Firefox for Android offers plenty of options that distinguish it from Android’s default browser, and with the help of add-ons, that feature list will only grow. There’s no denying, though, that there’s a tradeoff for all that flexibility, and Firefox just may not feel as spry as other Android browsers. Mozilla has a plan for addressing some of Firefox’s performance issues, but there’s a price to be paid.
The idea centers around the abandonment of the current XUL implementation used to display the app’s user interface. XUL is used on Firefox across platforms, resulting in a consistent appearance regardless of operating system. XUL just isn’t a very fast way for an Android app to draw to the screen, and using native Android user interface elements would result in something that looked less Firefox-y, but runs faster and would be more responsive.
The current strategy, revealed by Director of Firefox Engineering Johnathan Nightingale, has Mozilla sticking with XUL for the next couple Android releases, but planning ahead for an eventual migration to a native Android UI. The earliest we might hope to see such a thing would be in Firefox 10, not likely to arrive until next year. Will you be sad to see the look of Firefox changing, or is that loss easily outweighed by the potential for speed-ups?