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April 6, 2011

Mozilla cracks down on sluggish Firefox add-ons for newer versions

Mozilla Firefox
Earlier today, Mozilla said it is cracking down on sluggish Firefox add-ons that greatly slowdown the performance and speed of the popular open source browser. Recently, Mozilla's group has been getting more complaints of its browser becoming sluggish.

Mozilla then added that within the next two weeks, it will add a warning to any add-on that slows Firefox's startup time by more than 25 percent, and in an upcoming version of the browser, third-party add-ons won't be installed unless the user specifically approves the installation first hand.

"It’s an all-too-common practice of third-party software to install all kinds of so-called toolbars and other endless bundled add-ons in your browser without permission," Mozilla says. "We know that these add-ons account for many if not most of the performance issues reported to us, and Firefox users often don’t know how the add-on got there in the first place or how to remove it."

Requiring approval for the installation of all add-ons, Mozilla believes, will have a huge impact on performance. Every week, Mozilla will run automated performance tests on the top 100 add-ons in its add-on gallery, and it will display the results on its site.

After the first round of tests, the slowest performing add-on is the hugely popular website debugger, Firebug. According to Mozilla's stats, Firebug slows startup by at least 75 percent, and sometimes even more.

Ironically, the seventh slowest add-on is inappropriately called "Fastest Fox". It's designed for speedy browsing, but it generally slows startup time by 31 percent or more depending on the speed of the computer's CPU and overall memory installed.

And in the coming months, Mozilla will also provide tools to help developers and that will allow them to test add-on performance on their own side, and it will be contacting other developers whose add-ons are seriously increasing the startup time of the open-source browser.

"Firefox overall performance is extremely important to our users, especially how quickly it starts up and loads websites," Mozilla says. "Customization is also very critical, and while most add-ons cause only a small performance impact, others can still significantly slow down the browser. Many users don’t realize add-ons can cause these delays, and that’s why we’re truly committed in improving performance, and to reduce if not completely eliminate these issues."

Mozilla added that it will eventually test all add-ons as they're submitted to the gallery, and it will further expand testing to measure overall load times.

In other browser news, Opera said in January that it repaired its browser to remove a cross-platform security vulnerability that created a potential mechanism for attackers and hackers to inject malicious code into vulnerable Windows systems.

The critical security flaw stemmed from bugs in handling large form inputs, as explained in an advisory by a Norwegian software developer. Version 11.01 of the browser also addresses two less serious security holes.

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