The next major release of Firefox is such an improvement that Mozilla decided to change the name. So instead of going by the unimpressive moniker Firefox 57, this release will instead be called Firefox Quantum. And it is available in both Beta and Developer Edition versions today.
“Our engineering team has been relentless in their focus on making Firefox incredibly fast,” Mozilla’s Nick Nguyen explains. “Firefox Quantum is such a big leap forward that you’ll feel it instantly, just browsing your favorite websites.”
Firefox Quantum has one mission and one mission only: To take down the market leader, Google Chrome. And the best way to get there, Mozilla says, is to offer better performance and memory usage than Chrome.
I’m surprised to say I could notice the difference in an afternoon of testing the Beta version of Firefox Quantum: The browser really does feel quite snappy. Noticeably snappy.
Mozilla says that Firefox Quantum is “often perceivably faster” than Google Chrome, and it offers up a video (above) that demonstrates this prowess. The speed gains come from a variety of changes, including support for multiple CPU cores on both desktop and mobile, a new “super fast” CSS engine, giving priority to the currently-displayed tab, and a year’s worth of performance tuning.
Firefox Quantum also provides a sleek new user experience that Mozilla calls Photon.
“With the new design, Firefox leaps ahead with a new interface that reflects today’s reality of High DPI displays and users who are more task focused than they’ve ever been,” Nguyen writes. “Users will be impressed by the modern new design that puts their needs first. Photon doesn’t just look good, it’s also smarter. If you’re using Photon on a Windows PC with a touch display, the menus change size based on whether you click with a mouse or touch with a finger.”
The design is minimalist and, I think, attractive, with hard edges and square tabs. It looks more modern than Google Chrome, with its weird trapezoidal tabs, and is more akin, design-wise, to Microsoft Edge.
I like the look and speed of this browser, and of course the mobile sync stuff is huge. But like Microsoft Edge, it still lacks desktop integration for web apps, which makes it less than ideal (until Progressive Web Apps can be acquired through the Store in Windows 10, when all bets are off). But you may want to give it a shot: If you’ve not looked at Firefox in a while, this release may surprise you.