Eyebrow raised at Google dev cycle overdrive
"What we've seen is that in places where our Tracing-Engine gets used we are actually faster than anyone else, it's just in those cases where it doesn't fit that others do a lot better," Blizzard told derstandard.at during an interview at a Linux desktop conference in the Netherlands. "So we're trying to improve our baseline performance and combine that with the Tracing-JIT, with this we'll be one generation ahead of everyone else."
JägerMonkey is a method JIT compiler based on the Nitro assembler that's part of Apple’s open-source WebKit project, the same assembler used by Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari. TraceMonkey will continue to detect code loops and convert them into assembly code. But when code is unsuited to tracing, JägerMonkey will kick in, converting entire methods to assembly code.
JägerMonkey borrows the Nitro assembler from WebKit
Firefox 4 is currently in beta, but it does not yet include JägerMonkey. The official release is set for this fall.
Much has been made of Chrome's expanding market share, but Blizzard says that Google's gains have not not caused any significant change in the number of Firefox users. He acknowledges that a good number of hardcore developers have adopted Chrome, but he believes they're still using Firefox as well. Firefox's dev tools, he says, are "far superior" to anyone else's.
"Interestingly we haven't seen our user numbers change that much, even though Chrome is having big wins in this segment. The thing is all those numbers reported are actually usage numbers and not user numbers, so early adopters —- who use the web heavily — influence those a lot more than others," he says. "So it looks like Chrome is used by more people than it actually is. The interesting thing is, we had the same effect in our early Firefox times, we just didn't realize it back then as we didn't have the proper tools for that."
Whereas Google has switched to an ultra-rapid six-week release schedule for Chrome, Mozilla continues to release a new major version of Firefox about once a year. But Blizzard defended Mozilla's setup — and even questioned how innovative Google can be on its tightened schedule. He acknowledges, however, that Mozilla needs to speed things up.
"It'll be interesting to see if anybody else than the early adopters are going to be okay with their browser changing every month and a half. We prefer to take more time to prepare people to bigger interface changes," he says. "I'm actually a little bit skeptical about a six week cycle, where do you find the time to really innovate in such a short time span? But going faster is something that we definitely would like to do too, we just have to figure out the right pace for us."
Blizzard also added that Firefox 4 will be "multi-process" — i.e., it will not run separate tabs in separates processes. Mozilla has already added out-of-process plug-ins to Firefox — where certain plug-ins run in their own processes — but Blizzard says that multi-process will likely arrive on mobile versions of Firefox before the desktop version. ®