Heating up browser competition – Firefox Quantum

Posted by: Matt Tags: , Posted date:

New browsers don’t come around very often so it makes sense to talk about them, but a new version of an existing browser? Usually that’s just about features or security updates. So, while they are important to talk about, a new version itself is rarely newsworthy.

This time is different. Firefox officially released their new update, dubbed ‘Quantum’. The main focus is speed, but there are overhauls throughout. From changes to the UI itself down through the internals and rendering modifications, the Firefox team has near entirely overhauled it. While it’s been in beta for some time, we know most of our customers have policies or just time pressures that prevent them from playing with it. I’d strongly suggest downloading the release version when you can.

The switch to 64-bit

One of the main changes I like is the switch to 64-bit. The process for browsers to ‘make the change’ has been long and somewhat painful for all of them. And that’s really due to extensibility. Building add-ons or extensions started for 32-bit versions long ago and back then it was rare to run a 64-bit operating system, so browsers didn’t even offer 64-bit versions. The change in 64-bit OS adoption helped push that along but it was still a catch-22 (and no, not related)…developers/vendors didn’t want to build for a small segment, and the segment stayed small because people didn’t adopt a browser with a limited ecosystem.

So, things just moved slowly for extensibility. As of release, I believe the number is about 5,000 extensions from their entire store are ready to go with Quantum. More will come as the roll-out proceeds. Browsium is in that cycle, and while we’ve supported 64-bit on other browsers for some time, Firefox support won’t be coming until our next release. Look for that blog post soon.

Quantum is fast

Firefox Quantum is fast. Like really fast. Pages load in a snap, the response of the UI is tight and on a few devices, I’m seeing no lag. Mozilla claims all kinds of benchmark numbers above the competition, but I’m always skeptical of those numbers. Tests can be setup to avoid weaker areas or nuanced to carve out what we would have to deal with in day-to-day use. So, for me what matters most is practical use. My experience was that it’s fast and as sharp as a daily driver. News sites with heavy content and multimedia or social media with ‘never ending’ UI loads all performed well.

About power use and the UI

Quantum is green – not in color but in consumption. Like other browser vendors, Mozilla has undertaken a distinct effort to reduce power consumption. It’s important to reduce our footprint, but for me this is personal. I like to ensure my laptop goes further between charges. I’ve been saying for years that the modern desktop has changed, the information worker (let alone home user) spends most of their time in the browser. They spend so much time in the browser, I started a company to build tools to manage ONLY that part of the end user experience. So, when I see browsers helping to reduce their power consumption as part of an overhaul, it makes me happy to know others see the browsers as ‘THE’ tool to focus on.

Since Quantum is not a new browser, but just a new version, it still has all the great security and other capabilities you’re used to, but the UI is different. Well, it’s not really. It’s just simple. As a method to make the UI simple they offer a gazillion ways to customize it to your liking. Seriously, they claim the toolbar alone has 265,252,859,191,742,656,903,069,040,640,000 ways it can be customized. You can read more about the details behind calculating that number and see all their other claims on their blog.

Firefox Quantum is well worth a serious look

Before I finish I will add that the hard truth is most of our customers are Chrome and IE shops. Firefox isn’t really in the mix for most. For those customers who have dismissed Firefox as ‘just another choice’ I’d say they need to look and think seriously about it now. The game has changed, so much so that the speed and power savings alone are reasons to allocate a resource to make a detailed evaluation. For those running Firefox as a choice today, I think they will be seeing more users select it as default after the rollout (and we’ll be there to help manage navigations for this version…soon).

Kudos to the Firefox team and well done. We’re going into an exciting time (winter is coming!) for browser competition. I look forward to seeing how adoption plays out and how the other browser vendors respond. One thing I know is that we’ll be watching it all and working to ensure we can help make the choices and control easier, so you can choose the browser that works best for you. For the first time in a while, it seriously could be Firefox.

Matt Heller
Browsium Founder and Chairman

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