Mozilla today updated the beta version and developer version of its browser to Firefox Quantum. “Since the version number — 57 — can’t really convey the magnitude of the changes we’ve made, and how much faster this new Firefox is, we’re calling this upcoming release Firefox Quantum,” Mozilla explains. The new massive beta release is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.
The new name signals Firefox 57 is a huge release that incorporates the company’s plans to build a next-generation browser engine (Project Quantum) that takes full advantage of modern hardware. The goal is to make Firefox the fastest and smoothest browser for PCs and mobile devices — the company promised before that users can expect “some big jumps in capability and performance” through the end of the year. Indeed, the last three releases (Firefox 53, Firefox 54, and Firefox 55) have all included Quantum improvements. But those were just the tip of the iceberg.
Mozilla promises that Firefox Quantum will feel speedier when you browse your favorite websites. According to the Speedometer 2.0 benchmark, Firefox Quantum is about 2X faster than Firefox was a year ago. In the video above, you can see Firefox Quantum appears to be faster than Chrome on various websites.
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 also prioritizes the tab you’re actively using — it downloads and runs before other tabs you have open in the background. Mozilla argues Firefox Quantum is thus often faster than Chrome, while consuming roughly 30 percent less RAM. Last but not least, Mozilla has fixed 468 issues related to Firefox slowness in the past several months, adding to the feeling of a faster browser.
Performance aside, Firefox Quantum includes a visual refresh, called Photon, that “looks and feels right 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. Photon on a Windows PC with a touch display, for example, adjusts the menu size based on whether you click with a mouse or touch with a finger. You can expect square tabs, smooth animations, and a Library that provides quick access to bookmarks, Pocket, history, downloads, tabs, and screenshots.
Speaking of Pocket, 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. If you have the Pocket app for Android or iOS, you’ll also get offline access to your saved stories.
While performance improvements are clearly the main part of Firefox 57 beta and the stable version that will come after, there are still plenty of other new features. For example, the developer edition has received refined, redesigned, and brand new developer tools (more details here).
The full Firefox 57 beta changelog, for your perusal:
- Firefox is getting a major Visual Redesign (Photon project) activated on the Nightly channel and which will ship with Firefox 57 on the release channel.
- Added support for Date/Time input
- Accessibility indicator will now appear in the title bar of the window when Accessibility services are enabled
- Allow users to manage the site data
- Support more strict sandboxing protection (level 3) on Linux
- Middle mouse paste in the content area on Unix systems no longer navigates to URLs by default
- The browser’s “autoscrolling” feature now uses asynchronous scrolling, similar to other input methods like mousewheel, providing a smoother scrolling experience.
- The “Share” button was removed. If you relied on this feature, you can install the Share Backported extension instead
As always, developers will want to take a close look at what’s in the pipeline.
While Firefox 57 beta is a bigger release on the desktop, the Android app is still getting a few tweaks.
Here is the full Firefox 57 beta for Android changelog:
- A revamped new tab page with stories recommended by Pocket (US/Canada/Germany)
- Added Wolof (wo) locale
- Long URLs in the URL bar are now scrollable
- Automatically enable private mode on compatible keyboards during private browsing
- Allow Android Apps to launch a customized web browser
Mozilla is planning to release Firefox 57 on November 17. But before that, we’ll get Firefox 56 later this week.