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Mozilla puts Firefox 4 Android beta on crash diet

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The Firefox 4 Android beta is morbidly obese. But Mozilla has a diet plan.

Over the past twelve hours, after Mozilla released its first Firefox 4 beta for Android, multiple Reg readers have said the browser takes up far too much space on their Googly phones. "Fooking HUGE!!!" said one. "Not even going to waste my time with the beta."

The install is indeed large — particularly when you consider that many Android phones offer only 64MB to 512MB of storage for apps. The Firefox 4 beta needs about 40MB of storage space. Whereas WebKit browsers can use the rendering libraries bundled with Android, Mozilla is forced to include Firefox's libraries in its APK (Android package) file.

Mozilla man Matt Brubeck also points out that due to the way the Android native development kit is designed, these libraries actually end up in two places. They're not only compressed in the APK, they're extracted to a folder when the browser is loaded onto the phone. "For apps like Firefox that are mostly native code, this more than doubles the installation size," he says.

In an effort to solve this problem, Mozilla developer Michael Wu is building a dynamic linker that can load the rendering libraries from the APK without copying the libraries to a folder. This will cut the installation size by more than half, Brubeck says, but will increase startup time. For that reason, Mozilla may just let the browser take up more space on phones with a gigabyte or more of internal storage.

Brubeck also points out that with Android 2.2, you'll have the option of moving the APK to an SD card. The extracted libraries, however, will remain on the phone's internal storage.

Regardless, Mozilla anticipates that the Firefox 4 beta 2 for Android will be smaller. ®

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