Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Firefox 3 beta: Fonts and Colors

Category: Browsers, Firefox

Firefox 3 beta 1 is in the wild for developers to test with:

  • Improved security features such as: better presentation of website identity and security, malware protection, stricter SSL error pages, anti-virus integration in the download manager, and version checking for insecure plugins.
  • Improved ease of use through: better password management, easier add-on installation, new download manager with resumable downloading, full page zoom, animated tab strip, and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.
  • Richer personalization through: one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders, direct typing in location bar searches your history and bookmarks for URLs and page titles, ability to register web applications as protocol handlers, and better customization of download actions for file types.
  • Improved platform features such as: new graphics and font rendering architecture, major changes to the HTML rendering engine to provide better CSS, float-, and table layout support, native web page form controls, colour profile management, and offline application support.
  • Performance improvements such as: better data reliability for user profiles, architectural improvements to speed up page rendering, over 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks.

Stuart Parmenter has discussed what he is excited about which includes:

  1. Vastly improved font selection and complex script support.
    – I’ll be going in to more detail than you probably wanted to know on the improvements here soon.
  2. Color profile support for images and CSS colors
    – This is disabled by default currently. We still need to add prefs for it. Set gfx.color_management.enabled to true in about:config and restart the browser to enable.

Both of these are fairly subtle improvements but should both make a big improvement to large sets of people.

While I’m really excited about this milestone, I think the memory work currently going on will make the next couple betas that much better.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 6:50 am

2.7 rating from 66 votes


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JavaScript/DOM performance is pretty poor compared to Firefox 2. I really hope this gets addressed in the final version since that would make Firefox the slowest browser after Internet Explorer.

Comment by Jergon — November 21, 2007

There are some massive memory leaks in Firefox Beta 3 Release Candidate 1. On one system we loaded it with about:blank and within 4 minutes it had consumed all available memory. On another system about:blank didn’t trigger it but normal usage (4 open tabs: Google homepage, Google Reader, this page and one from Slashdot) caused it to consume all available memory and start thrashing the hard drive as it was attempting to use more virtual memory.

Comment by Mr. Muskrat — November 21, 2007

Did they manage to include support for the soft hyphen? Open request since the dawn of time…

Comment by Martin — November 21, 2007

Sorry that should say Firefox Beta 3 (3.0b1).

Comment by Mr. Muskrat — November 21, 2007

Here you check FF3 without installing it:

Comment by Marcin — November 21, 2007

Jergon/Mr Muskrat – are you trying this with a new profile? Really it should be faster and not leak anywhere near as much memory.

Comment by Robin — November 21, 2007

Jergon – this is a BETA release. The purpose of a beta is to broaden day-to-day usage, allow developers to begin necessary compatibility updates, and identify more bugs, esp. with web site rendering. Performance is not the /primary/ goal yet.

If you read the Mozilla roadmaps, you’ll see that beta releases are intended to be feature-complete, with the goal of performance improvements happening during the beta cycle. When the performance meets or exceeds that of the previous version (and blocking bug count is at or near zero), they begin to issue release candidates.

Comment by Keith — November 21, 2007

Mr. Muskrat,

I think we’ve got to the root of the problem that you and some other Firefox 3 Beta 1 testers are seeing.

Starting yesterday, we began receiving reports, like yours, of a new memory/cpu usage issue that happens shortly after a normal startup and can spike the CPU and chew up hundreds of MB of RAM. This is apparently happening to people with new profiles or in profiles that have a very outdated list of bad sites for the Phishing Protection feature and the Malware Protection feature.

What’s going on is that soon after Firefox is started, Firefox tries to fetch updates to the site forgery and malware lists — the lists of bad sites that allows Firefox to warn users about suspected Phishing and Attack sites. If the profile has very outdated or no local lists, as is the case for a new Firefox profile, Firefox is trying to bring down these rather large lists in one big chunk rather than slowly in small chunks. This causes Firefox to consume large amounts of CPU and memory and can slow the users machine to a crawl.

This problem is due to the change in the “SafeBrowsing Protocol” which only affects Firefox 3 Beta 1 and nightly build users. If you’re on Firefox 2, this isn’t going to affect you.

The work-around for this problem was for us to throttle it on the server side. We’ve done that and if you try Firefox 3 Beta 1 again, it should be fine.

– A

Comment by Asa Dotzler — November 21, 2007

Something is so wrong with Firefox development.. When FF2.0 emerged, I thought it was some late alpha release. With version I still think this browser is not solid and fast enough. I tried FF3b2 and it was an experience I tried to forget. If I could only port Firebug to Opera, there will be no Firefox for me.
I know this is not a useful comment, but it’s better to post it here than to mumble it to myself while walking down the street…

Comment by mare — November 21, 2007

Nice I’ve been waiting for this. Hopefully thye really have been able to speed things up. Firefox 2 is really starting to chug.

Justin Geek Daily

Comment by Geek Daily — November 22, 2007

I’ve been working on a redesign of my personal site which uses a significant amount of alpha-transparent PNGs, animation and CSS opacity, and the 3 beta is noticeably faster at rendering than Firefox 2, which is great to see. I did encounter the runaway process/RAM use, but it sounds like the developers are aware of it (thanks for the feedback here, by the way.)

Comment by Scott Schiller — November 22, 2007

@Asa Dotzler:

It’d be nice to see it slowly/incrementally download that sort of data, and while incomplete simply poll the server’s list for the current host or URL on load as a temporary method.

Comment by Trevor — November 23, 2007

Trevor, yeah, we’re looking to fix on both ends so this kind of thing can be mitigated even if the server sided goes haywire. It’ll be corrected in the client for the second beta.

– A

Comment by Asa Dotzler — November 27, 2007

I’ve had great success with the RAMBack extension available from

I saw a noticeable speed up in how long it took tabs to load. I’m one of those ADD people who has a lot of them. Sigh.

Comment by SiriusGuy — November 30, 2007

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