Firefox gets a Performance Settings section

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 11, 2017

Mozilla plans to add a Performance section to the Settings page of the Firefox web browser that allows users to modify some performance related parameters in the UI.

The roll-out of Firefox's multi-process architecture was a big step in the right direction for Mozilla. The architecture separates the browser's core from sites and applications.

While that is good for stability, and in the future also for security, Firefox users do have little control over the feature right now. Experienced users know how to change the number of content processes to reduce the browser's RAM usage for instance, but most users are probably unaware of these options.

Firefox Performance Settings

firefox performance settings

The planned Performance section of Firefox's Settings page exposes this, and other performance related parameters, on the browser's frontend.

Note: The feature is being worked on right now. Things may change along the way, some may be removed, others added.

If the current plan holds, Performance will become an option on the Firefox settings page. It will feature an optimize Firefox button prominently on the page, and a checkbox that determines whether Firefox will use recommended performance settings, or custom ones.

If you disable the "use recommended performance settings" option, custom preferences are displayed:

  1. A slider to set the number of content processes that Firefox uses (from 1 to 7 currently).
  2. An option to toggle UI animations.
  3. An option to toggle page prefetching.

The three options are pretty straightforward. The two toggles may improve performance of the browser on older systems when disabled. The content processes slider may be used to decrease the browser's RAM usage if content processes are reduced, or may increase the browser's RAM usage if increased. The latter may be beneficial to stability however.

This exposes an option in the Firefox user interface to set a custom number of content processes.

The optimize Firefox button may look like the most interesting option on the page. It appears however that activating it will only disable all extensions installed in the browser. Extensions are sometimes the source for high RAM usage or slow downs, and that is probably the main reason why Mozilla added the option to the settings page.

A bug was filed on Bugzilla@Mozilla to exclude WebExtensions from being disabled when a user hits the optimize Firefox button.

You can track the implementation of the new Performance section in Firefox here.

Closing Words

The upcoming Performance section exposes performance related options on the Settings page. While it won't be that useful to experienced Firefox users who know how to use about:config to make those changes manually, it may help less-experienced users of the browser make some of those changes.

Now You: What would you like to see in the performance section?

Firefox gets a Performance Settings section
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Firefox gets a Performance Settings section
Mozilla plans to add a Performance section to the Settings page of the Firefox web browser that allows users to modify some performance related parameters in the UI.
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  1. Franck said on April 13, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Awesome news ! Speed Tweaks (SpeedyFox) is already excellent but native option is always superior

  2. jpg said on April 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I think it is a good feature, many people don’t know the potencial of Firefox and think that it’s just a chrome clone with different addons.
    Allowing to show them more friendly the customizability of the browser like that will show them how advanced it can be.

    1. Appster said on April 12, 2017 at 5:24 pm

      “think that it’s just a chrome clone with different addons.” Let me correct you: They think of it as a slower Chrome clone with less standard support and exactly the same add-ons. And rightfully so… At least that is how Firefox will turn out to be once ver. 57 is released.

  3. John said on April 11, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. When they kill off classic extensions, there is no definitive reason left to continue using Firefox. We all watched the rise and fall of Explorer. Now we get to do the same for Firefox. And we can all see what will cause the demise, yet we can do nothing about it. Just make sure you are in a lifeboat when it starts going down.

  4. Lugo said on April 11, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Less experience user already using Chrome..and most of them don’t know what Firefox is :D
    Thats the truth..

    1. [email protected] said on April 11, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      Chrome has usual users.
      Mozilla could have usual users and geeks. Both of them.
      But… Mozilla just doesn’t want to increase its user base.

      1. [email protected] said on April 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm

        Chrome has the simpletons and hipsters.

  5. Junior Silva said on April 11, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    DownThemAll Developer! Took the information about not giving support for future version of Firefox (web extensions), will it develop a new version ?

  6. kktkkr said on April 11, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    +1 on the extensions holding me back. If I disabled every multiprocess-incompatible extension right now, I’d lose 10 feature(set)s and huge amounts of UI customization just to get e10s. Sure, the extensions cause bloat (procexp tells me Firefox is using up 1.5GB of private working set), but will I disable them to save 8 frames off my page load? Probably no.

    So I’ve never needed to “optimize performance” on Firefox, and don’t foresee the need to do any of that once forced WebEx comes around and kills half my extensions. (That, or Photon turns out looking horrible and I stick to 52ESR for next year.)

  7. guru said on April 11, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Every Firefox story that comes out, there is soooo much whining in the comments. People, if you don’t like what’s happening, you have options:
    1) switch browsers
    2) don’t update Firefox (sandbox it and you’re good to go)
    3) disconnect
    4) …
    5) profit?

    1. Appster said on April 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Honestly, I don’t like people trying to silence critics who actually have a reason to criticize the current developments, just because it doesn’t fit their narrow worldview. You are one of them.

      – switch browsers

      Name me one browser with the quality and number of powerful add-ons Firefox currently offers? Yep, that’s right. There is none.

      – don’t update Firefox (sandbox it and you’re good to go)

      What about security? As if the sandbox could fix everything, LOL. Surfing around with a vulnerable browser is a very good idea I suppose.

      – disconnect

      So no Internet at all? That’s the same like saying “I want to heal myself, so I’m gonna shoot me”.

      Mozilla flat-out betrayed the users which once made them big by spreading the word. The advanced users. If you are content with a browser created for kids, that’s fine with me. Just acknowledge that there are people out there who happen to have higher demands and in this case have all right to be disgruntled. “guru”… The contrary I suppose.

    2. Rick A. said on April 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      it’s ridiculous ain’t it ?

      1. Lord Lestat said on April 13, 2017 at 7:53 am

        Never have been thinking i am becoming a living content scraper and done the crime to borrow some quotation from somewhere else :P

        Anyway, it is hard to look at something positive if you face exactly that:

        When Chrome came out, over time it took away the half of the Firefox audience that wanted the things in the areas Chrome focused in, by hyperfocusing on them to the exclusion of catering to the other half of Firefox’s audience.

        Now, at that point, Firefox had a choice:

        1. Let Chrome take the “Chrome” half of the user base, and doubledown on catering to the half that Chrome was not serving and Firefox still was serving, figuring that Chrome couldn’t do both at once, but cementing a dynamic where the portion of Firefox browsers who chose Chrome early would stay with Chrome and both browsers would be around as players for the foreseeable future (Rather than Firefox regaining the early lost users and crushing Chrome).


        2. Abandon the half of the audience they still had, figuring they have no where else to go, and battle to out-Chrome Chrome, hoping to land a kill-punch and regain the early converts from Firefox to Chrome.

        Obviously, Mozilla chose #2.

        For the amount of users who want the Chrome way, Firefox today is a blessing, for the users who do want the feature rich way, it is not. And as that was always the vocal – loud supporter side which Mozilla now casts away, what else can do guys like that now then complain?

        And then people like above demand that users to be silent…

        Good joke :P

      2. Tunguska said on April 13, 2017 at 2:55 am

        Though to be fair, pd isn’t complaining particularly often I think. He’s just being contaminated with the bad mood, I guess that’s fine.

      3. Tunguska said on April 13, 2017 at 2:41 am

        Utterly. I’m just skipping comments almost entirely now. The 1) 2) 3) 4) … 5) Profit caught my eye.

        The performance settings section is neutral news but the usual commenters always figure out how to bounce on a word to repeat the same thing they’ve been repeating for months, which are not news, or new insight, meaning it’s a waste of time, and since there’s so much of that spam it ceases to be worth skimming through the whole to find out those rare comments with new insight. Or any kind of positive attitude towards whatever for that matter, but that’s a given on a news site.

  8. Junior Silva said on April 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Mozilla can do whatever you want with Firefox, I’ll keep using it, I just want my 20 extensions to be compatible with Firefox in the future! Especially Tab Mix Plux.
    Others… Youtube High Definition, Open link in silent tab, Private tab, S3google translator, New tab tools, imagus, Session manager, Context search, Status 4 evar…

    1. [email protected] said on April 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      FlashGot, DownThem All (works with integrated cookies, sessions opposite external download managers), FindBar Tweak, Advanced Locationbar, Add to Search Bar, Tree Style Tab, UnMHT, ContextMenuPlus, ExportHTMLFolder, Print Edit, Hide Caption Titlebar Plus, FireGestures and Mouse Gestures Suite, Classic Theme Restorer, Resurrect Pages, Toolbar Buttons, Multifox, Tile Tabs, Dictionary Switcher.

  9. pd said on April 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

    You talk about e10s as if it’s all done and dusted. Not for me. Haven’t seen it yet because I use those things Firefox was made famous for: extensions! Expect many others are still in the same boat. I still have 7 extensions that are not e10s compatible. One or two I can do without. The majority are compatible but it shouldn’t be too hard to make the rest of them compatible but like all user-funded code, it’s going to be subject to the variances of waning commitment levels from authors and so forth. How Mozilla never thought about these possibilities, before they ended up with the obvious likely situation of very popular extensions nobody was updating, is beyond me.


    … and no, this is not an excuse to BUTCHER the extension mechanism in the name of WebExtensions. Mozilla should have done more to create an automatic, or heavily automated with some ‘crowd-sourced’ vetting to help, bridge between existing extensions and making them e10s compatible.

    Oh yeah and am I the only person who is *SICK TO DEATH* of Mozilla constantly making extensions the excuse for bad performance? We now have “refresh” and “performance” sections in Firefox that both start by suggesting users kill all their extensions! It’s mad. That’s surely a classic sign of poor API design, isn’t it? Why not be honest and just admit their original (XUL, XPCOM) extension API, and second attempt (Jetpack), are both so easy to abuse, and cause the overall browser to slow to a crawl, because they were poorly designed? At least then we would have an up-front, honest perspective of why yet another massive change for users … the migration to WebExtensions … is justified.

    1. bwat47 said on April 11, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      Extensions are the reason e10s has taken this long. Mozilla has already bent over backwards implementing compatibility shims etc…

      If you’re expecting mozilla to wait until all extensions are e10s compatible, then e10s will never come, because that’s never going to happen.

      IMO it’s time to rip off the bandaid, this modernization is long overdue

      “That’s surely a classic sign of poor API design, isn’t it? Why not be honest and just admit their original (XUL, XPCOM) extension API, and second attempt (Jetpack), are both so easy to abuse, and cause the overall browser to slow to a crawl, because they were poorly designed?”

      They have admitted exactly this a multitude of times, and this is the entire reason webextensions in firefox is a thing

      1. [email protected] said on April 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm

        Shill more please.

        You’re probably the bozo who installs 5-6 competing add-ons along with 100+ half-assed addons that were developed overnight by a failing grad student. You’ve ditched Firefox for Chrome because Firefox was too slow? You’re the reason webextensions are a thing. Your limited intelligence has turned Mozilla into Google Lite. Everybody who engages in critical thinking has ‘you’ to thank for Mozillas’ idiocy.

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