On one of my previous posts, commenter Rasmussen wrote:

Umm, am just a dumb end user. Chrome is really tempting me now.. I stuck with FF while all my friends switched over to chrome solely because i’m addicted to addons and the Manifesto.

FF was the first software company that i discovered had an ideology, and it’s kinda exotic, because i always believed software companies were soulless.

I do hate the startup time and the crashes and as chrome has brought in the extensions, the case for me staying with FF is getting weaker.

However, Google is being evil sometimes, and the FF ideology charms me, and it could be the reason i’m typing this through FF, which is why i hope the bigwigs of FF are and will remain sincere about the ideology.

Hope you guys remain competitive, I do want you to win but just don’t become obsolete.

From my experience talking to and working with the “bigwigs of FF” as Rasmussen call them, I can personally vouch for their sincerity. They’re more serious about the Mozilla principles than most people I know are serious about anything. They’re dedicated to fighting for openness, freedom, and user choice on the Internet, and they know we can’t get complacent just because we’ve been gaining market share. They know that talking about our principles isn’t enough: we have to back them up with quality software that people want to use.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard users complain about Firefox’s startup time and stability relative to Chrome. I could talk and talk about how seriously we’re taking those problems, how hard the Firefox team is working on performance and stability, and how killing crashes and reducing startup time are some of our highest priorities going in to Firefox 3.6 and 3.7. But maybe it will be more convincing to show you:

  • The Crashkill project is aiming to identify and fix the most common causes of crashes.
  • The Startup Time project is analyzing the reasons it takes Firefox as long as it does to start up, and finding ways to reduce that time.
  • The Electrolysis project is moving plugins like Flash to a separate process, and extensions to another separate process, so that a problem with a Flash movie or an extension (both common causes of crashes) can’t take down the whole browser.
  • Finally, see the Firefox Roadmap, which shows the top improvements planned for the next few releases.

Since Firefox is developed in the open, anyone can follow our progress. Firefox developers — who include not just Mozilla corporation employees, but also volunteers from all around the world — use the pages that I linked to above to track their own work on startup time and crashes. Since these pages are developer-oriented, they’re on the technical side. But whether you’re a developer or not, you’re welcome to use them to take a peek into what we’re doing.

Edited to add: Vlad has blogged a a good introduction to the problems involved in improving startup time. It’s still technical, but less so than the wiki page; check it out if you’re interested.