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Was Firefox the revulsive it needed to improve?

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Although there are more and more lovers of the new application formats such as Flatpak or Snap, not AppImage, there is still time for them to prevail in the Linux environment. For different reasons. In the case of Snap, for example, Canonical is already trying to impose it and has never gone as far as in the latest Ubuntu 22.04 LTS. And is this bad or good? Sometimes it depends on how you look at it.

Despite the regrets, that one would say, there is only one thing for sure: Canonical is going to do what it wants with Ubuntu and that happens by putting Snap up in the soup. Broadly speaking, it is a Take it or leave it. And, placed in such a situation and with the incentive already mentioned that one can still do almost what they want with the system, it is better that everything is better, worth the redundancy.

In other words: since Canonical is going its own way, it is better for those of us who use Ubuntu, some derivative of Ubuntu or even use Snap packages, inside or outside Ubuntu, that these improve. And they are doing it, although it has cost them theirs to get on with it. You have noticed? You should, if you’re using Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, because the change has been considerable.

On this occasion we talk about the performance of Snap and, more specifically, the Snap apps cold boot time, one of the worst aspects of the format from the beginning. By cold boot time we mean the first time you launch an application after you have logged in, since the following times everything happens much faster. The first, however…

The thing is, Canonical has known about this problem for a long time and hasn’t done much about it. Until this year. Shortly 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 task of the first boot. And so it was, until Jammy Jellyfish arrived.

I think I mentioned it here, but the impression I got with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS Firefox, which is already one hundred percent Snap, it was terrible. I got to count 28 seconds for the application to start, when Chrome or Brave, and even Firefox itself in Flatpak, appeared on the 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 explained very well what Canonical engineers are doing to improve Snap’s performance. An article that I am not going to go into because it is quite extensive, but it will be of interest to those who want to know more about the subject, especially about the technical details.

Firefox 100 Snap

In short, when you launch a Snap app, you’re not just running that app, but a number of components – hence it’s called a self-contained format – that a “regular” system typically already has running, so the delay is understandable in principle. Or maybe not, because Flatpak works on similar principles and doesn’t take the Snap. Why then is Snap so slow on its first boot?

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

Since the performance of Snap on Ubuntu now depends on a package called “snapd-desktop-integration”, everything varies a bit, but what is Firefox, whose startup – I repeat: cold boot – took 10, 20 or more seconds , is now almost instantaneous, at the level of other browsers. It is true that someone who stumbles again stumbles and it takes the same time to start 3, 4 or even 10 seconds, they are the least. Have you noticed or not?

But that’s not the only improvement Firefox Snap has seen in recent weeks. Their performance in use It would also have improved, according to Canonical data (I have not been able to test this) and what is even more interesting, it is expected that in the coming weeks a change will be implemented that will return to Firefox the lost integration with the desktop, a big little embarrassment that, at least, will be resolved quickly.

What integration? For example, to be able to install GNOME Shell extensions, to link passwords with the KeePass manager or, in short, so that Firefox integrates with the desktop without the supposed security improvement of the isolation provided by Snap, becoming a impediment to it.

You can call it Snap, you can call it lentils, which brings us back to the shots, or you leave them. But if you take them, at least they can be eaten.

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