Faster than Google Chrome is Firefox Quantum

First released in September 2008, Google powered through several version of the browser before Chrome 5.0, released in mid-2010, become the first version to work on Mac, Windows and Linux devices. Within a couple of years it had become the most-used browser in the world, decimating the market share of both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Today, Firefox only has about 13 per cent of the desktop market share and much less than that on mobile. Chrome is at 64 per cent for desktop alone.

Mozilla made big promises about Quantum’s speed and efficiency, which are what everyone makes big promises about when they launch a new browser, and they never really make a difference in the experience.

The latest version, the firm claims, Firefox Quantum, is twice as fast as Firefox was six months ago and uses 30 per cent less memory than Chrome. That should mean fewer crashes and less time spent gazing at the spinning wheel of death.

It turns out there are lots of things Firefox Quantum could do to improve the browser experience, and it did many of those things. The new Firefox actually manages to evolve the entire browser experience, recognizing the multi-device, ultra-mobile lives we all lead and building a browser that plays along. It’s a browser built with privacy in mind, automatically stopping invisible trackers and making your history available to you and no one else. It’s better than Chrome, faster than Chrome, smarter than Chrome. It’s my new go-to browser.

“Lots of Chrome users used to be Firefox users, so one of our explicit goals is to take users back from Chrome,” says Mayo. “Firefox, from a raw technology point of view, did fall behind for a bunch of years – there’s no point denying that, we really did.” Now his goal is simple: make a browser that is so fast and simple that choosing it is a no-brainer for users.

The speed thing is real, by the way. Mozilla did a lot of engineering work to allow its browser to take advantage of all the multi-core processing power on modern devices, and it shows. Every page seems to load one beat sooner than we expect, which makes the whole browsing experience that much more efficient. It’s not life-changingly different, and I can’t say I notice the 100 percent advantage Mozilla swears it has over Chrome, but it definitely feels zippier.

Wired’s senior staff writer David Pierce says Firefox Quantum “feels like a bunch of power users got together and built a browser that fixed all the little things that annoyed them about other browsers.”

This means Mozilla, which is a non-profit organisation, has to take on the second-biggest tech company in the world on its own turf. But for Google, Chrome is much more than just a browser. “Fundamentally Chrome exists to defend Google’s advertising business – it’s a large corporate strategic reason for Chrome to exist,” Mayo says. Google’s web offerings, including Gmail and Docs, are optimized to work best with Chrome, so users are incentivised to stay within Google’s suite of products and keep supplying the company with the data it uses to drive its ad business.

What makes Quantum most perfect in 2017, well let’s find out:

For instance: If you’re looking at a page on your phone and want to load that same page on your laptop, you just tap “Send to Device,” pick your laptop, and it opens and loads in the background as if it had always been there. You can save pages to a reading list, or to the great read-it-later service Pocket (which Mozilla owns), both with a single tap. Pocket also surfaces a bunch of articles you might like when you open a new tab, which is a delightful way to bring actual browsing back to the browser.

Firefox has always differentiated itself by refusing to compromise on user privacy or security, two issues that are close to the heart of Mozilla, which trumpets itself as a defender of an open and innovative internet. These core philosophies do filter down into Firefox, but Mayo says that ethics alone aren’t nearly enough to convince people to switch browsers. “Lots of people did give us a try, but it felt like a compromise – like they wanted to go with the good guy,” he says.

Aesthetically, Firefox looks just like Chrome, which is a good thing. Rather than separate the search bar and address bar, Quantum combines them, just like Chrome. Tabs are rectangular and uncomplicated, as they should be. Since it’s doing so much, Quantum does get a bit cluttered in spots, like when you search in the box and it offers you autocomplete options, search results, and a bunch of other search-engine options all in the same window. But in general it’s clean and simple, like a good browser should be.

Switching browsers is kind of a pain. They’re the most important, most-used apps on just about all our devices, and there’s a steep learning curve in trying to figure out a new one. And in a few cases, it might even be impossible; I can’t use the Conde Nast CMS in anything other than Chrome, so I can’t switch completely. But if there’s ever been a reason to spend an hour importing bookmarks, installing extensions, and tweaking all your settings just so, Firefox Quantum is it. It’s a truly 2017 browser, and it might be the only one.


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