Major Firefox ‘Quantum’ Upgrade Brings Speed Boost & New Interface

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Firefox version 57 brings together speed improvements that have been introduced over the past few months with a new minimalist appearance

Mozilla has detailed a major overhaul of its flagship Firefox browser called Firefox Quantum, which it says will roughly double rendering speeds when it debuts on 14 November.

Announced last October, the Quantum project has aimed to boost speed using a number of different technologies, including implementing a CSS page rendering engine that runs in parallel across the multiple processor cores available on current desktops and mobile devices. No other browser has a multi-process engine, Mozilla claimed.

Double speed

Using a benchmark tool called Spedometer 2.0, which simulates web applications, Mozilla found Quantum was about two times faster than Firefox was a year ago.

Other tweaks include ensuring the tab actively in use loads before tabs open in the background and fixing 468 rendering bottleneck issues over the past several months.

Quantum introduces the Photon user interface
Quantum introduces the Photon user interface

As a result Mozilla claims the new browser is “often” faster than Google’s Chrome, while using about 30 percent less RAM, something particularly important for mobile browsers.

The speed tweaks have appeared in Firefox over the past months and with Firefox Quantum, also known as Firefox version 57, are set to be joined by the Photon user interface, which designers built based on research into when users perceived browser rendering time issues.

The interface is built for high-definition displays and includes tweaks for touch-screen Windows user interfaces, such as menus that change size depending on whether they’re clicked with a mouse or touched with a finger.

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Photon user interface

It introduces a minimalist look with square tabs, smooth animations and a ‘Library’ that provides direct acccess to saved data including bookmarks, history, downloads and screenshots.

The Library also includes materials saved using Pocket, the offline content tool Mozilla acquired last year. Mozilla said Quantum improves Firefox’s integration with Pocket, with the ability to save content in one click from the address bar.

Users can try the beta version of Quantum on desktop, Android and iOS starting immediately, and Mozilla has also made a developer edition available including new web-building tools.

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