It's no secret that browser performance can vary dramatically across installations thanks to differences in configuration and customization, among numerous other factors.
Aiming to offer some new insight into the performance of its own popular browser, Mozilla recently announced a brand-new feature that will help users get the most out of Firefox while helping Mozilla itself keep tabs on performance on an aggregate level.
"Have you ever sat down with someone else's computer and wondered why a particular piece of software seems to perform so much better (or worse)?" explained Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, in a blog post on Friday.
"Ever wonder what people do to tune the performance of their software? Ever wish you had more information to understand your specific experience--why something stopped working, why something got slower, what you did to make a piece of software feel new and fast again?" Baker went on. "Firefox Health Report will be a new feature of Firefox that enables much better answers to these sorts of questions."
No Personal Information Collected
Firefox Health Report will gather four types of information.
Specifically, it will collect configuration data, such as details about the hardware, operating system, and Firefox version; customization data, such as about the add-ons in use; performance data, including rendering, session restores, and the timing of browser events; and "wear and tear data" such as session length, profile age, and crash counts.
Such data will be presented through a dashboard built into Firefox highlighting not just how the user's browser performs in comparison with other browser configurations but also how that performance could be improved.
Meanwhile, Firefox Health Report will also send a limited set of data to Mozilla, including stability and performance information about the browser and its environment. Mozilla's goal, it says, will be to learn from the data so as to direct future design and development.
"For example, FHR data would have helped us address the recent issues with crashes in Flash content much more quickly by knowing the exact conditions under which the problem was being experienced," points out an FAQ for the new feature. "Diagnosing exactly how a problem occurs is half the battle in finding a fix."
Coming soon to Nightly builds
Data will be collected in a fully privacy-sensitive way, Baker stressed: "We've designed the Firefox Health Report to not gather personal information," she wrote.
Search terms, keywords, and locations will not be collected, according to an explanatory post on Mozilla's Blog of Metrics; nor will email addresses, website visits, services logged into, downloads, or any information that directly identifies the user.
Nevertheless, users will be able to disable Firefox Health Report easily or delete data associated with their browser at any time.
Firefox Health Report is scheduled to appear in Nightly builds of the browser soon, Mozilla says. I'll post updates as I learn more.