Firefox Quantum: Comeback or Flameout?
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Oct 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Firefox Quantum: Comeback or Flameout? (Posted: 2 Oct 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved