Mozilla remains dedicated to creating an open-source web browser that not only benefits from a global community of volunteer coders, but leads in speed, standards support, usability, and memory savings.
Today, the nonprofit launches a major update to its web browser called Firefox Quantum, aka version 57. It’s faster, cleaner looking, better with memory usage, and integrates the Pocket webpage-saving service.
“We have put a ton of hard engineering work into rebuilding the core web rendering engine,” Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff tells PCMag. “This is the guts that make the product fast.”
The Firefox development team used the Rust programming language to build this new rendering engine, which incorporates code from the Servo project and can take advantage of parallel processing using today’s multicore CPUs. The new code is also 64-bit, Kaykas-Wolff says.
A Faster Browser
To demonstrate the speedup, we ran the JetStream and Speedometer benchmarks (both available via browserbench.org) on a Surface Book ($755.00 at Amazon) with a Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.
RAM usage also goes on a diet with Firefox Quantum: Kaykas-Wolff says the browser uses 30 percent less memory than Chrome. Indeed, even the previous versions of Firefox tested by PCMag showed significantly lower memory usage than competing browsers.
The new Firefox is also a 64-bit application when installed on a 64-bit version of Windows, a performance and security boon. Chrome, by contrast, still defaults to 32-bit, though a 64-bit version is available on demand. And Microsoft Edge only installs as 64-bit on 64-bit machines.
The new release means it’s the moment of truth for legacy add-ons, aka extensions. Quantum will no longer tolerate legacy extensions, but only those that use the new extension system. The new system will bring some real benefits, such as improved security and stability. Best of all: You’ll no longer need to wait for all your extensions to be checked and updated every time Firefox updates.
The new design features, part of what Mozilla calls the Photon Design System, include lots of tweaks to the user experience. The new design sports Edge-like, squared-off tabs, and an interface tour familiarizes new users with the browser. A new Library button give you access to your history, bookmarks, Pocket list, downloads, screenshots and synced tabs. That’s right, screenshots—Firefox Quantum includes built-in screenshot capability. A new start page not only shows tiles linking to your top sites, but also Pocket-recommended sites and highlights from sites you’ve frequented.
Last February, Mozilla acquired Read It Later, maker of the Pocket website-saving service. But the organization thinks of Pocket as more than just a site saver. The point is “discovery and accessibility of high quality web content,” according to the acquisition announcement. Mozilla now uses Pocket to suggest sites of interest on the browser’s new-tab page. Of course, there’s still a button, now in the address bar, that lets you save sites you want to read later, regardless of what devices you’re on, since it’s saved in the cloud.
To celebrate the launch of Firefox Quantum, Mozilla is offering ferry service for three days in New York City. The ferry runs between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, and, as Kaykas-Wolff points out, it’s 10 minutes faster than comparable ferries—just like Firefox is faster.
To try it for yourself, download Firefox Quantum from Firefox.com. For more background, watch the video below. And be sure to look for an updated review of Firefox on PCMag in the coming days.
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