Firefox’s Quantum Browser Delivers Faster Performance, Lower RAM Usage

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Mozilla has been fighting a losing battle against Google Chrome for the past few years. Firefox’s share of the browser market has shrunk dramatically, its once-dominant position chewed down to a minority. All versions of Firefox currently have a 9.1 percent market share, below IE + Edge and Safari. Now, Mozilla has unveiled a new version of their web browser that they hope will rejuvenate their efforts in this area: Firefox Quantum.

Firefox-Market

Mozilla isn’t pulling its PR punches. The organization claims that Firefox Quantum is twice as fast as Firefox from six months ago, built with brand-new technology running native 64-bit, all while using 30 percent less RAM than the competition (read: Chrome). Everything from the UI (now codenamed Photon) to the underlying browser engine (Servo) has been built new, from the ground up. The new engine has been parallelized and should be substantially faster, and Mozilla believes it can use its new Servo engine to enable capabilities like mixed-reality support far more easily than would’ve been possible in the old version.

According to a blog post, Mozilla’s year-long overhaul changed or added over 11 million lines of code, though it’s not clear if “changed” includes “deleted” (presumably it does). The company said 369 bugs related to performance and responsiveness have been fixed, along with 1,190 software bugs “related to the user experience.”

UI comparison between FF55 (Left) and Quantum (Right).

The one thing I don’t really like about Quantum is the browser’s diminished UI gradients, as shown in the image above. I have never liked Microsoft’s decision to embrace a gradient-free future; it makes it harder to navigate options, not easier. It’s one reason I have no plans to upgrade to later versions of Office (that, and Office 2010 works perfectly for what I need it for).

We intended to have our own benchmark suite to show, but my attempts to run some tests on my own system ran into snags. Firefox refused to differentiate properly between two different versions of the browser, even when we consulted guides on dual-browser setup. Our sister site, PCMag, had better luck: Here’s what it reported for overall performance:

On the Speedometer benchmark, the pre-Quantum Firefox release scored 45, compared with 70 for Firefox Quantum. JetStream is one of the most thorough JavaScript benchmarks around, incorporating tests from Google’s Octane and the WebKit Sunspider benchmark. Firefox Quantum scored 151 on JetStream compared with 144 for Google Chrome.

Our own initial tests on Quantum confirm that it feels snappier, though perhaps not as much as we’d have seen under different circumstances. I deleted my old Firefox profile a few months back and created a new one, in an attempt to troubleshoot some problems I was having. It actually worked wonders for the browser’s overall performance level, but that means I’m not seeing much in the way of big gains at the moment. Still, Quantum seems to be a step forward for the Mozilla Foundation and Firefox itself. Hopefully that momentum will translate into increased market share and better competition for Chrome.

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