a web browser. From a client-side viewpoint, a static page and a page generated via PHP are no different. Same thing with any database calls that PHP makes – these are done on the server side, and used to generate content that is sent to the web browser.

    However, JavaScript (or in Ajax form) can have quite an impact on a client’s web browser performance. Depending on how well the JavaScript is written, and how well the client’s web browser interprets JavaScript, things can get very slow. In some tests, Opera seems to have the best JavaScript performance – though again, it depends on specific instances of code. Things that really seem to slow down browsers is JavaScript that is used for fades or transitions – it doesn’t have to be this way, but since they’re aren’t any optimizations for this sort of stuff (JavaScript being very general-purpose), it ends up being slow.

    Ajax is actually doubly bad, since not only does it require client-side processing, but since there’s usually extra requests to the server, it results in an increased server load as well.

  15. Posted October 22, 2006 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Part of the discussion and debate on these Firefox 2 versus IE 7 speed and memory discussions revolves around the issue of how many tabs a typical user has open. Many claim that “nobody” has more than 20-30 tabs or windows open at a time in their Internet browser. I don’t agree.

    Actually, I think you are in the minority here but not for the reasons that you mention in your post.

    Yes, many new IE7 and Firefox users may only have one tab open at a time and may leave their browser to open links in new browser windows instead of as a new tab. But, I think most users will use tabs regularly once they start to become more familiar with their new browser of choice…

    But more than 20? I seriously doubt it. Hard core power users like yourself may have many more than 20 tabs, but most users I think will only have at most 7 to 10 tabs…. That’s because most of them don’t need that many pages open at the same time. For the average user more than 20 tabs is just information overload… Heck for the average user more than 10 tags is probably information overload.

    The only people who are going to have more than 10 tabs open on a regular basis are the “power bloggers” like yourself. These are the people who are contributing to multiple blogs and scouring many website in search of content and the like to power their blogging needs…

  16. Posted October 22, 2006 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    how do you manage to organize 200 tabs!!!!

    I go crazy beyond 10!

  17. Posted October 23, 2006 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I share many of my power blogging tips and tricks (and reasons behind my tabbing madness) in Power Blogging: Web Browser Blogging Tips.

    As for multiple monitors and such, I rarely have more than 6 windows open, and moving constantly between each program, so multiple monitors won’t help me, and they just don’t travel very well. ;-)

    Remember, I live on the road full time. And I’m probably one of the few whose middle button has a worn mark from clicking open new tabs all the time. hee hee.

    And while you are all right about PHP, I have found consistently that the fewer PHP codes and calls on the database on my full version WordPress blogs, the faster it loads. Poor coding, even in PHP, increases the load time, even if it doesn’t directly impact RAM. Browsers which can handle these instructions faster make for much “funner” browsing.

  18. Posted October 23, 2006 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    200-300 tabs! wonder if you ever shut down your pc? because if i opened such many tab, once i launch my web bwoser it would be pain to wait for all the webpages to finish loading.

  19. Posted October 23, 2006 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    I think I’ve had over 100 tabs open at some point or another, but it sure was messy. I’ve reverted to using del.icio.us when I need to maintain that many links.

    Then again, I’m writing this in tab #47 at the moment, and the day has just started. Tabbed browsing sure is huge!

    I wish Firefox 2 would include the thumbnail view that IE7 sports. It’s actually pretty nice.

  20. rh_factor
    Posted October 23, 2006 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Wow! You are the queen of ‘tabs’!

    My method is far from perfect but I find it helps me focus.

    I have a bunch of task-oriented profiles set up in Firefox. Each profile may have 7 to 15 tabs. I focus on one task at a time, complete it, shut down that profile and open another. I have one default “fun” profile that I keep as a reward for getting work done.

    I’ll even re-start the same profile to get a “clean” group of tabs…when performing a set of similar tasks in one work session.

    Sometimes I wish I could have two custom profiles open at once but haven’t figured out how to do that. Maybe 2.0 will support.

  21. Posted October 23, 2006 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    it probably means you never shut down your computer(s)

    Who does? ;) Seriously, though, the only people I know who ever turn off their computers are complete noobs. Are there really that many geeks who don’t leave them running 24/7?

  22. Posted October 23, 2006 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I consider myself a “power user”, but I rarely have more than 10 tabs open at a time. If I do it’s usually because I’m reading an article with lots of links and opening the links in the background as I read (especially with blog carnivals like the Skeptics Circle).

    As for PHP, it will have no impact on rendering and browser side loading. If you experience any delay it will be waiting for the response from the server. Badly written PHP will certainly cause slow response times. If the HTML that the PHP generates is badly written, that’s a different story.

  23. Posted October 23, 2006 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I definitely used to have 50 tabs open across 4 windows at times, when I was tracking a lot of links and working on various blogs, but I eventually had to stop doing that because it was too common for Firefox to crash (and I couldn’t get to dealing with all those links anyway). Lately I’ve been trying to control my usage more, but I really wish my computer and my browser could handle that kind of weight without consuming so much memory.

  24. Posted October 23, 2006 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I’m on 150 tabs at the moment, split across 4 windows. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m very much like you Lorelle, in that I tend to open tabs during research and then gradually reduce the number down again (in between suspend /resumes whilst travelling!).
    FFx 2 currently at ~480Mb. Not tried IE7 yet. No rush.

  25. Posted October 23, 2006 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I just wish there was a method of turning off tabs and just using the full screen browser windows like I’m used to. I don’t like tabs because it’s too hard for me to click on that little itty bittie target to change windows. I have to use ALT-Tab and I can’t do that with tabbed browsers. But I can hit that ‘Open in a new tab’ link too easily and that messes me up.

  26. Posted October 23, 2006 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Okay, drmike, here is Lorelle to the rescue.

    Use Ctrl+Page Up or Page Down to move between tabs.

    Get a mouse with a center button or button/wheel and click that over any link to automatically open it in a new tab.

    Use F11 to get a full screen view, but it does still include the tabs.

    Get Tax Mix Plus, Tab Preview, Tabbrowser Preferences, Numbered Tabs, and Colorful Tabs Firefox Extensions to customize tabs like you’ve never customized them before. I love all of these and use them all.

    I’ve customized my tabs with colors and each one is about a 1/2 inch wide so I SEE the tabs. I also see more of the page titles in the tabs to remind me what they are, and the titles are in italics until I read them, and then they are “normal” (not italic). The tab I’m on has the title in RED on the tab. With this kind of customization, I can keep track of where I am. I also keep three rows of tabs so it doesn’t push down too far or move the tabs off the screen so I can’t find them.

    I’ll write more about all the Firefox tab tricks I do, so don’t be afraid. Get really good Firefox tab extensions and have fun with your tabs. But DO NOT use any feature that puts a close X box on every tab as it takes up too much tab real estate and is too easy to click closed when clicking tabs. That is a serious NO NO. I hear IE has that feature and I think it’s terrible. I had a horrible time with it.

    Tabs are fun, so have fun with them.

  27. Posted October 23, 2006 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    IE7 is release now, and FF2RC3 is coming out in the morning as FF2.0, so now if we want to be more official we can.
    I can attest to the fact that Firefox can be a bit of a pain on the memory front sometimes. My desktop with 768MB has gotten bogged down before, especially on PDFs and things of that sort. Certain plugins seem to make it worse. I haven’t managed to load enough tabs to make my laptop with 2GB and a dual-core lag, but somewhere around 30 tabs my brain starts lagging, and I think at 50 my head would explode.
    I’ve installed IE7 as well. I will say that it is far better than IE6. The feed reader is even pretty smecksy. There are just a certain number of things about it that rub me the wrong way, though. When it comes down to it, I’ll sacrifice a few MB of memory on AJAX to get some customization. That’s why I switched in the first place.

  28. Posted October 26, 2006 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    I completely agree on the tabs comment. The ability to have tabs coupled with extensions for Safari, Camino or Firefox that reload those tabs in case of reboot, crash or whatever also means you may end up with tabs that you would otherwise lose.

    This is funny because yesterday I closed 250 tabs, which I had spread among 5 windows in Safari, while I kept another 20 or so in Camino (for which I just loaded a session saver extension). I usually have thematic windows, where I keep tabs related to work in one window, tabs from links I’m sent from people in another windo, a window just for my daily reading and feeds, a window for sites I’m working on (of which mine usually isn’t one) and a window for documentation, manuals and suchlike where manuals for php, mysql, javascript and css are always opened.

    Yesterday I got into a closing furor when I opened safari and it took 15 minutes to be fully operational and noticed how my workflow had changed when I noticed I had a tab from February still opened. I had relegated it to the “read when you have time” mental bin and it kept being there, 8 months later :)

  29. ivan ng
    Posted October 26, 2006 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    And while you are all right about PHP, I have found consistently that the fewer PHP codes and calls on the database on my full version WordPress blogs, the faster it loads. Poor coding, even in PHP, increases the load time, even if it doesn’t directly impact RAM. Browsers which can handle these instructions faster make for much “funner” browsing.

    Your last sentence does not make sense. We just established that PHP does not run on the browser.

  30. BXT
    Posted October 26, 2006 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    You might have problems with turning down your Computer. But have you ever mentioned the “Hibernate”-Function? It saves all your RAM to your Harddisk and loads it back again, when starting th Computer.

    And you schould think abaout a hyperlink-based todo-list. I don’t think you are watching all Tabs at once, so you could just save links to pages, you want to read.

    And to watch pages, you can use a RSS-reader that alerts when getting new information.

  31. slayer
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    All hail OPERA!

  32. T-Steel
    Posted April 20, 2007 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    HMMM! I think I may have found the reason why I get lots of comments complaining about one my OVER AJAXED sites. :)

  33. Sam
    Posted November 3, 2007 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Firefox all the way! I have dailup so with the Adblock add-on some website load 75% faster than IE7 which I also have (I don’t know why.)

  34. iaskedalice09
    Posted December 28, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I usually have 40-100 tabs open. I’m a geek in that sense. I am also visually impaired so a master at keyboard shortcut memorisation (Seriously, keyboard shortcuts rule). I haven’t found the CTRL + pageup-page down one before though I’ll definitely use it in lieu of the tab window.

    I was bummed about the appearance of tabs in Fx 2.0 but then installed Winestripe, Tab Mix Plus and am going to install Tab Preview. Lorelle, you should definitely keep up a list of Must-Have Fx Extensions for bloggers as you are really an expert – my productivity has gone through the roof from reading your blog and using Firefox, and I don’t use WP fulltime anymore! You are a goddess!

  35. Posted September 10, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I support a CRM application called SugarCRM which uses quite a bit of Ajax. I would perhaps being from the “messy desk” school open more tabs but the performance declines after about 30 tabs (brings firefox up to around 500 MB ) Plus I suspect that fasterfox, firebug, session manager etc. have some serious memory leaks.

    I may investigate IE8 as I heard this may run with a lower memory usage profile.

    Note here: I only run a gig of ram and need to upgrade.

    Note two: I generally do us Synergy across more than one machine.. Very useful.. Get it if you have more than one box to run off of.

    Thanks;
    David Kosy

  36. Posted February 19, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    now the war are between firefox and chrome i guess


7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] That’s about all IE7 has going for it. There’s no plug-ins, enhancements, or user generated elements that are on par with those of the Firefox community. Granted that plug-ins and 3rd party tools are a potential security risk for Firefox, most people who use Firefox are aware of such and are willing to take their own measures to secure their browsing experience. The new Firefox 2 RC3 is available for testing and I have to say I love it. I’ve yet to see as many glowing reviews for IE as I have for Firefox. The people will decide for themselves. You can also check out another comparison of the two rivals here! [...]

  2. [...] Nach dem Lorelle sich jetzt den neuen Firefox und den neuen IE zum Test auf echte Einsatztauglichkeit unter Blogumständen vorgenommen hat, muss ich mal meinen Senf zu Opera 9.02 abgeben. Ich tue das aus dem Grund, weil die Blogosphäre scheinbar allgemein Opera ein Schattendasein führen lässt. Dabei ist er, wenn auch keine Freie Software ein sehr komfortabler Browser, der vor sich allem (und das hat er FF und IE voraus) in der 6.3 MB großen Grundausstattung schon wunderbar anpassen lässt. Die Symbolleisten sind schnell mit der Maus zurechtgezogen und haben (bei mir) die wichtigsten Funktionen parat: Plugins aktivieren (dazu gehört Java und Flash) ist mit einer Checkbox verfügbar und jederzeit ohne Umwege erreichbar, Javascript ist gleichermaßen schnell abgeschaltet. Mit Popups kann man verschieden verfahren: Im Hintergrund öffnen, normal öffnen, unerwünschte Popups blockieren (heißt window.open funktioniert nur wenns unmitterbal mit dem aktuellen Klick zusammenhängt) und alle Popups blockieren. Mit einem (bei mir) oder wenigen Handgriffen gibt sich Opera auch als InternetExplorer oder Firefox aus, sehr praktisch bei Seiten, die selbst der Annahme sind, sie würden auf bestimmten Browsern nicht laufen. Opera im Tagesgebrauch läuft stabil und stürzt selten ab. Wenns doch mal geschieht, dann bietet er ab Werk die Möglichkeit an, die abgestürzte Session fortzusetzen, was auch immer gelingt. [...]

  3. [...] IE7 is out (not yet in Japan). Firefox 2 is out in few days (world wide). Lorelle’s article is a must read for the WordPress users. [...]

  4. [...] Greetings, I’m with Lorelle on tab usage.  I regularly have between 2-5 windows, each with 30+ tabs.  I do it because I’ll be reading an article on something I want to know more about, and I’ll run across an interesting link in the article, but not want to lose the flow of what I’m reading.  I’ll middle-click, and continue reading.  Once I’m done with that article, I move on to the next link, and the next…  I also keep a baseline of about 20 tabs of personal and work stuff (gmail, financials, calendar, development reference, etc.) which never closes. [...]

  5. [...] Firefox 2 versus Internet Explorer versus WordPress [...]

  6. [...] it was really really slow. If you were using Internet Explorer as your browser (you really should get Safari or FireFox), or were connecting through DSL or (God [...]

  7. […] Firefox 2 versus Internet Explorer versus WordPress […]

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