On November 9, 2004 appeared on scene Firefox 1.0, a web browser that finally raised the expected alternative to the then ubiquitous Internet Explorer. Thirteen years later we have Firefox Quantum (Firefox 57) with us, a development that now faces an equally powerful enemy called Google Chrome.
How does Firefox Quantum want to win the battle of the browsers? Well with a new design and a new internal architecture that makes it faster and lighter in resources than ever. We have been working with Firefox 57 for two months, and the conclusions coincide with our first impressions: you should try it, because this Firefox is going to give a lot of war.
A lot of history behind
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When Mozilla released the first version of Firefox, it did so knowing that it had a future. They had been working in Phoenix for about two years, and version 0.1, still available for download, still works (with limitations, such as HTTPS traffic support) in Windows and Linux.
You can download and try to use Phoenix 0.1, the first version of what would be Firefox (very GNOME buttons, by the way), although surely you can not browse most of the current pages due to the support of TLS and the HTTPS protocol.
When the people in charge of Mozilla chose that name they did it with a lot of intention: they wanted to make clear that this development was like the phoenix rising from the ashes of the legendary Netscape. That yes, they had to change the denomination before the possible litigation with the manufacturer of BIOS of the same name.
Netscape could not beat the battle to Internet Explorer, but Phoenix and especially Firefox came at the right time. Internet Explorer began to show dangerous signs : it hardly evolved in the adoption of new web standards, it was becoming heavy and outdated, and its security holes were appearing with increasing frequency (and importance).
That initial release in November 2004 was quite an event that even took center stage in The New York Times, where Mozilla hired a campaign with a double-page ad that was unheard of for the time. The Open Source project showed their cards and made it clear that it offered a very interesting alternative to Internet Explorer.
Following Chrome remotely
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Statcounter Global Stats data shows Chrome’s unstoppable growth since birth. Firefox, which finally succeeded in exceeding the Internet Explorer share by the end of 2015, did not resist the attractiveness of Google’s browser.
In fact, Google had managed to win Mozilla with its own strategy : a browser that was born with speed and lightness as main arguments, and also conquered users by its simple and effective interface. The conception of its architecture, with the parallelism and isolation and independence of each tab (which was considered a separate process), gave Google a competitive advantage with which Firefox took time to compete.
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That made Mozilla decide to take on that frenetic pace of updates that Google had made fashionable. From a great version to the year (at least, as far as numbering is concerned) we have many more thanks to the “Rapid Release” cycle adopted by Mozilla, who wanted to show that he was not crossing his arms. The versions were happening, but in Firefox could not stop the dribbling of users who passed to Chrome, which was increasing its advantage without stopping.
That advantage is precisely what Mozilla seek to reduce with Firefox Quantum, the code name of Firefox 57. This browser comes with a renewed conception both inside and outside, and the idea is clear: turn over the tortilla and grow back in market share.
Why should you try Firefox Quantum?
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In our first impressions of Firefox 57 (Firefox Quantum) we already talked in depth of the changes that we would find with the final version of this development, which is new both inside and outside.
It is precisely in this period of two months from those initial tests when we have been able to verify that indeed Firefox Quantum is prepared to stand up to Google Chrome. You should try it, and these are the reasons :
- It works in parallel: The new rendering engine, called Servo, takes advantage of all the process cores of your CPU, so it works in parallel and makes that especially if you work with several tabs that new philosophy allows everything to go faster and smoother.
- Each tab, a process (more or less): The Electrolysis project is another of the key components of the new Firefox Quantum, which adopts a similar (but not identical) model to Chrome and considers each tab as a separate process, but dividing all the management in four large processes that, as the Mozilla managers indicate, allows the management of a multitude of tabs in an optimal way, something that, attention, is even more important in mobile devices, where Firefox Quantum is also available, of course. As Lin Clark, one of the developers of this new version, explains, there are even more elements involved in this new process management.
- New look: There are also changes in the visual aspect of the browser, which has simpler and better organized menus and also allows you to choose to use the address bar as a search bar if you wish. Personalization, yes, by flag, because in Firefox the “Customize” menu allows us to change all kinds of visual parameters and reorganize elements and buttons of those bars and menus of the browser interface.
- Extensions: Another of the crucial changes in the new version is towards WebExtensions calls, a new type of extensions or add-ons that make Firefox able to manage them taking advantage of this new architecture. Here, yes, we must be patient, because it may be that some of the extensions that we used in old versions of Firefox are not yet ready to do it in Firefox Quantum.
- Privacy, speed and data consumption: As explained by the Mozilla, Firefox’s Tracking Protection technology blocks the requests of the domains that monitor our activity on the web, and according to their studies, the browser reduces cookies by 67.5% HTTP during visits to websites. This has another associated benefit: everything goes faster (44% more) because less things are loaded, and we also consume less data (39% less) thanks to that blocking of scripts and cookies.
Firefox Quantum will be available throughout the day on the official Firefox website, but if you are in a hurry you can download these final versions in the web repository that Mozilla has already been ready for a few hours.