I’ve had Mozilla Firefox installed on almost every system I’ve ever used, for various reasons that were usually things that Google Chrome couldn’t do. Despite my sticking with Chrome most of the time, I’ve always rooted for Mozilla’s browser, and there’s a lot of things it does right. The past few years have seen it get bloated, and slow, and the direction of the development team has been all over the place. But Mozilla decided to start from scratch a year ago, and the result is Firefox Quantum, a brand new version of the much-loved browser, which is currently available in a public beta.
There’s so much that’s changed under the hood that it would require weeks of writing about Quantum to get up to speed on everything. Mozilla’s new browser rendering engine, Electrolysis, is the enabler for a bunch of new things, like faster page loads compared to Firefox 52 (the last major update), or a 30% improvement in memory management over Google Chrome. Having a third major engine on the internet is always welcome, because having everyone default to using Webkit or EdgeHTML/Trident isn’t very healthy for a free and fair internet.
It’s also sleeker, using less desktop real estate, and it supports a lot of user customisations that you can fiddle with to make it work better for you, like quick actions that sit on their own toolbar. There are even options to shrink down the menu icons to remove all the touch-screen optimisations. Hardware-wise, Mozilla’s claim that it is lean does hold weight – testing 4K video in the browser showed Firefox only chewing 1.2% of CPU usage on average, and every part of the user interface and Electrolysis itself is GPU-accelerated.
Smooth scrolling also feels amazing now, and there isn’t any stutter in video playing in an open tab when you’re moving other tabs around or browsing content-heavy websites. Chrome is notorious for doing both, so this is a welcome change.
One additional interesting change is that Firefox now supports screenshots, and also will automatically upload those screenshots to Mozilla’s servers at screenshots.firefox.com. The idea is that this becomes a replacement for some image hosts like Imgur, but it would be more useful if Mozilla opened this up to third parties like Imgur, Reddit, and maybe even Facebook.
Check out Firefox Quantum via this link, and keep in mind that it’s still a beta version. Mozilla needs a lot of eyes on this to discover any remaining issues or hardware configuration issues on users’ machines, so give it a whirl!