Firefox Quantum: Comeback or Flameout?

Category: Browsers

Firefox is poised to make a comeback, at least among fans who switched to Chrome only reluctantly. The public beta version of Firefox 57, also known as Firefox Quantum, is now available to download and test drive. It really is pretty impressive. Let's take a closer look...

What is Firefox Quantum?

Several years ago, Firefox lost a lot of ground in the battle for browser market share when its developer, The Mozilla Foundation, let the browser grow fat and slow while chasing multiple dreams that never became reality (a mobile phone operating system, IoT services, creating a built-in video chat service, etc.). But the development team has returned to its roots, and the result is truly a quantum leap above previous Firefox versions.

Firefox Quantum renders pages up to two times faster than the previous version, according to the company. A large chunk of this performance improvement is credited to Firefox’s new ability to take advantage of multi-core processors and a new CSS engine.

My own subjective impression is that Quantum is roughly equal to Chrome in rendering speed now, and switching between tabs is much zippier, too. Firefox Quantum uses much less RAM than previous versions and certainly less than Chrome.

Firefox Quantum review

The headline of a Mozilla blog post declares: "Firefox Quantum is super fast, while still conserving memory." You can see charts comparing the performance of Quantum to the previous version of Firefox. But curiously, they do not include any head-to-head comparisons of Quantum to Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer, Opera, or Safari.

Mozilla says "results will vary based on your computer and the apps you’re using," but my guess is that older and low-end machines will see the most performance gains with Firefox Quantum. Test results showed that Quantum used about 30% less RAM memory than Chrome on Windows, but slightly more than Chrome on a MacOS system.

You can view the test results in the blog post linked above, and try the Speedometer benchmark test yourself, to see how the new Firefox performs, compared to the browser you have now.

A Few Cosmetic Changes, Too

The user interface has also changed. Gone are the rounded corners on tabs and buttons, providing a much cleaner and modern look. It also renders better on high-dpi screens found on modern laptops and touchscreens. Firefox Quantum can still be customized to one’s heart’s content, from scratch or using skin templates available on the Mozilla site.

Firefox Quantum still includes Pocket, which stores pages for offline reading, and the Reading Mode that strips extraneous content out of a page for easier concentration on the text. A handy instant-screenshot function is a nice addition. And of course, you can still use third-party extensions to add features and customize your 'Fox.

Will it Reverse the Death Spiral?

Is Firefox Quantum good enough to wrestle market share away from Chrome or Internet Explorer? I think it will entice only that small group of users who wistfully miss Firefox but switched to Chrome when Firefox became fat and slow. People who use many Google services such as GMail, Docs, Photos, Drive, etc., will stick with Chrome because it provides better integration with the services they love. It’s not so much the browser’s performance that dictates their choice, but what they can do with Chrome.

However, Firefox Quantum may be able to slow the precipitous decline of Firefox’s market share, which currently stands at just under 13% (versus 22% a year ago). Market researchers at StatCounter have projected that Chrome will virtually obliterate Firefox and Internet Explorer by 2019; Quantum may push that death date out a bit. Quantum should also give Firefox a leg up over Safari, Opera, Edge, and other bit players.

Firefox Quantum is still in Beta test mode, and will be released on November 14, 2017. You can download it now and take it for a spin, or sign up for updates by email. Look for the blue "Keep me updated" button at the bottom of the Firefox Quantum page.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Firefox Quantum: Comeback or Flameout?"

(See all 39 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Sarah L
02 Oct 2017

I still use Firefox, it works well for me with Version 56. I look forward to Version 57. It gave me warning about applications or web pages I use that rely on Adobe Flash. My bit of research found that the whole industry will phase out Adobe Flash in 2020, including Adobe. Nonetheless, I downloaded the current version to see a video posted by a friend on lousy face book. His video was fine, but I could not see it properly until I downloaded that new version.


Posted by:

Gerry Michel
03 Oct 2017

I've used FF for years...mainly because of its Tab Mix Plus add-on...which I now understand will probably NOT be available for FF Quantum...

Thinking of trying Vivaldi...which KimKomando lists as "The best web browser you haven't tried yet"...


Posted by:

Stephen
03 Oct 2017

I had tried Vivaldi as it was touted as having ad-blockers, but alas, whatever it's got built-in doesn't work. I am using Chrome with Adblock Plus, Adblock, and uBlock Origin. Those 3 do a pretty effective job of keeping this site and others clean. I disable them when I am on secure sites that don't put outside ads on them (like my bank). I use the NY DAILY NEWS website as a good test, since I visit it every day (I live in NYC). Without any blockers, it is useless to visit. Ads on the sites and floaters at the top. Extremely annoying, to say the least.
So for now, I'll stick with Chrome. Bob, please remind us in November and maybe I'll take a look at it FF.


Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
03 Oct 2017

I don't like Firefox because it's cookie handling is primitive at best (and that is a charitable description)so methinks I will wait to see if Quantum's cookie handling is any better or not. Otherwise, I will stick with IE11 to the bitter end of Win 7.

@Ed One of the only two bumper stickers I've ever displayed said, "Hate is not a family value!" Considering today's political atmosphere, I wish I could find it again.

@Gerry Michel I stopped receiving Kim Komando's email's because most of what she posted there were thinly disguised ads. Not all of her advice is that great since it is often motivated by her sponsers. Her website still has a decent amount of news.


Posted by:

Lloyd Collins
03 Oct 2017

I used Chrome for a few years and it went from fast to bloated slow, then it stopped loading. Then went back to Firefox, on Bob's advice, and I still like it better than Chrome. If Firefox gets faster, so much the better.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
03 Oct 2017

Like several other commenters here, I deleted Firefox when they kicked Brendan Eich out for political reasons. (And that's despite the fact that I disagreed with Eich's political position.) So I'm not about to go back to Firefox, regardless of how good or bad Quantum may be.

Besides, I've got plenty of other options. My main browser is Chrome, but I also have Pale Moon (a Firefox look-alike) on my computer, along with Opera and Internet Explorer and Vivaldi. It won't bother me in the slightest if Firefox fails to halt its death spiral.


Posted by:

KENNETH HEIKKILA
03 Oct 2017

I guess they can only do one thing at a time. FF doesn’t work at all on my up to date iPhone.
It’s still on my desktop, but about the only time I open it is to make sure it’s up to date or to check on some possible problem.
Chrome is #1 and Edge a distant #2 for the occasional financial or government site that doesn’t render well on Chrome.


Posted by:

Bev Chapin
03 Oct 2017

Installed the new Firefox late yesterday as soon as I read about it - faster, cleaner and I'll stay barring major glitches. Used FF from way back, tried others (Vivaldi, Opera, Chrome), don't like them. With Duck Duck Go, FF & AVG so far doing fine. Not a speed demon, hate changes just for sake of change - just simplify good features we already have & know.


Posted by:

samG
03 Oct 2017

FF's reader plugin and print edit plugin are why I use FF. No other browser has those features (maybe IE?) that work. Not Chrome (I use Slimjet version), not Opera. And I don't use Microsoft's browsers.
The only website I visit that doesn't render properly in FF is Cnet.
With the reader plugin, only an article's pertinent info is displayed. Then it can be saved as a webpage. Print Edit does what it's name implies. Most anything can be removed from a webpage. Print size adjusted (which adjusts # of pages saved), and then webpage can be saved as a .pdf file or webpage file. And/or printed. My 2 cents.


Posted by:

Gary
04 Oct 2017

Been using FF and IE since way back when. Tried the bloated chrome - didn't like it. YMMV


Posted by:

aglennon
05 Oct 2017

About a year ago(?) Firefox changed the layout, fonts and styles - without asking us. The headers and footers stopped showing on printouts. I never figured out how to fix these problems after many hours and days of research.

Then, a few months ago, they stopped updating Firefox on XP machines. They couldn't care less.

I've used Firefox and Mozilla from day-one, and have tolerated the bloat/slow/resource hog. Changing how the browser looked without any user input was extremely disrespectful. Trashing the Printout URL, dates... horrible problem when some users needed dates, times, etc...stamped on each page. But when they announced they no longer supported XP, well now we just wait day after day to be hacked. No money to buy new O/S's. Some folks have to work with what they have and be content.

Sometimes Firefox gets so bogged down, it either crashes and closes or fails to load pages at all (have to keep Reloading). ATT DSL doesn't help.

We might have old pcs but they are well-maintained, free of malware and updated by those programs that still take care of us old XP people.

When I need to navigate faster and better, have to use Opera (although they quit XP a long time ago, at least they still do some sort of updates).

When I need to print like normal with headers and footers, I use Opera, which has a very nice, user-friendly Print side window with options/settings.

It's just old habit of using Firefox today while being tolerant of its problems. But we should've quit using it a long time ago. At least Opera is quicker.


Posted by:

Bill
05 Oct 2017

Just updated on both Dell XPS 8500 and Lenovo T470.
It flys. Does everything I need to do with ease.


Posted by:

Pete
05 Oct 2017

I'll try the Quantum. I've always had FF on my machines especially when using a User Agent changer add-on. However, started using SlimJet after reading about it from a commenter on the prior Mozilla update and unfortunately, it works incredibly well. I say unfortunately because I've respected Mozilla being Non-Profit and only reason for existing to make a better browser and Thunderbird mail carrier (I haven't kept up on any of the political info mentioned.) I personally end up going with what works and doesn't take up much memory or processor so prettymuch only use SlimJet (I wish they wouldn't've named it that because at work I spend time getting rid of all the terrible programs that start with Slim, a misnomer for Slime IMHO. Sorry, possibly fell slightly off topic there. )


Posted by:

Jeffrey aka Kyd
06 Oct 2017

What's up with this Speed Test? The screen blinks and boxes are checked... but where's the OUTPUT?

Is this feature broken?

Seems useless as is

Kyd


Posted by:

bobrice
06 Oct 2017

I like it so far, but very disappointed Lastpass does not work. Perhaps in the final version? If not, back to Chrome.


Posted by:

Mark Carroll
07 Oct 2017

Quantum means very small. So quantum leap means a very small leap.


Posted by:

Skeeter Sanders
10 Oct 2017

Curious. I just dumped both Firefox and the Firefox-based Comodo IceDragon browsers and the Chrome-based Conmodo Dragon browser as well.

All three ate up far to much memory. Now I have only Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge on my laptop. Before I dumped Firefox, Edge wouldn't work worth a spit -- worse than the Internet Explorer browser Edge was supposed to replace. Now Edge is working the way it should work -- although I'm still having problems downloading apps with it.

I'll wait until the full version of Firefox Quantum is ready before I'll download it.


Posted by:

CHOPPERGIRL
10 Oct 2017

Quantum is a memory pig! I installed it, used it for a while, found out the x32 version of Quantum was just a memory pig like the x64 veersion of Quantum, or the older x64 version of Firefox.

So I went back to the older x32 version of Firefox, which is positively thrifty on memory.

On a 2GB media center machine, I can open 30 pages with Firefox x32 before running out of memory. Using Quantum, I can open a total of 3 pages and I'm out of memory.

So yeah, Quantum is kind of a memory pig like Chrome. Chrome is even worse, it will thrash your harddrive to death...


Posted by:

Simon
10 Oct 2017

I have no idea what people are rattling on about when they say Firefox is bloated or slow. I have used it for years and it is neither. The only things that have ever slowed it down have been poorly written add-ons.
On the other hand I had to download Chrome to run some tests using an alternate browser, so I currently use both browsers, depending on what I want the browser to access. (a somewhat arbitrary process) but the point is that I use both concurrently on one PC. I find that Chrome is incredibly basic and has very few add-ons that actually assist my daily use. It's basic browser, whilst being perfectly OK is so basic that it's laughable. The actual configuration that a user can do is limited and every so often the three dots that you hit to customize the browser (and that's a joke in itself) vanish completely and the only way to adjust anything or reboot it is to crash it from Task Manager.
The problem in the future seems to be FF's new version which renders most, if not all, add-ons inoperable. The implication there is that most of the existing add-ons would have to be completely re-written by the owners/programmers. I suspect that most won't bother and the enhanced configurability of FF, which is it's most attractive aspect, will vanish overnight.


Posted by:

Mealone
13 Oct 2017

Have always been a full Firefox user. Never had any trouble with speed, it has always taken me where I needed/wanted to go. I received notification of the new release, not really bothered if it's faster or uses less memory. It has always worked for me. I will remain a true user and update as soon as the official release is available (testing half built, may disappoint me).

Have in the past looked at opera, chrome and even the new Edge. They are either lacking in certain area's or over extreme (more than the average user needs or wants).
I will stand by my best friend Firefox till the end!


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