Mozilla has shaken things up with an all new Firefox 57, branded Firefox Quantum, for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox Quantum is “by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004,” according to the company and brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign to directly compete with the likes of Google Chrome and Safari.
The Quantum name signals that Firefox 57 is a huge release that incorporates the company’s next-generation browser engine (Project Quantum). In our time using it, we have found that Firefox is now much more faster and smooth on our Windows 10 enabled for PCs and Android mobile devices.
Firefox 57 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, and the iOS version (which is usually updated separately from the other platforms) should eventually arrive on Apple’s App Store.
Mozilla says that Firefox Quantum will feel speedier when you browse your favorite websites, thanks to faster page loading, smoother scrolling, and a more responsive user interface. The company noted three ways Firefox now bests the competition:
- Firefox Quantum is 2X as fast as Firefox was 6 months ago, according to the (still-in-development) Speedometer 2.0 benchmark
- Firefox Quantum is oftentimes perceivably faster than Chrome in a side-by-side comparison
- Firefox Quantum often uses less memory than Chrome (~30 percent less using a Windows 10 PC)
While Firefox has historically run mostly on just one CPU core, Firefox Quantum finally takes advantage of multiple CPU cores on desktop and mobile. Firefox Quantum features a faster CSS engine written in Rust that runs quickly, in parallel across multiple CPU cores, instead of running in one slower sequence on a single core. “No other browser can do this,” Mozilla claims.
Firefox Quantum prioritizes the tab you’re actively using — that tab downloads and runs before other tabs you have open in the background — and includes a new CSS engine called Stylo, which takes better advantage of multiple CPU cores that are optimized for low power consumption. Mozilla has also fixed hundreds of issues related to Firefox speed in the past several months, which adds to the feeling of a faster browser.
Firefox Quantum includes a visual overhaul, called Photon, that “feels fast, fluid, and at home with modern operating systems.” Photon takes advantage of today’s High DPI displays and other hardware across Windows 10, macOS High Sierra, Android Oreo, and iOS 11.
“We call this initiative Photon, and its goal is to modernize and unify anything that we call Firefox, while taking advantage of the speedy new engine,” the team explained. “You guessed it: The Photon UI itself is incredibly fast and smooth. To create Photon, our user research team studied how people browsed the web. We looked at real-world hardware to make Firefox look great on any display, and we made sure that Firefox looks and works like Firefox, regardless of the device you’re using. Our designers created a system that scales to more than just current hardware but lets us expand in the future.”
Firefox Quantum integrates the read-it-later app, which Mozilla acquired in February, even further. When you open a new tab, you’ll see currently trending web pages recommended by Pocket users, in addition to your top sites. Firefox Quantum lets you save to Pocket right from the address bar. If you have the Pocket app for Android or iOS, you’ll also get offline access to your saved stories.
Here’s the full Firefox 57 for desktop changelog:
- A completely new browsing engine, designed to take full advantage of the processing power in modern devices
- A redesigned interface with a clean, modern appearance, consistent visual elements, and optimizations for touch screens
- A unified address and search bar. New installs will see this unified bar. Learn how to add the stand-alone search bar to the toolbar
- A revamped new tab page that includes top visited sites, recently visited pages, and recommendations from Pocket (in the US, Canada, and Germany)
- An updated product tour to orient new and returning Firefox users
- AMD VP9 hardware video decoder support for improved video playback with lower power consumption
- An expanded section in preferences to manage all website permissions
- Various security fixes
- Firefox now exclusively supports extensions built using the WebExtension API, and unsupported legacy extensions will no longer work. Learn more about our efforts to improve the performance and security of extensions
- The browser’s autoscroll feature, as well as scrolling by keyboard input and touch-dragging of scrollbars, now use asynchronous scrolling. These scrolling methods are now similar to other input methods like mousewheel, and provide a smoother scrolling experience
- The content process now has a stricter security sandbox that blocks filesystem reading and writing on Linux, similar to the protections for Windows and macOS that shipped in Firefox 56
- Middle mouse paste in the content area no longer navigates to URLs by default on Unix systems
- Removed the toolbar Share button. If you relied on this feature, you can install the Share Backported extension instead.
- Some older versions of the ATOK IME, including ATOK 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, can cause crashes and are therefore disabled on the Windows 64-bit version of Firefox Quantum. To fix those incompatibility issues, please use a newer version of ATOK or one of other IMEs.
- The default font for Japanese text is now Meiryo
- Complete visual refresh of both the Light and Dark DevTools themes, matching the new visual style of Firefox Quantum
- The Inspector shows the values of CSS variables on hover
- Completely new and re-designed Console panel. Joining the Debugger and the Network Monitor, the Console has been rewritten using modern web technologies such as React and Redux. It now also allows to inspect objects in context.