August 9, 2017

Seven Sites With Free Photos You Can Use However You Want

Great photos can really make a website pop. They catch the eye, yes, but can also help you get your point across.

If you’re building a site, you could learn how to take good photos, but sometimes that’s not an option. Happily, there are all sorts of sites out there full of free images you can use for any purpose: commercial or otherwise.
Photos on these sites are usually contributed by volunteer photographers looking to get their name out there, or simply looking to contribute something useful to the world. Using these sites help make building beautiful websites a lot easier, so here’s a few we think are worth checking out.

Unsplash: Beautiful Photos Organized Well

Unsplash offers over 200,000 beautiful photos that you can use for whatever you want. The search functionality works quite well in our experience, and you also can browse by category. The images themselves range from landscapes to portraits of people and animals. There’s not a lot of filler on this site: most of the photos are really high quality.
Unsplash’s license is quite permissive, allowing you to use the photos for any purpose you want other than creating a competing stock photo service. You don’t even need to attribute the photographers, though doing so is always appreciated.
Create an account to upload your own photos, or curate your own collection of photos already on the site. You can even follow photographers you like on the service.

Kaboom Pics: Browse by Color Palette

At first glance, Kaboom Pics seems pretty similar to other sites, offering a wide range of searchable images that you can browse by category. But they provide one standout feature: a focus on color. If you want photos that fit your project’s palette, Kaboom lets you browse by color. And this focus on color goes both ways: every photo offers a color palette, allowing you to match your design to the photo if you like.
Kaboom also lets you see the entirety of a particular photo shoot, so if an image you find isn’t quite perfect, you might find a similar one from another angle.
Images are free to use for personal or commercial usage, including blogs and social media. Redistributing or selling photos isn’t allowed without permission.

Morguefile: Free to Use Forever and Ever

With over 350,000 completely free to use photos, Morguefile is another solid option. Just be aware: you’ll sometimes see links to iStock and other paid image sites when your searches don’t yeild results.
Still, Morguefile has lots of images that are free for commercial usage and remixing, though you cannot sell or redistribute the images exactly as they are without alteration. So, don’t use this site to build your own photo repository.

Pixabay: One Million Photos and Counting, Plus Videos

Pixabay offers over one million images—all free to use on your website—and, unlike other services, makes free videos available as well. The site boasts a pretty good search engine, and also offers Android and iOS apps, which is nice if you’re a mobile-first kind of person.
All images on Pixabay have the CC0 License, meaning you can copy, modify, and distribute them without permission. But Pixabay does place a few of their own caveats on top of this license. You can’t sell or redistribute the contents on a competing service without permission, and you can’t use “any content from Pixabay for pornographic, unlawful, defamatory, or immoral purposes” without permission.

Stocksnap: Curated Collection With a Lot of Choice

Stocksnap adds hundreds of new photos every week, all free from copyright restrictions. Photographers are only allowed to submit five photos at a time, the idea being that everyone only uploads their best work. The result is a neatly curated selection of photos.
As with other sites listed here, attribution is not required, though as their FAQ page says, “it’s always appreciated when you can provide attribution.”

Negative Space: High Resolution Images of Just About Everything

Negative Space is another collection of high-resolution images you can use however you like, thanks to the CC0 license. Search for images or browse the collection by category—you’ll find plenty to choose from. The site is cluttered with ads for and links to Adobe’s stock images service, but that’s only a minor complaint about a pretty good collection of free to use photos.

Shot Stash: Landscapes and So Much More

With a beautiful layout and a variety of categories, Shot Stash is well worth bookmarking if you want more options for photos. The collection isn’t massive, but everything looks great and is categorized in a way that’s easy to browse.
As with other sites listed here, attribution, while not required, is appreciated.


August 7, 2017

Best web browsers of 2017: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera go head-to-head

We take a look at the performance and features of the big four internet browsers to see which one will serve you best in 2017.
The web browser is by far the most important piece of software on your PC—at least for most users. Unless you’re at a workstation crunching numbers or editing the next Star Wars you probably spend the majority of your computer time staring at a web app or a website.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve always got the best tool for the job, and in 2017 that does not include Internet Explorer. If you still want the built-in option for Windows that would be Edge, but it’s hard to stick strictly with Edge when you’ve got other choices including Google’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.
Let’s take a look at the four major (and modern) browsers to see how they stack up in 2017.
(If none of these internet browsers strike your fancy, head over to PCWorld's roundup of 10 intriguing alternative browsers.)

Browsers in brief

Table of Contents
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chromelogo Google
The current people’s champion, Google Chrome tops the metrics charts of both StatCounter and NetMarketShare by a huge margin. Google’s browser has built a dedicated fan base thanks to its massive extensions library, and the fact that it just gets out of your way to put the focus on web content, not the browser’s trimmings.
Chrome isn’t quite as simplistic as it once was, but it’s still very easy to use. There isn’t much to Chrome except a huge URL bar—known as the OmniBar—plus a space for extensions, a bookmarking icon, tabs, and that’s it.
Yet Google still finds a way to hide all kinds of features inside the browser, including deep integration with Google’s services. This allows you to sync your bookmarks, passwords, open tabs, and more across devices. Chrome also has multi-account support if you need it on a family machine, a built-in PDF viewer, built-in Google Translate functionality, a task manager, and the always handy Paste and go context menu item.
If there’s one complaint people have about Chrome it’s that the browser eats up available memory. Our browser testing in 2015 showed that Chrome was definitely a memory beast, but two years later it fared pretty well in our tests.


mozilla firefox logo Mozilla
For users who love extensibility but want greater privacy than a Google-made browser can provide, the open source Mozilla Firefox is your best bet. Firefox paved the way for other browsers to become extensible, and while Firefox’s add-on catalog is pretty good, it now pales in comparison to the Chrome Web Store. Like Google, Firefox has a sync feature.
Where Firefox has really shined in recent years is with the browser’s incognito mode. All browsers have a private mode that lets you browse without any of your activity being logged in your saved history. But most of the time these private modes still allow websites to track your activity for that specific session. Firefox does away with this by including an ad and tracker blocker when using incognito mode.


operabrowser Opera
Before Chrome, Opera was a popular choice among power users—a position former Opera CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner is trying to take back with Vivaldi. Opera today is really one of the more under-rated browsers around. It’s based on the same core technologies as Chrome (the Blink rendering engine and the JavaScript V8 engine), which means it can run many Chrome extensions—there’s even an extension for installing extensions from the Chrome Web Store.
Opera’s also got a few unusual features like Turbo, which saves on load times and bandwidth by compressing webpages on Opera’s servers. It’s also got a nice security feature called domain highlighting that hides most of the URL so that users can see easily and clearly if they’re on or—with being the actual website.
More recently, Opera introduced its own take on the social sidebar with one-click access to services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. Like Chrome and Firefox, Opera also has its own cross-device syncing feature.

Microsoft Edge

microsotedge Microsoft
Microsoft Edge is still a work in progress. You'll see below that its performance is getting better, but that’s not all there is to the browser in 2017. The Edge extensions library is tiny, its sync functionality is near nonexistent, and it doesn’t get updates nearly fast enough—though that is expected to change with the Fall Creators Update.
Despite its shortcomings, Edge has several helpful features that will appeal to some. Edge is deeply integrated with Windows 10’s inking capabilities, as well as with OneNote, making it easy to clip a webpage, annotate it, and save it to a notebook. Cortana is also a big part of Edge. You can use Microsoft’s digital assistant to quickly search for information, compare prices, or get a quick calculation.
Like Chrome, Edge has a casting feature. There’s also a nifty set-aside tabs feature to stash a collection of websites, the ability to read ebooks (great for tablets), and an new-tab page.
Read on for our benchmark results and our pick for best browser.


That’s enough of an overview for our four contestants, let’s get down to business. To see which browser is worthy of your bandwidth in 2017 we used a variety of testing tools. For judging JavaScript we used JetStream, and the now unsupported Octane 2.0 and SunSpider 1.0.2 benchmarking tools. Then we turned to WebXPRT 2015 and Speedometer to challenge our browsers under simulated web app workloads.
Finally, we took a look at CPU and RAM usage. Similar to what we did in 2015, we loaded a set of 20 websites in a single window in quick succession using either a batch file or the command line depending on the quirks of the browser in question. Once all tabs began loading, we waited 45 seconds, and then checked the CPU and RAM usage. The idea was to see the amount of system resources the browser would use during a heavy workload.
One difference from 2015 is that Flash was turned off for each browser—benchmarks were done with and without the plugin in 2015. In recent years, most browser makers have de-emphasized Flash, enabling it as “click-to-play” and blocking nonessential website elements that use Flash. Since the web is moving to a Flash-free existence we decided to live the dream right now.
For these tests our rig was an Acer Aspire E15-575-33BM laptop loaded with Windows 10 Home (Creators Update), a 1TB hard drive, 4GB RAM, and an Intel Core i3-7100U. Each browser was tested over a hard line internet connection.

Edge makes big gains

Looking at both Jetstream and SunSpider, Edge won top marks by a wide margin. SunSpider has been deprecated for some time and is no longer supported, but the result was still surprising. For Octane 2.0, which is also no longer supported, Firefox and Opera vied for top spot, with Chrome the laggard by a wide margin. For this set of benchmark scores higher is better with the exception of SunSpider.
browser performance jetstream2 Melissa Riofrio/IDG
The JavaScript test Jetstream shows Microsoft Edge hanging tough.
browser performance sunspider Melissa Riofrio/IDG
SunSpider also shows Microsoft Edge with a performance edge, loading JavaScript quite a bit more quickly than others.
browser performance octane Melissa Riofrio/IDG
Chrome makes the poorest showing in the Octane test.
Moving on to the more modern Speedometer test, which quickly iterates through a bunch of HTML 5-based to-do lists, Chrome came out on top. Google’s Blink-based cousin Opera came in second, with Edge and Firefox way behind. The numbers were much closer for WebXPRT 2015, which uses a wide number of web apps, from photo collections to online note-taking to data sets. Edge came out on top there, while the others were closer together with only a few points separating the back three. Again, higher is better for these tests.
browser performance speedometer Melissa Riofrio/IDG
Chrome narrowly edges out Opera in HTML-5-based tasks.
browser performance webxprt 2015 Melissa Riofrio/IDG
Edge makes another good showing in the web apps realm.
Finally, we come to the memory and CPU test. Slamming an average PC with 20 tabs of mostly media rich sites all at once is certainly going to chew up a good chunk of CPU and memory. These browsers did not disappoint in that respect.
Despite its reputation, however, Chrome was tops here, using less than 40 percent CPU power, followed by Edge. The results were similar for memory with Chrome using the least. Take those impressive Edge numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism, however, as during testing the PC froze, and we couldn’t access task manager as swiftly as with the others. The fact that the whole PC slowed to a crawl suggests Edge’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. Based on that experience, power users with multiple tabs open in Edge would feel some serious pain trying to get work done.
browser performance cpu usage2 Melissa Riofrio/IDG
It's true that running media rich content in multiple tabs will tax your system's CPU.
browser performance memory usage Melissa Riofrio/IDG
As with the CPU test, Chrome's reputation as the biggest resource hog is undeserved these days.
As for Firefox, you may notice that the browser chewed up CPU usage, but was relatively low in memory usage. The reason for that, as Mozilla reminded us, is that Firefox alone is transitioning from one browser process to four. Whereas Chrome and Edge use multiple processes for each tab. The idea behind the latter is that individual tabs running on separate processes won't take down the whole browser if they crash. That approach does use more memory, however. Mozilla is trying to find a middle ground. On the one hand, Firefox helps maintain overall PC performance under heavier workloads, but it's not great if you want dozens of sites to load as quickly as possible.

And the winner is...

So who wins? Here’s the way we see it.
Once again, Edge gets honorable mention for making some serious gains in performance and earning some truly impressive scores. But when you factor in customizability and how Edge fared in the live site stress test, it still has some work to do—like offering a wider extension library and the ability to sync across devices.
As in our previous showdown, Chrome continues to capitalize on these strengths, and even improves in the performance department by addressing its past resource issues, making it, once again, our first choice.
Opera again earns second place since it performed relatively well in the live stress test, and can be set up to take advantage of nearly all the same conveniences Chrome can.
As for Firefox, it’s also a fine choice. Mozilla’s browser definitely gets the job done, it’s very customizable, and its open source roots puts the browser in a league of its own.


August 6, 2017

Why You Shouldn’t Use (Most) Alternative Browsers Based on Google Chrome

Google Chrome is based on Chromium, an open-source browser project. Anyone can take the Chromium source code and use it to build their own browser, renaming it and changing whatever they like. That’s why there are so many alternative browsers based on Google Chrome—but you don’t necessarily want to use most of them.
Many web sites have recommended these browsers in the past—including us, in this very post. We’ve since rewritten this article to discuss the problems with some of these alternative browsers, and why we no longer recommend using them—with a few exceptions.

The “Secure” Comodo Dragon Had Big Security Problems

Comodo Dragon is a Chrome-based browser made by Comodo, a security company. It’s installed by default with Comodo Internet Security.
You’d think a “secure” web browser made by a security software company would be…well, secure, but it’s had some big problems. Google’s Tavis Ormandy found that the browser shipped with a serious problem that destroyed the security of HTTPS encryption. As he put it: “Chromodo is described as ‘highest levels of speed, security and privacy’, but actually disables all web security.”
Comodo responded by issuing a fix that didn’t actually fix the problem. Comodo did fix it eventually, but that doesn’t change the fact that such a glaring security problem shipped with the browser. Companies like Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple have never made such a big mistake in their products. Comodo doesn’t sound like a company we’d want to get our web browser from.

SRWare Iron’s Privacy Claims Are Exaggerated, and It’s Slow to Update

SRWare Iron promises to remove various privacy-infringing options from Google Chrome. But it isn’t as good as it sounds.
Right off the bat, there’s something we don’t like: On March 17, 2017, the latest version of SRWare Iron was version 56.0.2950.1. The latest version of Chrome was version 57.0.2987.110, released on March 16. That means SRWare Iron was missing more than 36 security fixes that Chrome had for over a week.
That’s because SRWare Iron’s developers have to do some work to release those security fixes whenever Google releases a new version of Chrome. It’s not instant, and these third-party projects may take a long time to issue updates if their developers are busy.
But here’s the real kicker: you aren’t really getting any extra privacy out of SRWare Iron. Most of what SRWare Iron does is possible through Chrome’s regular privacy settings. And if you enable those tweaks in Chrome, you’ll get the latest security updates without waiting for and trusting another company.

Chromium Isn’t For Users (Except on Linux)

Google doesn’t want you using the open-source Chromium browser. That’s why the Chromium project only offers “raw builds” of Chromium code that “may be tremendously buggy” for Windows. They also don’t include an auto-update feature, so you have to manually download new versions with security and bug fixes. These Chromium builds are really just development tools for checking whether issues are fixed in the latest Chromium code. Stay away.
Chromium’s main difference is that it’s entirely open-source, while Google Chrome includes a few closed-source pieces (like Flash). That’s why Chromium is often made available via the package repositories on Linux distributions. A Chromium browser obtained from your Linux package repositories should be safe and receive regular security updates from your Linux distribution. But Windows and Mac users should just install Chrome.

The Chrome-Based Browsers Worth Using: Opera, Vivaldi, and Chrome Portable

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Some browsers are solid alternatives to Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Internet Explorer.
Opera, for example, has been around in one form or another for a long time, with the first version of Opera being released back in 1995. In 2013, the company abandoned its old, homegrown browser engine, Presto, and Opera is now based on Chromium.
But Opera isn’t just a Chrome clone—it’s a unique browser with its own unique features, like a built-in VPN that can secure your web browsing.
Vivaldi is also based on Chromium, and was created by former Opera developers who disagree with Opera’s new direction. Released in 2016, Vivaldi attempts to restore various “power user” features the Opera project has removed. For example, Vivaldi allows you to make your tabs appear as vertical thumbnails, something that just isn’t possible in Chrome. The developers are working on adding a built-in email client, a feature no longer included on the latest versions of Opera.
Both Opera and Vivaldi support Chrome extensions, as they’re based on the same underlying technology. If you’re looking for a new browser that still uses Chrome’s speedy rendering engine and supports the same browser extensions you use in Chrome, these browsers are interesting options you may want to try.
Lastly, you may also consider a portable version of Chrome or Chromium. The Chromium Portable project, for example, is a customized build of Chromium designed to run as a “portable application“. If you place its files on a USB drive or other removable media device, you can take it between computers, using it on any PC without installing it first.
That said, Chromium Portable is based on the unstable “Dev” release channel of Google Chrome, which means it’s more unstable than the typical stable versions of Google Chrome. You probably aren’t looking for that. If you’d prefer a stable, portable version of Google Chrome, you’ll probably want to use the Google Chrome Portable package from Either way, both are decent, secure versions of Chrome.

Why Lesser-Known Browsers Are Suspect

There are other Chromium-based browsers out there. But we’re skeptical of them, and you should be too.
Here’s the issue: Browsers are very important programs. You spend almost all of your internet-connected time in a browser, so it needs to be secure. Part of that means getting security updates very quickly when they’re released, and smaller Chromium-based browsers don’t always do that. Furthermore, you’re trusting a small company or group of developers to make changes to your browser, which can introduce problems—intentional or not.
Comodo’s security problems and SRWare’s update delays are a few examples of the problems that can occur, even when a browser developer is acting in good faith. And if a browser developer isn’t acting in good faith, you’re in an even worse position: they could snoop on your web browsing and abuse its access to your computer.
Even if you don’t trust Google, Google is a large company with a lot of eyes on it. Google won’t steal your credit card number. If Google does something bad or makes a big mistake in Chrome, everyone will hear about it. The same isn’t true for these Chromium alternatives.
Many of the features promised in various third-party browsers can be achieved simply by tweaking Chrome’s settings or installing extensions from the Chrome Web Store. You’re better off using Google Chrome and installing a few browser extensions than switching to a Chrome-based alternative.


July 24, 2017

Change how many processes multi-process Firefox uses

Mozilla will enable its multi-process architecture this year in the Firefox Stable web browser. The organization runs tests currently on Firefox's Beta channel, and provided that those don't result in major stopper bugs, will release the first version of Electrolysis (e10s) when Firefox Stable hits version 46.
This multi-process version won't ship with all features and improvements that Mozilla plans to add to it. There will be only one content process for instance initially with e10s enabled in the Firefox browser.
This means that websites will share that process for their data, which is different to how browsers that are based on Chromium handle this as they launch a new process for every page open in the browser and also for plugins.

Changing Firefox's multi-process content processes

Firefox would not be Firefox if there would not be an option to play around with different content process values.

firefox content processes

While Firefox will ship with one content process initially, nothing is keeping users from increasing that limit to use more than one content process.
Each content process is listed as Plugin Container for "Firefox version" in the operating system's task manager. The file name is listed as plugin-container.exe on Windows.
Firefox runs as many content processes as you see listed there, provided that multi-process use is enabled in the browser.



It is rather easy to change the number of content processes. Here is how it is done:
  1. Type about:config in Firefox's address bar and hit enter.
  2. Confirm you will be careful if a warning appears.
  3. Search for the preference dom.ipc.processCount.
  4. Double-click on it and change its value. The default value is 1, indicating that one content process is used.
  5. Restart Firefox afterwards. Easiest way to do that is Shift-F2, type restart, hit enter.
Firefox will use the selected number of content process after the restart.
Please note that it will use more memory when you increase the number of content processes in multi-process Firefox, and less memory if you reduce the number.
Mozilla ran some memory benchmarks recently and found out that multi-process Firefox will use between 10% to 20% more memory initially with one content process enabled, and about double the memory with 8 content processes.
This is probably one of the main reasons why Mozilla will launch the multi-process architecture with one content process initially.
Ideally, from a stability and security point of view, you'd separate each tab, plugin and the browser UI individually.


July 8, 2017

Firefox 54-The search for the Goldilocks browser and why Firefox might be “just right” for you

Multi-process Firefox is fast like other browsers, but won’t suck up memory and slow down your computer as Chrome will sometimes do.

Today Mozilla is releasing a new version of Firefox that runs using a multi-process architecture, for the first time using several separate processes for your web page content (your tabs).

Now, you might know that some other browsers have done this sort of thing for a while. But even if you think you know everything about multi-process browsers, or if you don’t have the first clue, read on.

In this post I’ll explain what it means for Firefox to run with a multi-process architecture. I’ll also explore how and why Firefox’s approach to running with multiple processes is a bit different from — and often better than — other browsers’.

As I considered how to explain something pretty technical, I thought about a story I frequently read to my daughter Sara: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

How the Goldilocks principle manifests in web browsers

Much as astronomers search for a Goldilocks planet with life, Mozilla strives to build the Goldilocks browser. In my view, none of today’s browsers strikes the “just right” balance between speed and memory usage.

Your browser’s use of memory impacts your experience both with the browser, and with the other apps that you’re running on your computer. If a browser uses too much memory, your computer may not have enough left to the run the other apps you want to use. In fact, your computer may slow to a crawl if you try to do too much.

Conversely, if a browser doesn’t use much memory, it might not be doing some of the things that it could to make your browsing experience fast and fluid. The Goldilocks principle suggests that the “just right” browser is one that uses a moderate amount of memory — enough to run quickly, but not so much it exhausts your computer’s resources.

Your web browser often consumes more memory than any other app.
If it uses too much memory, you might run out, and your whole computer will slow down.

An app’s ingredients

“Mama Bear’s Porridge” combines two ingredients: oats and powdered milk. Apps have ingredients, too: processes and threads.
When you launch an app, it starts a process. This process can start many threads of execution, each of which shares the same working memory. Processes commonly utilize threads to handle different types of work that need to run at different levels of priority. For example, one high-priority thread may draw the program’s user interface. So the browser knows this and will respond instantly to mouse clicks or typing on a keyboard. Another thread may crunch data in the background at lower priority. To see the processes running on your computer, open your Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (macOS).
Sometimes, instead of starting a new thread to accomplish a task, an app’s process will start another process for that work. This makes sense for tasks that requires a lot more memory and computing power, or for work that’s better off isolated for security or stability reasons.
Most apps run in a single process, often using multiple threads. But web browsers are not like most apps.

Most apps use one process to run many threads, but browsers work best with multiple procesess.

Warm and tasty: the multi-process browser for the modern web

After launching Firefox in 2004, Mozilla and its community continued to push the web’s capabilities forward. Slowly but surely, the web became a platform, not just for static documents, but for interactive apps like email, word processing, and social networking.
Welcome to Web 2.0!
While this new era of the web was wonderful, Firefox and other browsers couldn’t run multiple web apps simultaneously nearly as fast as the operating system could run native apps. The solution? The browser itself needed to work more like an operating system, juggling several web apps using multiple processes.
With a multi-process architecture, you could use seamlessly a web page in one tab, while pages in other tabs might still be busy crunching. While Mozilla’s engineers knew that this new multi-process approach was possible, adapting Firefox to run in multiple processes would require breaking Firefox Add-Ons that depended on a single-process architecture. Mozilla was reluctant to do this because customizing Firefox through Add-Ons has always been very popular. My former colleagues who created Chrome deserve credit for building it as a multi-process browser.


Enter Electrolysis: Mozilla’s project to split Firefox into multiple processes

It was a long road to establish how Firefox should support Add-Ons that would live in harmony with a multi-process architecture. Ultimately, Mozilla committed to two related projects: (1) Electrolysis, an effort to split Firefox into multiple processes, and (2) the transition from traditional Add-Ons to cross-browser WebExtensions. Both initiatives have been huge engineering efforts.
In August 2016, Mozilla launched the first phase of Electrolysis by splitting Firefox to run its user interface and web page content (the pages in your tabs) in two separate processes. Today Firefox is shipping the next big phase of Electrolysis, significantly expanding the number of processes Firefox uses for processing and securing web page content, and enhancing the management of those processes to improve memory use, performance, and stability. These additional processes can potentially run across multiple computing cores, so it’s much less likely for web pages to negatively impact each other or the performance of the web browser in general. And, if a content process crashes, it should not affect other content processes and the web pages displaying in them.
The upshot of these changes is that Firefox is now faster and more stable than ever.


Why Chrome gets too hot when Firefox does not

While both Firefox and Chrome now run using multiple processes, Firefox does some things differently to avoid using up your computer’s limited memory.
By default, Chrome creates a separate content process for each instance of a site that you visit. Open 10 different tabs with 10 sites in Chrome, and you’ll have 10 different processes. Each of those processes has its own memory — with their own instance of the browser’s engine. One open tab in Chrome typically consumes hundreds of megabytes of RAM. Chrome’s liberal approach to creating processes can lead to very high memory usage.
On the other hand, Firefox’s more conservative approach to using processes often results in Firefox using less memory than Chrome. By default, Firefox now creates up to 4 separate processes for web page content. So, your first 4 tabs each use those 4 processes, and additional tabs run using threads within those processes. Multiple tabs within a process share the browser engine that already exists in memory, instead of each creating their own.

Chrome uses a separate content process and engine for each website instance,
but Firefox reuses processes and engines to limit memory usage.

Comparing Firefox’s memory usage with other browsers’

Firefox uses 4 content processes because it’s the “just right” number for many Firefox users. With 4 content processes, your computer should have plenty of memory left to run apps besides Firefox.
In tests comparing Firefox’s memory usage with other browsers’, here’s what Mozilla found for various operating systems:
  • Windows 10 — Chrome used 1.77X memory as Firefox (64-bit), and 2.44X as Firefox (32-bit)
  • macOS — Chrome used 1.36X memory as Firefox (64-bit)
  • Linux — Chrome used 1.42X memory as Firefox (64-bit)
    Firefox uses less memory than other browsers.

    Especially if you’re using a laptop with 8GB of memory or less, you’re going to want to think consciously about which web browser you use. Firefox’s considerate usage of your computer’s memory means you can browse the web freely, while still doing the other things you need to do with your computer.

    If you have more than 8GB of RAM, you might want to bump up the number of content processes that Firefox uses. This makes Firefox even faster, although it will use additional memory. To change the number of content processes FIrefox uses, enter about:config in your address bar, and adjust the number for the dom.ipc.processCount setting (we’ll be exposing a visible preference for this in an upcoming release).

    Firefox’s new multi-process architecture is a major step forward, and strikes an excellent balance between speed and memory usage for many people.



    Project Quantum: cooking up the “just right” browser for modern computing

    As proud as Mozilla is of today’s launch, its position is that no browser, including Firefox, is truly “just right” for modern computers — at least not quite yet. So much has changed inside of today’s devices, and no browser has evolved to take full advantage of multi-core CPUs and GPUs. So, while Electrolysis splits Firefox to run in multiple processes, Mozilla’s other big project, Quantum, is optimizing the browser engine that runs within a content process.

    With Quantum, Mozilla is building breakthrough enhancements to advance Firefox in unique ways. As part of the project, Mozilla engineers are using Rust to code super-fast parallel algorithms that would be incredibly difficult to code safely with C++. With these algorithms, major pieces of Firefox’s engine (e.g. CSS styling), will run in parallel across multiple CPU cores, instead of sequentially on one core. Also as part of Quantum, Firefox will utilize threads to focus computing power and your network connection on the tabs you’re actively using. Firefox will get much faster, while still being respectful of your memory and your needs.

    I hope that you enjoy today’s Firefox release and that you stay tuned for the Quantum leap ahead. Mozilla’s goal is to make Firefox the “just right” browser for every computer, for everyone.


June 30, 2017

9 Reasons To Switch From Chrome To Firefox

There was a time when Chrome truly sat atop the throne as Browser King, but those days are long gone. The gap has closed, and depending on who you ask, Chrome has been overtaken. I once believed that Chrome was “the best,” but nowadays you may be happier elsewhere.
According to browser market share, Firefox is Chrome’s biggest contender if we ignore Internet Explorer (mainly used in business environments unwillingly). And over the past year, Firefox usage has risen quite a bit — from 7.7 percent in August 2016 to 12.0 percent in May 2017.
Why are people returning to Firefox? I’ve been using Firefox for the past few months and I’m happy to say that I much prefer it to Chrome. Is it time for you to switch? Here are several reasons that may convince you.

1. Firefox Is Better for Battery Life

A lot of people say that Chrome is faster than Firefox — and that’s actually true. But the main reason for this is that Chrome uses more CPU than Firefox. With greater CPU usage comes faster processing and smoother performance. The trade-off is battery drain. And to be honest, Firefox isn’t that much slower.
According to Microsoft, data gathered from millions of Windows 10 users showed that Firefox uses approximately 31 percent less power than Chrome in real-world usage. If you’re on a laptop, this means significantly longer sessions between needing to recharge.

2. Firefox Is Better for Tab-Heavy Users
How do Firefox and Chrome compare in terms of RAM usage? To test this, I ran both browsers (each one separately with no other apps running) under four test cases: one tab, five tabs, 10 tabs, and 15 tabs. Every one of those tabs pointed to the MakeUseOf homepage for consistency.
RAM Usage for Chrome 58
  • 1 Tab — 49.2 MB
  • 5 Tabs — 265.3 MB
  • 10 Tabs — 533.2 MB
  • 15 Tabs — 748.3 MB
RAM Usage for Firefox 53
  • 1 Tab — 116.3 MB
  • 5 Tabs — 376.6 MB
  • 10 Tabs — 437.0 MB
  • 15 Tabs — 518.4 MB
Two things are immediately obvious. First, Chrome actually uses less RAM than Firefox when you don’t have many tabs open. Second, Firefox scales much better than Chrome once you reach about eight tabs or so. If you’re a power user like me and regularly have 20+ tabs open, Firefox clearly wins.
Want to know why Chrome uses so much RAM? Read our overview on why Chrome needs more RAMand what you can do to reduce its RAM footprint.

3. Firefox Knows It’s Just a Browser

A few months back, I read an interesting post from a longtime Chrome enthusiast who ended up throwing in the towel and switching to Firefox. He had a lot to say, but this particular point stuck out to me:
Today, Chrome is not the speedy beast it was in 2011. Today, Chrome is some sort of weird-ass application platform that just happens to also be a browser.
This sums up a good bit of why I’ve personally fallen out of love with Chrome. What used to be a lightweight, fast, and incredibly minimal web browser has now evolved into a complex beast that no longer remembers what made it so lovable in the first place. A lot of the blame can be assigned to Google’s desire to turn Chrome into Chrome OS.
Firefox, on the other hand, is still just a browser. It isn’t the clean, barebones browser that Chrome was on debut, and some might even say that Firefox is too bloated for its own good, but at least Firefox isn’t trying to be something that it isn’t. It knows what it is.
If you want to read that Chrome enthusiast’s full essay, visit this Quora post and look for Luke Harris’s reply.

4. Firefox Embraces the Open Source Mindset

Technically, one could say that Chrome is somewhat open source since it’s based on the Chromium browser, which itself has spawned many Chrome-like browsers (e.g. Opera, Vivaldi, Slimjet, Brave). But a true “open source” mentality involves more than just letting others use your code.

I like how Mohamed Mansour explains it in his Quora reply:
I have contributed code to the Chromium project for over two years . . . but lost motivation because of how closed that platform became. Yes it is open sourced, but it is guarded by a big organization where most of its discussions and future direction are done internally inside their organization.
Google is treating Chrome as a closed competitive product more than an open product. Chrome’s open source model is basically “here is the code for the browser, do whatever you want.” It doesn’t have the same open source culture everyone is used to. Companies these days are abusing the core definition of Open Source, and it is sad.
On the other hand, Firefox has a complete public roadmap that’s influenced by contributors and community members. As of this writing, I can see eight months into the future of Firefox development. That kind of community cooperation is what real open source development should be about.

5. Firefox Actually Cares About Privacy

In 2014, Mozilla released a call-to-arms for users in an effort to promote online privacy, stating that “fighting for data privacy — making sure people know who has access to their data, where it goes or could go, and that they have a choice in all of it — is part of Mozilla’s DNA.”
In 2015, the State of Mozilla report reaffirmed the organization’s beliefs: “There are billions of people online, but not enough transparency and control in the form of security and privacy protections for users from companies, app developers and governments. Mozilla is focused on influencing key internet health issues like privacy and security…”
And if you want nitty-gritty details, consult the Firefox privacy policy to learn more about the browser, any data that may be collected, and what that data is used for.
But even if Mozilla wasn’t so gung-ho about privacy, the real win here is that Mozilla isn’t Google. The one thing we know to be true: Google is a gargantuan data collection company. It already knows too much — do you really want Google to know every aspect of your browsing habits?

6. Firefox Allows More Customization

Degree of customization is the biggest difference between Firefox and Chrome. Every Chrome browser looks nearly identical, even across operating systems and devices. Other than hiding certain toolbars or removing a few icons next to the address bar, the most you can do is skin the title bar and tabs.
Firefox can do more. In addition to moving things around and skinning the general appearance, you can install Complete Themes to completely change the browser’s appearance. You can even emulate the look-and-feel of other browsers with FXChromeFXOpera, and MX4.

7. Firefox Supports Chrome Extensions

Starting with Firefox 48, Mozilla declared stable support for WebExtensions. WebExtensions is a cross-browser API that allows developers to create extensions once and have them work in multiple browsers. With WebExtensions, Firefox can install Chrome extensions.

All you need to do is install Chrome Store Foxified. After that, you can visit any Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store and the “Add to Chrome” button at the top right will become an “Add to Firefox” button.
Note that WebExtensions support, while stable, is still a work in progress. At the moment, not all Chrome extensions work, even though many do. Complete support is anticipated by the release of Firefox 57.

8. Firefox Boasts Unique Extensions

Chrome has a vastly larger collection of extensions, but Firefox has several unique extensions that aren’t available to Chrome users. And some of these extensions are so good that you won’t want to leave Firefox after having experienced them.

The best example that comes to mind is Tree Style Tab. This extension turns the tab bar into a sidebar and lets you organize tabs into a tree-based hierarchy that can be shifted around at will. It’s amazing and really shows how much a shame it is that no other browser can do this. (Vivaldi supports sidebar tabs, but they can’t be organized hierarchically.)
In fact, I would probably say that Tree Style Tab is the main reason why I love Firefox so much. Check out this roundup of other unique Firefox extensions.

9. Firefox Can Do What Chrome Can (Mostly)

At the end of the day, the differences between Firefox and Chrome are mostly minor. One might be slightly faster or use less battery, but in terms of usability, they’re both excellent. In other words, anything you can do in Chrome can probably be done in Firefox too.

Want to synchronize tabs, bookmarks, profiles, and more across devices? Need to develop websites with the aid of an element inspector and console? How about sandbox security to prevent malware infections? Or a password manager to make your accounts more secure? Or a task manager to pinpoint performance issues? (Hint: Navigate to about:performance in Firefox.)

Chrome can do these things, and so can Firefox. If you’re reluctant to leave Chrome, just remember that the two browsers have more in common than not.

When Is Chrome Better Than Firefox?

As much as I love Firefox, I still have Chrome installed as a backup because there are certain situations where Chrome is actually better.
  • Chromecast streaming only works with Chrome.
  • Advanced web development is often easier in Chrome.
  • Chrome prioritizes polish and simplicity over freedom, making it easier to use for those who aren’t as tech-savvy.
  • If you’re deeply integrated with Google services and you don’t care about the privacy implications, then you can use your Google accounts to set up various Chrome profiles.
  • Chrome has more market share than Firefox and Google appears to have significant influence over the direction of web technologies, so websites and web apps tend to work better in Chrome.

Are You Ready to Make the Switch?

The future of Firefox looks good. Give it a shot and have an open mind. To make the transition easier, you may want to consider these tips for switching from Chrome to Firefox. Also, look into our collection of Best Firefox Addons.
Or if you dislike both Chrome and Firefox, Opera might be the better choice.