4 Firefox rebuilds feed the need for speed

Alternative builds bring speed optimizations and custom features to the Firefox core

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Are third-party builds worth considering? They do provide a modest degree of additional speed over stock Firefox builds, but not the night-and-day-difference you might expect. While they may be interesting from a programmer's point of view, they don't make a strong case for Firefox performance being dramatically improved by outsiders changing a few compilation switches.

The biggest performance boost seemed to come from the Atelier builds, with the Lawlietfox and Pale Moon builds running slightly behind. Waterfox's 64-bit build didn't seem to get much of a performance gain merely by dint of being 64-bit, which implies that other optimizations are needed to make Firefox shine in its 64-bit incarnation.

Third-party Firefox builds are a combination of mixed bag and moving target. Aside from the work required to stay on top of Firefox's own constant evolution, each custom build tends to become its own animal -- and an exercise in trade-offs. For example, though Pale Moon is well documented, one of the costs of its relative stability is that it's a few versions behind Firefox.

Mozilla's accelerated pace of revisions for Firefox is one reason third-party builds are becoming a tougher sell than they used to be. An increased rate of releases automatically makes it harder for people to keep up with their own builds, as they have to compile, test, and release much more frequently.

In the long run, I suspect custom Firefox builds created solely for the sake of processor optimization will disappear, especially when Firefox rolls out its own native 64-bit build. (In fact, 64-bit Firefox is already available in the most recent nightly build of version 11.) But for now, there's still a culture of roll-your-own Firefoxers keeping the faith.

Benchmark notes: All browsers are 32-bit editions unless otherwise indicated. SunSpider and SPDY results are measured in milliseconds. Peacekeeper and BrowserMark scores measure operations per second and frames per second, depending on the test. The SPDY figures represent the average of six runs; the other tests are self-averaging. As the results suggest, only the Pale Moon browsers lacked SPDY support.

This story, "4 Firefox rebuilds feed the need for speed," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest news in Web browsers at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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