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By Willow (willowashmaple.xyz)

Firefox slow?

June 12, 2024 (Updated July 5, 2024)

As you may already know, nearly all the web browsers today are based on Chromium, an open-source project sponsored by Google and is the foundation for the popular Google Chrome browser.

In addition to Google Chrome and Chromium, popular browsers such as Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, and Edge are all based on this. This creates a virtual monopoly in the web browser marketplace.

Mozilla Firefox is the long-run competitor to Chrome and other browsers that came before, such as the Microsoft Internet Explorer. In fact, Firefox is a continuation of the good old Netscape Navigator, which in turn was based on Mozaic.

One of the reasons why Firefox is not as popular is a common complaint about it: Simply put, Firefox is perceived to be the "slow" browser.

The reason for this is that it takes a bit longer for Firefox to start up and be ready to load the first web page. But as I experimented with it (note: the desktop Firefox browser, running on Debian Linux), I was able to substantially improve the startup performance by doing these two things:

1. Go to about:config (type this in the address bar, you will see a warning screen first) and turn the following two settings to "false": browser.cache.disk.enable and browser.cache.disk.smart_size.enabled. While the browser cache may speed up the loading of already-visited web pages while on a slow network connection (something that helped in the era of the dial-up internet), it actually slows down Firefox.

2. Go ahead and if you have an ad block add-on installed, remove it. What? What good is Firefox if I can't use the ad block -- especially when Google is waging a war on it? It turns out that ad block add-ons often have a "kill switch" of a sort that prevents web pages from loading until they download the updated blocklists. Also, if you have Metamask add-on installed, remove it. Metamask appears to slow down Firefox really badly. If you need an ad block, a better solution is to use a DNS-based ad blocker, such as ControlD and NextDNS.

Edit: If you cannot modify your DNS settings, use the Ghostery add-on. It does not slow down Firefox like most other ad blockers. Ghostery is both an ad blocker and anti-tracker, so you can uninstall the Privacy Badger add-on and lessen the resource usage.

ControlD FreeDNS (choose the "Ads & Tracking")
NextDNS (free for up to 300,000 DNS inquiries per calendar month, which should be enough for an individual user with one device.)

3. If you are a die-hard Chrome/Chromium fan, or if your computer is too resource-limited to run Firefox (e.g., you have an old netbook that still works only because of Bodhi Linux or LXLE), there's Un-Googled Chromium. This version of Chromium takes the open-source parts of Chromium's code while removing all the binary "blobs" from Google (apparently even the open-source Chromium available through the Ubuntu and Debian repos is not fully free of Google!). As such, certain features are not available, such as Google sync, extensions (they may however be installed manually), and password manager (there won't be any "Save this password?" prompt; you can however manually type in passwords in the password manager window).

UnGoogled Chromium binary downloads

4. Floorp is a new browser derived from Firefox. I have not noticed any discernible advantage in speed and performance over the official Firefox releases, but it may be worth trying. Floorp fully supports Firefox themes and add-ons, as well as Firefox Sync (helpful if you want to sync with Firefox for Android) and Firefox Relay. (See above for instructions on disabling the cache.)

Floorp

5. The new Midori browser is now also based on Firefox and Floorp. Like Floorp, it supports Firefox Sync and add-ons. This one seems to perform much better than Floorp and Firefox at startup.

Midori for desktop
Midori for Android

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