Firefox is getting a massive speed boost, and it could persuade Google Chrome and Safari users to switch over.
Mozilla has described Version 57 of the web browser as such a big change that it needed a special name to go along with it. Firefox Quantum makes a lot of bold promises — but when it has to go up against users’ deeply-entrenched habits and setups on existing browsers, it could prove a tough sell.
A lot has changed since Firefox 1.0 launched in 2004. In 2009, it briefly claimed the title of world’s most popular web browser. Google Chrome, which launched in 2008, gradually eroded Firefox’s lead thanks to speedy load times and simple design. Chrome now accounts for 60 percent of desktop web browser usage, but that could shift with a Firefox release that mimics the things that made Chrome so popular in the first place.
If you’re already a Firefox user, you should receive an automatic upgrade to Quantum when it launches on November 14. Chances are you’re not a user, though — Netmarketshare estimates just 13 percent of desktop web users are accessing through Firefox — and for these people, the new edition could present a good reason to change back.
Quantum more effectively uses the multi-core processors found on modern computers. Tasks like web page styling will run at the same time as other tasks. Firefox will also prioritize computer and network resources to keep the current page running smoother than the others. This builds on the work done with the Servo browser engine, written in the Rust programming language.
It also uses a slick design called Photon. Designed with high-resolution displays in mind, it uses simple, clean user interface elements to keep the focus on the content:
When the project was first announced back in October 2016, Mozilla fellow David Bryant described the upcoming update as a “quantum leap” in web browsing:
We are striving for performance gains from Quantum that will be so noticeable that your entire web experience will feel different. Pages will load faster, and scrolling will be silky smooth. Animations and interactive apps will respond instantly, and be able to handle more intensive content while holding consistent frame rates. And the content most important to you will automatically get the highest priority, focusing processing power where you need it the most.
Watch the beta version of Firefox Quantum in action here against Google Chrome to get a sense of speed:
As an example, where Yelp takes 9.5 seconds to load on Chrome, it takes just 7.7 seconds on Quantum. The browser achieves these high speeds while also using 30 percent less memory than Google Chrome.
Quantum also beats Chrome by offering Pocket support out-of-the-box. The service suggests trending web sites when a user opens a new tab, meaning that if a news story is breaking, Firefox will make it users aware of it. It’s not quite the speed boosts that made Chrome popular, but it’s a nifty addition.
However, you may want to hold off switching right away. The new version is set to break compatibility with older Firefox extensions, so if there’s something you depend on everyday, it could mean learning new habits. Mozilla has gone all in with the WebExtension standard, though, meaning that extensions cross-compatible with Chrome should be a common sight.
Switching from another browser to Firefox will also mean moving over bookmarks and data. Fortunately, the browser bundles in a tool to make transferring data easy, with an “Import Data” option under the Bookmarks section. Quantum has a lot of reasons to entice new users, but it all depends whether other browser users will be willing to make the switch.