Friday, December 31, 2004

Make Firefox faster

These instructions come from this post on Boing Boing (Note: change configuration settings at your own risk):

Type "about:config" into the address bar and hit return. Scroll down and look for the following entries:

network.http.pipelining network.http.proxy.pipelining network.http.pipelining.maxrequests

Normally the browser will make one request to a web page at a time. When you enable pipelining it will make several at once, which really speeds up page loading.

Alter the entries as follows:

Set "network.http.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.proxy.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.

Lastly right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it receives.

 A few further caveats from the Boing Boing post:

  • Enabling pipelining in Firefox can speed up complex page retrievals, as you note, but it can also break Flash.  This is a Macromedia thing not a Firefox thing but that’s why the app defaults to pipelining disabled.
  • There are reasons why Firefox isn't configured like that out of the box. Asa at explains why:

Yes, enabling HTTP pipelining can dramatically improve networking performance. The downside, and the reason it's not enabled by default, is that it can prevent Web pages from displaying correctly. If you've enabled this, and you find pages that aren't displaying correctly, please don't blame Firefox or the Web developer. It's probably the fact that you enabled an "unsupported" feature which is incompatible with some Web servers and proxy servers.

The second change, setting the initial paint delay at zero, may get you some content on the screen faster, but it's worth noting that it will dramatically slow down the time it takes the entire page to display.

Yes, there are tuning change you can make (even at compile time, see Moox' optimized builds) that will dramatically alter the performance characteristics of Firefox. Feel free to experiment, but remember that most of the defaults are defaults for a reason. If your browser starts misbehaving or web sites look broken, it might be worth going back to default settings.

My advice: just remember how to default or keep a copy of the most current installer on your system so that you can just re-install if you run into problems.


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