Firefox 57: Come for the Speed, Stay for the Text Rendering

Posted on November 14, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud with 58 Comments

Mozilla has released Firefox 57, the latest version of its open web browser. And for the first time in many years, this looks like a viable alternative to Chrome on Windows.

“Now, more than ever, people need tech options that are not only built to work well for the individual user but which also improve the overall tech landscape,” Mozilla’s Jascha Kaykas-Wolff writes. “That’s exactly what the new Firefox does. Twice as fast, and still committed to putting people over profit. We are fighting for a healthy internet and we want the Internet to be accessible and open to all. We are a community of committed individuals standing up for what we believe is right.”

I’ve always had a soft spot for Firefox, and I was a backer of the original version (my name is on the 2004 New York Times advertisement for it), after using Phoenix and its other predecessors before that. But with the fall of Microsoft’s web browser efforts, and the rise of Chrome, I’ve long since moved to the Google browser.

But Firefox 57—also called Firefox Quantum—makes a compelling case for rethinking this stance.

It starts with better performance and memory usage, two things that Chrome has struggled with for years on Windows. There’s also a slick new user experience, called Photon, that offers what I’d call a Microsoft Edge-like look and feel on Windows 10. Which is, of course, very nice.

But the reason I’m recommending that you at least look at Firefox 57 is the text rendering. If you think about the many times I’ve discussed Microsoft Edge, the one thing I’ve always really liked is the way it renders text and graphics. And for all of what’s right about Chrome, it just isn’t the same.

But looking at Firefox 57, I can see the same kind of text rendering quality that I see in Edge. And that is quite interesting to me. Interesting enough that I’ll be testing the browser this week to see if switching makes any sense.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and give it a shot too. Say what you will about Firefox, or Mozilla, but their heart is in the right place. And it looks like they’ve finally got a web browser with the performance, efficiency, looks, and text rendering acumen to back up the feels, too.

You can download Firefox 57 from the Firefox website.

 

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Comments (64)

64 responses to “Firefox 57: Come for the Speed, Stay for the Text Rendering”

  1. Avatar

    Jaxidian

    I've enjoyed it so far as well. Really looking forward to see if they can match the polish on Android or not. Specifically, they need to adopt true Android integration and not just work inside a square sandbox. What I mean by this is that they need to add a Web View implementation. They need to handle extensions MUCH better than before (have you ever tried using LastPass in Firefox for Android?). They need a LOT of polish there. Hopefully they can do it but this is a good first step on Windows!

  2. Avatar

    MarkG

    Rendering of pages is very nice, and quick, but I need an add-on to set a default zoom level other than 100%? Seems like that option should already be there.

  3. Avatar

    johnlavey

    I experiment with a LOT of browsers: (1) Chrome, (2) Firefox, (3) Edge, Opera (occasionally), Vivaldi (sometimes). I think I have tried and used most of the browsers out there. For years now my default browser has been Chrome. I believed that there was NOTHING out there that matched Chrome's features, speed and look. But then I heard about Firefox Quantum about a week ago and installed the beta. I am very impressed with it.......in fact because Chrome has given me some headaches with font sizes lately, I am thinking about making the Official version of Firefox Quantum my default browser.


    I am using Firefox Quantum now and can't help but compare it to Chrome. One aspect of both browsers that I consider now is the memory use: both Chrome and Quantum use about the same memory: 48% as measured by the MS Task Manager. But the jury is still out. I am really intrigued and pleased with the new Firefox Quantum.

     

  4. Avatar

    John Scott

    I tried FF 57 a few weeks back. Very impressed how much they have improved the browser. I have always felt Firefox did way better with text rendering in Windows then Chrome. Chrome to me just looks the worst and for me Chrome also looks washed out. Edge has become my article reader just because it looks better for my eyes. Definitely will be installing Firefox to give it some browser time. Like Paul Firefox was the browser that saved many of us from IE, I hope it can survive.

  5. Avatar

    eeisner

    Sadly (and this may be a windows issue), LastPass/extension scaling is still broken.



    I will be trying to give Firefox a daily use though, as Chrome KILLS my Surface Book and makes work hectic as can be when my laptop is slowing like crazy.

  6. Avatar

    edboyhan

    I'm committed to MS Edge, but the Pocket integration (I'm a heavy user) is intriguing. I'll wait to see some Edge vs Firefox benchmark results. Firefox has always been a bit of a pig. Also how is it with 100 tabs open all the time (my SOP). Edge does well with lots of tabs open.

  7. Avatar

    Oasis

    Firefox has been my default browser since I got my Windows XP computer is 2003. I have tried all th others and nothing is as nice as Firefox. Have Chrome on here and rarely use it. I have been using Quantum on my Win7 laptop and my W8.1 Desktop as soon as I saw the beta out and now have it on all of the machines except it isn't out on Ubuntu yet. I like it except for the sqaure tabs. Will look good on W10 though, which I don't have.

  8. Avatar

    wright_is

    I used to use Firefox, but switched about 18 months ago to Chrome and just recently from Chrome to Edge...

    Maybe it is time to look at Firefox again. I've been using it since its Phoenix, sorry, Firebird Beta days and I never really got on with Chrome, but using Android, Chrome made more sense, Firefox has somehow never felt as seamless moving from platform / device to device. Now with Edge on Android, that is a bit better.

  9. Avatar

    Bob Nelson

    The only problem I'm having with FF 57 is on this site.


    That @#/*&#! rectangular popup that comes up from the bottom of the page can't be closed for a full 15 seconds, and even then it leaves the title bar exposed at the bottom of the page. With or without addons enabled.


    Doesn't happen with Chrome or Edge. It can be closed immediately with those, and it sinks out of sight.


  10. Avatar

    jdmorris

    I just spent a couple of mostly fruitless hours trying to find replacements or upgrades for the add-ons I rely upon every day, all day.


    Finally gave up and rolled back to 56.0.2.


    I hate being forced to choose between usability (with the add-ons I like) vs speed and security (with the latest version and going forward).


    I realize it isn't Mozilla's fault if developers don't migrate their add-ons. But just let me keep running them as legacy add-ons, for crying out loud.

    • Avatar

      cuppettcj

      In reply to jdmorris:


      Mozilla cannot give you the speed and resource improvements with Quantum while still allowing legacy XUL add-ons to run. They've announced legacy add-on deprecation a long time ago and they've offered help to add-on developers to migrate to WebExtensions. But they cannot put off this cutover forever if they ever want to compete with Chrome. If the lack of security updates is what bothers you the most, then consider Firefox 52 ESR (currently 52.5.0).


      Download the ESR and get compatibility with all of your legacy add-ons while still receiving security updates. You won't get the speed increases that come with Quantum, obviously, but you'll still be protected for at least another 18 weeks to give add-on developers more time and / or for you to decide what to do next.

      • Avatar

        jdmorris

        In reply to cuppettcj:

        Thanks for the tip. If I'm understanding you correctly, better to downgrade to 52 ESR than to 56 because 52 - but *not* 56 - will keep getting security updates. Do I have that right?


        What happens after 18 weeks?

        • Avatar

          cuppettcj

          In reply to jdmorris:


          Yes, 52 ESR will continue to receive security updates until its EOL, currently scheduled to end with 52.8.0. So if you want security updates to go with legacy add-on compatibility, then downgrade to 52 ESR. (EDIT: I forgot to mention that you should back up your profile before downgrading, as there could be issues. You may want to consider starting a fresh profile with ESR 52 if that isn't too much work.) FWIW, Mozilla SeaMonkey uses 52 ESR as its baseline so that it can continue to support XUL add-ons. ESR point releases correspond with normal Firefox major releases, so ESR 52.5.0 ~ FF57, ESR 52.6.0 ~ FF58, ESR 52.7.0 ~ FF59, and 52.8.0 ~ FF60.


          I can't post URLs here so just Google Firefox ESR FAQ for more information.


          After that FF59 will become the baseline for the new ESR, so you will lose support for legacy add-ons at that point. You'll have until then to decide what to do next. You may need to keep a legacy version of Firefox installed in a virtual machine afterwards so you can browse with your add-ons while not risking your main installation of Windows in case of a security breach. Or consider switching to Pale Moon, which I understand will continue to support XUL add-ons and continue to patch security vulnerabilities. In case you didn't know, Pale Moon is a fork of Firefox so most if not all of your legacy Firefox add-ons should work with Pale Moon.


          I happen to have an installation of Mozilla SeaMonkey that I use when I need legacy add-on functionality for certain web pages, but mainly browse with regular Firefox. The SeaMonkey community is still unsure how it will migrate to the new Quantum baseline because they have so few developers actively working on it anymore, so I presume that browser will die at that point. But I imagine I can keep running the last updated version for at least a few years afterwards and have it perform the one function I need from a legacy add-on I often use: Mozilla Archive Format for saving full web pages as a single file.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to jdmorris:

          The theory is that ESR will remain < 57 until next June, getting periodic security updates. However, the schedule is that ESR will get Quantum next June. Then SOL for anything from Mozilla. For those who really want to keep using XUL add-ons, best alternative I've tried is Waterfox. If that project dies, then I'll become an Opera user whenever I'm not using my Chromebook.

          • Avatar

            cuppettcj

            In reply to hrlngrv:


            Interesting! My understanding was that Waterfox is just a one-man project and all he does is change the branding and recompile Firefox source code using the Intel C++ compiler. I used to use Waterfox back before Firefox had an official 64-bit version available. But now I checked his project page and see that he has now devoted himself into maintaining a Firefox fork that will continue to allow for XUL add-on support.


            I have my doubts that he can do this by himself, however, and it's unclear how many other developers are contributing to his project. But it is something other than Pale Moon to consider.

          • Avatar

            cuppettcj

            In reply to hrlngrv:


            If Waterfox dies and you're going to go with a Chromium Project derivative (as Opera is), then also consider Brave. It's still in beta but it's got a lot of promise.

  11. Avatar

    Mike Kane

    This is quite speedy, I'm excited. One downside is I'm not a huge fan of the Pocket bookmark integration, but I will just stick with Bookmark OS

  12. Avatar

    fishnet37222

    What I always loved about Firefox was the ability to customize it to exactly how you want it to look and act. With Firefox 57, all that goes away since it drops support for legacy extensions. As an example of how I customize it, I use TabMixPlus to configure it to not close the browser when closing the last tab and to load all links to new sites in new tabs. Without TabMixPlus, I don't know how I'm going to get that behavior.

  13. Avatar

    GetEdumated

    Have they finally got a web browser that doesn't break all its add-ons every other version?

  14. Avatar

    david.thunderbird

    Taking requests? Does it cast? More specific Chromecast, without it be useless like teats on a boar hog.

  15. Avatar

    ben55124

    MS should drop their browsers and back Firefox. Cross platform and extensions everywhere (where allowed).

  16. Avatar

    ErichK

    I use Firefox for this site. I let it install the update right after I read this article.


    Looks real nice so far. But I'll have to play with it more.

  17. Avatar

    jonahemery

    It seems like Microsoft Edge - from a usage share standpoint - is a colossal failure. A case could be made to throw in the towel and just back Firefox on Windows. But I understand what a huge platform surrender that symbolizes.

    • Avatar

      John Scott

      In reply to jonahemery: Edge as a UWP was supposed to win over everyone because you would run Edge on every device. Well that never worked out did it. Yes, would have been better to make Edge a truly separate app that users could either use or uninstall. Sure keep IE married to the OS for the rest of its life. But make Edge something that can simply go away if we choose not to use it.


  18. Avatar

    rameshthanikodi

    Been using this version since the beta, if I were to be honest, I still find Firefox to be a little behind Chrome, but at least I can say all the major web browsers are within shoulder's reach of each other now. Can also confirm that Firefox uses less memory than Chrome and has much better text rendering, oh man, Chrome really needs to up its game now.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      . . . Chrome really needs to up its game now.

      And if Google doesn't, it'd be a fine test of the inertia of browser users. I figure commenters in blogs like this plus reddit account for most users who'd even consider changing browsers.

  19. Avatar

    The Binary Son

    I'd be fine with this, except there seems to be NO active add-on for managing and switching between Firefox Profiles, which I do all the time. This is infuriating.

    • Avatar

      cuppettcj

      In reply to The Binary Son:


      It's not as straightforward as in Chrome, but if you type about:profiles in your address bar and hit <Enter> you'll get a page with several options to manage and switch between profiles. You can also create different shortcuts on your desktop to launch specific profiles. Google Multiple Firefox profiles for more information on how to set that up.

  20. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    I'm waiting for some clever fork of Firefox to pull off something like the IETab add-on of yore: combine the Quantum rendering engine with pre-Quantum XUL add-ons. If I want fast and good rendering while accepting the default UI and few extensions, I'll use Opera.

  21. Avatar

    seapea

    Hopefully for FF users the text rendering equality with msEdge won't mean that FF is the same memory resource hog that msEdge is.


    • Avatar

      John Scott

      In reply to seapea: For me Edge isn't any worse in memory then Chrome. Add up all Chrome processes and geez nothing robs PC RAM like Chrome. I think FF still limits how many processes it will use, I can use Edge on very weak hardware with no issues. Can't say that about Chrome or Firefox 56. Maybe FF has improved resource use in FF 57.


  22. Avatar

    afenwal

    I have tried it on two machines (MacBook Pro & Surface Pro 3) with the same result - CPU & GPU giving lots of heat and fan noise. Anyone seen similar issues?

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