In my ongoing search to find the perfect browser, I’ve generally stuck to Opera for the past several years, on Windows and on Linux.
I’ve used Firefox of course, but I’ve discussed a number of issues that I’ve had with Firefox over the years, and in my hunt for a great browser, I’ve always found myself going back to Opera.
Well, today, I’m here to report that this situation might well have changed, due to something called Swiftfox.
What is Swiftfox?
Swiftfox, according to the project’s homepage, is “an optimized build of Mozilla Firefox” that is compiled for Linux only.
Most of you out there using Firefox on Linux aren’t actually using anything that’s “installed” or “compiled” for your particular platform. Indeed, unless you’re installing Firefox via APT or compiling Firefox from source on your own, when you download Firefox and extract it, there isn’t anything to do but run the program from the directory that comes out of the compressed download.
What the Swiftfox folks have done, by contrast, is an optimized compile of Firefox on a number of different hardware platforms and offer these as an alternative.
In theory, this means that whichever build of Swiftfox you use appropriate to your CPU is potentially going to be significantly faster than the default, out-of-the-box Firefox.
Since one of my complaints about Firefox has always been performance, particularly as compared to other browsers on the same hardware, I figured I’d give Swiftfox a try. I wasn’t expecting much, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
I have to admit, I was skeptical, but this really blew me away. In fact, despite my laundry list of issues I’ve always had with Firefox, it was never as clear as now how much my opinion of Firefox has been colored by its lackluster performance on Linux.
Compared to Opera, Konqueror, Google Chrome, even Epiphany and Galeon and Seamonkey, Firefox has always been a memory hog, slow to respond, and slow at rendering webpages for me, especially on older hardware.
This kind of thing makes me cranky, and when I’m cranky, I’m likely to find other faults too, because they then stick out like sore thumbs.
However, I’ve been running Swiftfox over the last three weeks, and I haven’t gone back to Opera yet. It’s actually been faster than Opera. It starts up faster, it loads webpages faster, opens new tabs faster, and uses less memory than Opera under the usual levels of activity on my desktop.
The user experience is otherwise 100% identical to Firefox 3.6. It looks the same, behaves the same, and as far as I can tell, the only thing different at all is the noticably faster performance on all of the machines on which I’ve installed it.
All of my addons work, as well as my themes, and so far it’s been extremely stable. I have not managed to actually crash Swiftfox even once over the past three weeks, and that’s saying something — I can usually manage to somehow crash vanilla Firefox at least once a day, and Opera sometimes more often than that.
As I mentioned above, I was amazed to find that my opinion of Firefox all these years has been so strongly affected by its performance. I have found that when you fix the performance problems the way Swiftfox has, suddenly all my other quibbles with Firefox become significantly less important and don’t bug me anywhere NEAR as much as they used to.
This is really saying something, because when it comes to software, browsers in particular, I’m extremely picky and, well, critical.
As a result, I think I may have found myself a new favorite browser. Download Swiftfox for your platform and give it a try. You won’t be sorry!