Ryan Harrison My blog, portfolio and technology related ramblings

Firefox Quantum - It's Fast Again

Firefox has always been installed on my system and it used to be my browser of choice. For the last few years or so however, it has been lagging behind Chrome in speed and general responsiveness. I have always hated the terrible startup times of Firefox compared to the relative instantaneousness of Chrome. General browsing and usability has also been more snappy in Chrome - which for most people is the single most important factor when choosing a browser.

Firefox Quantum Beta

This story seems to have changed quite a bit in the latest pre-release of Firefox however. Version 57, which is dubbed Quantum, uses a completeley new CSS engine and various components have been recreated in Rust which allow much better use of multi-core processors. Mozilla says that these improvements give Quantum a 2x speed improvement over v52 along with using up to 30% RAM than Chrome.

This all sounds great, but does it actually have any notable difference? I have been using the beta release alongside Chrome for a couple weeks now (both with the same extensions installed), and I must say that the performance improvement is quite significant. I generally don’t care much about RAM usage and have no problem with Chrome eating loads of it as long as its well used to make things faster (if it’s there why not use it?) so I won’t comment on that, but you can definitely notice the difference. Firefox feels a lot more snappy now and page loads are just generally much faster. Can’t really argue with that. I wouldn’t say that it feels faster than Chrome now, but it’s probably just as good which is quite impressive. Always good to have some competition back in the marketplace. Startup times are also much better now!

Other notable differences in Firefox Quantum include the new Photon UI, which I must say I think looks pretty good. Things seem a lot simpler now and they’ve thankfully done away with the old huge hamburger menu which was terrible. Transitions seem smooth and everything is where it should be. One thing to note is that the newer version forces the use of the new web extension framework, so if/when you do update, it’s certainly possible that not all of your extensions will work. One big example is the LastPass extension which has yet to be updated. It’s still a beta though so this is still acceptable. Most of the popular extensions have already been updated to work in Quantum and hopefully more will follow after general release.

Firefox Quantum (v57) is due for release on November 14th. In the meantime, you can still try it out by installing the Beta (or Nightly releases).