New version releases of browsers don’t get the buzz they used to get, but Firefox Quantum is an exception.
The latest version of the Mozilla Foundation’s browser, released Tuesday, is all about performance. Firefox is twice as fast as it was a year ago, Mozilla claimed. It is not only fast on startup — it remains zippy even when taxed by multitudes of tabs.
“We have a better balance of memory to performance than all the other browsers,” said Firefox Vice President for Product Nick Nguyen.
“We use 30 percent less memory, and the reason for that is we can allocate the number of processes Firefox uses on your computer based on the hardware that you have,” he told TechNewsWorld.
$1M Experience on $300 Laptop
The performance improvements in Quantum could be a drink from the fountain of youth for many Firefox users’ systems. “A significant number of our users are on machines that are two cores or less, and less than 4 gigabytes of RAM,” Nguyen explained.
The performance boost could be appealing to other users too.
“We have a great browser for you, even if you don’t have the latest computer,” Nguyen said. “We see a huge opportunity for people with (US)$300 laptops to have a great modern experience.”
The target audience for Quantum is likely owners of older PCs who are feeling the most pain at the moment, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“The current generation of advanced browsers are pretty resource-intensive, which slows down machines and creates lags that users find really annoying,” he told TechNewsWorld.
In addition to improvements under the hood, Mozilla redesigned Firefox’s user interface.
“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,” wrote Mark Mayo, senior vice president of Firefox, in an online post.
“To create Photon, our user research team studied how people browsed the Web,” he explained. “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.”
In addition to announcing Quantum’s release, Mozilla on Tuesday said it had made Google its default search provider in the United States and Canada.
Revenues from that partnership should benefit Mozilla.
“Hopefully, it will help enable them to continue their development efforts and build on the Quantum engine,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
Mozilla’s release of Quantum was a defensive move, he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s to prevent further erosion of the Firefox user base, which has taken a strong hit over the past few years.”
Quantum could do more for Mozilla than just prevent Firefox defections, maintained Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“Quantum seems to be designed to bring former users, who mostly abandoned Mozilla for Google Chrome, back to Firefox,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Quantum’s arrival also coincides with what seems like increasing disaffection among both users of Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge,” King added. “In other words, there couldn’t be a better time for Mozilla to introduce a spiffy new browser. “
Tough Browser Market
Even with performance advantages, Quantum will find it difficult to grab browser share from leader Chrome, which owned about 47 percent of the desktop market as of last month, according to numbers from NetMarketShare.
With 6.53 percent of the market, Firefox was a distant third, behind Microsoft Internet Explorer with 12.52 percent.
“The new Firefox Quantum is considerably faster, which was a major problem for the old Firefox,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insight for the Local Search Association.
“Compared with Chrome, the old Firefox was just too slow, so this is a real improvement,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“The challenge will be to win back users who defected to Chrome — beyond those philosophically opposed to Google,” Sterling said. “I suspect we’ll see some incremental improvement in Firefox’s market share, but this launch isn’t going to change things dramatically.”