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RAM Boosts And Multiple Processes Make Mozilla Firefox 54 Faster Than Ever

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Firefox 54 delivers speedier browsing thanks to minimal RAM utilisation, and better multi-tab management

Mozilla has updated its Firefox browser with the release of version 54, that promises much better utilisation of available RAM and an improved ability to handle multiple processes.

Indeed, Mozilla claims that its new browser is its ‘best ever’ version, and cited tests that show the new browser uses significantly less RAM than other browsers on Windows 10, MacOS, and Linux.

And it claims to have significantly improved its management capability for multiple tabs. Prior versions of the browser used to run all the tabs in a browser. But the new version splits Firefox into multiple processes (called Electrolysis), to help with running multiple, complex tabs.

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Balanced Browser

“Multi-process Firefox is fast like other browsers, but won’t suck up memory and slow down your computer as Chrome will sometimes do,” claimed Mozilla’s Ryan Pollock in a blog posting.

The firm said it was aware that users often used their browser for complex tasks that means having many tabs open.

And these tabs can have a lot going on in them, such as videos, pictures, animations etc, and just one of these complex websites could slow down all the other browser tabs.

Until now that is.

“Today Mozilla is releasing a new version of Firefox that runs using a multi-process architecture, for the first time using several separate processes for your web page content (your tabs),” wrote Pollock.

Previously the old Firefox used a single process to run all the tabs in a browser. Modern browsers split the load into several independent processes. But its Electrolysis project splits Firefox into multiple processes, and the browser can now use up to four processes to run web page content across all open tabs.

“This means that a heavy, complex web page in one tab has a much lower impact on the responsiveness and speed in other tabs,” said Mozilla. “By separating the tabs into separate processes, we make better use of the hardware on your computer, so Firefox can deliver you more of the web you love, with less waiting.”

“In my view, none of today’s browsers strikes the ‘just right’ balance between speed and memory usage,” explained Pollock. “Your browser’s use of memory impacts your experience both with the browser, and with the other apps that you’re running on your computer. If a browser uses too much memory, your computer may not have enough left to the run the other apps you want to use. In fact, your computer may slow to a crawl if you try to do too much.”

“In August 2016, Mozilla launched the first phase of Electrolysis by splitting Firefox to run its user interface and web page content (the pages in your tabs) in two separate processes,” he wrote.

“Today Firefox is shipping the next big phase of Electrolysis, significantly expanding the number of processes Firefox uses for processing and securing web page content, and enhancing the management of those processes to improve memory use, performance, and stability,” he added.

“These additional processes can potentially run across multiple computing cores, so it’s much less likely for web pages to negatively impact each other or the performance of the web browser in general. And, if a content process crashes, it should not affect other content processes and the web pages displaying in them.”

“The upshot of these changes is that Firefox is now faster and more stable than ever,” he claimed.

Best Ever

Mozilla also said it was making good progress on its other big project, Quantum, which concerns the optimisation of the browser engine that runs within a content process on modern kit.

“This is the best release of Firefox ever, with improvements that will be very noticeable to even casual users of our beloved browser,” said the firm.

But users of Firefox on older machines running legacy operating systems need to be aware that Mozilla will soon end support for those devices. It intends September 2017 as the cut-off point for Windows XP and Vista support

This will be shortly after it releases a privacy-focused browser called Firefox Focus to give users greater control over their data, block adverts and boost browsing performance.

Quiz: Are you a Firefox enthusiast?