Was Firefox so gross that it needed improvement?

Although there are more and more lovers of the new application formats like Flatpak or Snap, not AppImage, they still have time to assert themselves in the Linux environment. For various reasons. At Snap, for example, Canonical is already trying to enforce it and has never gone as far as in the latest Ubuntu 22.04 LTS. And is that bad or good? Sometimes it depends how you look at it.

Despite the regrets, one would say only one thing is certain: Canonical will do what it wants with Ubuntu, and it will do so by putting Grab in the soup. Roughly speaking it is a take it or leave it. And in such a situation and with the mentioned incentive that you can still do almost whatever you want with the system, it’s better that everything is better, worth the redundancy.

In other words, as Canonical goes its own way, those of us who use Ubuntu, a derivative of Ubuntu, or even snap packages inside or outside of Ubuntu are better off seeing those improved. And they do it even though it has cost them their own money to get on with it. Did you notice? You should if you are using Ubuntu 22.04 LTS as the change was significant.

On this occasion we talk about the performance of Snap and more specifically about the Cold start time of snap apps, one of the worst aspects of the format from the start. By cold start time we mean the first time you start an application after logging in, since the following times everything is much faster. The first but…

The thing is, Canonical has known about this problem for a long time and hasn’t done much about it. Until this year. Just before the release of Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, we reported that the company was working on it and testing recipes with different compression algorithms to speed up the first boot task. And that’s how it was until Jammy Jellyfish arrived.

I think I mentioned it here, but that’s the impression I got with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS Firefox, which is already 100% Snap, it was terrible. I had to count 28 seconds for the application to start when Chrome or Brave and even Firefox itself in Flatpak appeared on screen in just a second or two. Well things have changed. Also from one day to the next.

They published an article on the Ubuntu blog last week that explains very well what Canonical engineers are doing to improve Snap’s performance. An article that I will not dwell on because it is quite extensive, but it will be of interest to those who want to know more about the subject, especially the technical details.

In short, when you launch a Snap app, you’re not just running that app, but a set of components – hence it’s called a self-contained format – that on a “normal” system are usually already running, so the lag understandable is generally said. Or maybe not because Flatpak works on similar principles and doesn’t take the snap. Then why is Snap so slow on first launch?

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Well, it turns out that’s no longer the case…although it depends on the application. In the case of Firefox, a key piece where there are, the hell of a delay with which Ubuntu 22.04 LTS was just released has gone down in history, and it so happened that just a few days later came Firefox 100, with which the compression algorithms implemented have been commented and the change is remarkable.

Since Snap’s performance on Ubuntu now depends on a package called “snapd-desktop-integration”, everything varies a bit, but now what about Firefox, which took – repeat: cold boot – 10, 20 or more seconds to start almost instantly at the level of other browsers. It is true that someone who stumbles stumbles again and takes just as long to start. 3, 4 or even 10 seconds are the least. Did you notice or not?

But that’s not the only improvement Firefox Snap has seen in the past few weeks. Her performance in action It would have improved as well according to Canonical data (I haven’t been able to test this) and what’s even more interesting, a change is expected to be implemented in the coming weeks that will bring back the lost integration with the Firefox desktop, a big little one Embarrassment that is at least quickly remedied.

Which integration? For example, to be able to install GNOME Shell extensions, to associate passwords with the KeePass manager or, in short, to allow Firefox to integrate with the desktop without the supposed security improvement of the isolation provided by Snap becoming an obstacle.

You can call it Snap, you can call it Lenses, which brings us back to the shots, or you can leave them. But if you take them, at least you can eat them.