Firefox LogoOn June 18, the Mozilla Foundation broke the Guinness World Record for most software downloads in one day when over 8 million people downloaded Firefox 3, the latest version of the popular web browser. What many Firefox users may not have realized is that with the update they acquired a number of new technologies adopted from the FreeBSD project.

One notable improvement features the memory allocator “jemalloc,” developed by FreeBSD guru Jason Evans. Firefox version 2 was known as something of a memory hog, and the update improves upon this greatly with upgrades such as a new rendering engine, but Evans’ contribution proved particularly significant. According to Firefox developer Stuart Parmenter, their tests of the browser on Windows Vista showed a 22% drop in memory usage once they turned on “jemalloc.”

Another FreeBSD technology utilized in the Firefox upgrade was the “bsdiff” binary patch system, which allows for reduced software update sizes and faster downloads for end users. In addition, the delivery of the Firefox software relied on FreeBSD as well–Internet Systems Consortium operates one of Mozilla’s download mirrors, powered by FreeBSD 7. During Mozilla’s record-breaking 24 hours of downloading, the server withstood rates of a gigabit per second. ISC referred to FreeBSD as “a rock solid platform.”

Of course, FreeBSD has a long history of being used inside other open-source projects, and this is just one example of the improvements that it can make. And just think: “jemalloc” is already a part of FreeBSD 7. If it can improve the performance of a web browser so drastically, then imagine the potential effect on an entire operating system.