back to article The Quantum of Firefox: Why is this one unlike any other Firefox?

The Mozilla Foundation has officially launched a radical rewrite of its browser, a major cross-platform effort to regain relevance in a world that seems to have forgotten Firefox. The much-rewritten browser claims to be twice as fast and uses 30 per cent less memory than Chrome, although this comes at the cost of compatibility, …

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  1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    30 per cent faster

    30 per cent faster.

    Maybe it is, but every time any browser brags about how its faster than all the others ( which they all say) they are obviously not factoring in the speed of your connection as they have no control over that. Those stats must be for processing data , rendering pages etc , that has already arrived.

    What the average Joe wont know is that his Talk Talk mibbuts are not included in that stat and in fact make up 95% of the "speed of the internet"

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      Mine has just updated and, bar a cookies hiccup that took 5 mins to sort, it really IS faster. Dunno about 30% but noticeably faster to render pages. Also memory usage seems to be way down. Lately it has tended to slow to a crawl and show 'not responding' for a few seconds, and the about:memory has shown 3+GB in use. Minimise memory then clears 1GB+ and things speed up again.

      Initial cautious thumbs up.

      1. Magani
        WTF?

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        Much the same result here and with only a few tabs open I'm seeing ~400MB of memory use against lots more for the previous version.

        I (currently) only have three gripes:

        1 NoScript has been consigned to the 'legacy' bin (doubtless its devs will be on the ball), but more cheesed off over:

        2 The fact that I was going to upgrade one of my less essential PCs to check it out until it settled down and had no unintended side effects, but have found that ALL my PCs have been upgraded without my agreement.

        Excuse me, Mozilla, but I take offence at your belief that I wish to participate in an unmarked beta test.

        3 We now have square edges instead of round edges for the tabs. What was wrong with round edges? Does Apple know about this?

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          It's been in beta for months, if you wanted to test it out ahead of time that was your option.

          If you don't want to use the normal release channel like everyone else then there's an LTSESR version, or you could just disable automatic updates.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          "but have found that ALL my PCs have been upgraded without my agreement."

          For some so called technical users, the option of "auto-update" seems to be lost.

          1. ChrisC

            Re: 30 per cent faster

            "For some so called technical users, the option of "auto-update" seems to be lost."

            For *this* technical user, it came as an unpleasant surprise to see FF updating itself earlier today DESPITE my having previously set the "Check for updates but let you choose to install them" option, only to then be given NO choice whatsoever.

        3. Palpy

          Re: 30 per cent faster -- but square tabs?

          Heh, heh, you kids get off my lawn! I remembers when FF went from square tabs to rounded ones, yessir, the outcry amongst the hoi polloi was turrible. There was pitchfork parades, and people cursing Mozilla for looking like Google with them durned rounded tabs.

          The times change but remain so much the same.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 30 per cent faster -- but square tabs?

            That was Mozilla's infamous 'Australis' moment.

            An add-on easily reverted that monstrosity to the 'classic' Firefox look, including square tabs.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: 30 per cent faster -- but square tabs?

              "An add-on easily reverted that monstrosity to the 'classic' Firefox look"

              Until... NOW. I use those addons, too. I ***FORNICATING*** ***HATE*** ***AUSTRALIS*** !!!!!

              And Firef[o,u]x 57 has *BROKEN* *IT* !!!

              1. hypnos

                Re: 30 per cent faster -- but square tabs?

                Finally, no need to use the classic scheme. Good riddance to the stupid rounded tabs ;-)

        4. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          "We now have square edges instead of round edges for the tabs. "

          with all of the *OTHER* *RELEVANT* UI gripes (like 'Australis' in general [and the 2D FLATSO-NESS], lack of menu the first time it's run, and "the hamburger" being HARD to get rid of without plugins [unless they actually fixed it], and BREAKING the legacy plugins), they "fixed" the tab shape?

          I actually liked the rounder tab corners, but whatever. It's not a 'deal breaker' for me.

          WHAT! IS! A! DEAL! BREAKER! IS! AUSTRALIS!!! [it's what I use legacy plugins to GET RID OF, as much as possible anyway]

          So they "majored in the minors" again, walked over dollars to pick up pennies, and claimed they'd cleaned up the mess. Yeah, right...

          Now Firefox, WHY are you losing share? How about because of THE UI THAT YOU CANNOT PUT BACK TO THE WAY EVERYONE (EXCEPT YOU AND YOUR SYCOPHANTIC FANBOIS) WANT IT TO BE!!! (you know, 'classic' appearance)

          GET a CLUE, please!

        5. Scorchio!!

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          Giorgio says noscript will be out by the end of the week. He's revised his target once already, so we will see.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 30 per cent faster

            I love noscript and the fact thinks dont work unless I decide they can. I can see how this is not really popular with browser providers as all the blame gets lumped on them by all the many idiots that install this type of addon.

            Whats worse is most of these people are in the workplace cultivating future security issues by disabling firewalls and stuff cos the boss cant access some dubious website.

            Eventually all the morons are at the top and promptly shit themselves and outsource everything.

      2. andrewj

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        This motivated me to try Waterfox, which I was delighted to find is notably faster than Firefox while retaining compatibility with all the add-ons I use. Bye FF.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        Initial cautious thumbs up.

        And if there was a drop-in replacement for NoScript it would be a full-on thumbs-up..

        (Yes - there is something akin to No-Script but it doesn't work in the same way and is pretty confusing to use..)

      4. Martin J Hooper

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        Thats what I've found too at loading pages - Most of the legacy extensions I had I could either ditch as I wasn't really using them or they had compatible versions.

    2. joed

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      And once limited connection speeds is accounted for, the lack of noscript negates most of the benefits of the improved rendering engine. I'm no fan of "modern" look either. Luckily there's the ESR version and the Palemoon.

      1. Palpy

        Re: 30 per cent faster -- but NoScript?

        The NoScript dev(s) are working on porting to the new framework.

        As mentioned in the article, few established platforms are free of technocruft which was once good and necessary, is now obsolete, but can only be removed at cost of backwards compatibility.

        Poison: choose bottle A, or bottle B. Both technocruft and losing compatibility taste bad, but sometimes you have to choose.

        1. Bruce Ordway

          Re: 30 per cent faster -- but NoScript?

          >>but sometimes you have to choose.

          In my case had to choose FireFox 56 with NoScript

          I'll be happy to upgrade after things mature a bit.

          For now I've turned off auto-updates.

          off-topic....auto-updates

          Reminds me why I am still running Windows 7.

          Maybe I'm paranoid but I think developers consider users like me as "outliers".

          Features that are important to me seem more likely to be dropped/disregarded in version updates.

          (And stuff I could care less about keeps being added).

      2. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        Now that I've gotten used to uMatrix, I like it a lot more than NoScript.

    3. ColonelClaw

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      I've been using it all day so far, and 30% seems conservative. For me it feels more like a 'shitload' faster.

      1. PC LOAD LETTER
        Joke

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        I vote for a new El Reg standard. Nearly all units could convert to this 'shitload.' I'm almost certain someone has suggested this already though, I'm always last to the party...

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          The metric shit-ton already exists:

          https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=metric%20shit%20ton

          1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: 30 per cent faster

            Surfing on my crappy work laptop today, I didn't get any of the usual lockups & even faecesbook was able to be browsed without it becoming unresponsive after 4 minutes.

            "So its a win from me"

            "& its a win for him."

            Icon for The Two Ronnies.

        2. grahams_xwing

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          I also would approve of 'Fuck ton(ne)'

      2. GBE

        But is a 'shitload' enough?

        Firefox is so slow and bloated on all my machines, that "30% faster" is still an order of magnitude slower than Chromium. Firefox sits for minutes at a time burning through gigabytes of RAM and 100% CPU while Chrome renders the same page in a fraction of a second. Even a 'shitload' faster may not be enough...

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: But is a 'shitload' enough?

          Can you give an example of some pages where "Firefox sits for minutes" while Chrome renders it in a fraction of a second? I smell Google fanboy, or someone with a terminal case of hyperbole...

    4. rh587

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      What the average Joe wont know is that his Talk Talk mibbuts are not included in that stat and in fact make up 95% of the "speed of the internet"

      Perhaps surprisingly, raw bandwidth is no longer all that relevant unless you're hanging off the end of a dog slow link.

      As far as normal web browsing goes, whether you've got 10/30/70Mbps is going to be entirely irrelevant to your experience compared with how the site is technically laid out and configured.

      Have the devs dumped their JS includes up in the header or right at the bottom of the page? Is the loading of CSS or image elements being delayed by premature JS execution? The perception of speed relies far more on load-ordering than outright speed.

      Likewise, is your server configured to use HTTP/2? If not, you're shooting yourself in the face. No amount of bandwidth is going to make up for the latency of repeated round-trips and connections compared with pipelining your requests. Especially if users are remote - the greater the latency, the more obvious round-trips become. Are you using a CDN to deliver static content, or a regionalised server to prevent European traffic having to cross the Atlantic to a US DC (or vice versa)?

      Now, a fair amount of that comes down to the service provider, but the browser must also play it's part. Obviously it needs to support things like HTTP/2 out the box, and then if you're pipelining requests and getting a bunch of assets landing simultaneously (instead of sequentially), then being "built-for-multi-threading" and GPU acceleration become a necessity and bolting them onto a legacy code base runs out of steam. The speed at which JS is executed once it downloads lies with the browser, and if the site devs have done something silly like blocking a bunch of requests with a heavy bit of JS, then notionally the browser's use of pipelining and multi-threading could bypass that error. Not that poor coding practices should be encouraged, but a forgiving environment often benefits the end user.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        "is your server configured to use HTTP/2?"

        should be nearly all of them by now. Although... I _have_ written http servers by hand before, for things like microcontroller config UI pages and for device control via a web interface [it just made more sense that way]. Support for HTTP/2 requests is pretty much mandatory, ya know?

        I think what you meant to say was PERSISTENT CONNECTIONS.

        But I agree with at least SOME of your javascript comments. What you did NOT mention was "having 15 different places to load script files from". Micro-shaft does THAT with THEIR pages.

        And NOT having javascript at ALL - THAT would be best!

        So here's what _I_ suggest web devs do, to improve speed:

        a) include ONLY those style elements you actually NEED, in a "<style>" section within the '<head>' section of the web page.

        b) embed whatever _MINIMAL_ script you might need on the page itself.

        c) use '<table>' for formatting things. Yeah, it's old school, but works pretty well

        most of the slowness is because of SLOPPY web "programmers" using WAY too much script, or including (a) 3rd party ginormous BLOATWARE style sheet(s). Seen it, in the middle of cleaning that kind of crap up, in fact.

        No amount of "30 percent faster" (or fat bandwidth pipes) will _EVAR_ fix _THAT_ !!!

        1. rh587

          Re: 30 per cent faster

          "is your server configured to use HTTP/2?"

          should be nearly all of them by now.

          Well according to Netcraft there were at least half a billion sites hosted on Windows Server 2008 in March 2017.

          HTTP/2 for Windows came in with IIS10 / Server 2016.

          So no.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        Not being a techie, I don't know what half of this means but how is the average user supposed to find out and configure their browser? I use Chrome by default but may try Firefox.

        "No amount of bandwidth is going to make up for the latency of repeated round-trips and connections compared with pipelining your requests." seems to be at the heart of the matter but what do I do?

    5. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      My tests of FF 56 and FF 57 using Mozilla Speedometer show a 16% speed increase for 57.

      If it's not just made up, the 30% figure probably includes improvements made prior to the release of FF 57 (and it is definitely true that 56 and 55 were both noticeably quicker than the version prior), which also helped boost the performance of FF 56 with the full addon API. It demonstrates that significant improvement in speed was possible without cutting off the "legacy" addons, and there are probably some additional gains to be found.

      I'm all for optimization, but I am not in favor of cutting out important features to get there. If there were alternate APIs that allowed the kind of customization that used to be possible with the old addons, or if the options those addons I use were built into the base FF product, that would be different. As it stands, the legacy addons are indispensable to me. Greater speed isn't... it's nice to have, but not necessary.

    6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Flame

      auto aupgrade

      noticed last night its buggered up my bookmarks. they used to be all tidy in folders. now they aint!

      That couldve been avoided surely!

      1. Milton Silver badge

        Re: auto aupgrade

        "... its buggered up my bookmarks. they used to be all tidy in folders. now they aint!"

        I thought that too, at first. But it turns out that they're all there in the Bookmarks menu, and if, like me, you prefer the folders handy on the toolbar, use Customise to bring the Show Your Bookmarks button onto the bar (it looks like a star sitting in a tray, who on Earth knows why). The default button, which is hilariously supposed to represent books leaning against one another, seems a bit useless.

        Why Mozilla feel the need to prat about with pointless redesigns of buttons or the radiusing of tabs I have no idea. It's surely a no-brainer, here in 2017, to leave the defaults alone and simply encourage users to load Themes to give them the appearance they want?

        It might be faster and less hungry, but on this machine (8 cores and 32Gb RAM) it makes no difference. Be nice if the Android experience is less crap, though.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      of course the ithings version doesn't use any of this, Apple force them (and everyone else that isn't Apple) to use the older, slower unaccelerated webkit engine...

    8. NeilPost

      Re: 30 per cent faster

      Stopping all the video ad's, content slurping analytics from Google, Google Ad's and all manner of other crap than needs rendered in real time is the shit that slows down your browser. You can see it all in the bottom left when it is building the page.... slowly and in bursts.

      Thankfully Ad Block Plus has not been nuked by the Quantum Rewrite.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: 30 per cent faster

        I use uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. Extremely useful with pretty much every news site, every blog masquerading as a news site, and all the social media sites; but I have to disable them both for anything work-related.

  2. Alister Silver badge

    The Quantum of Firefox

    I see you took solace from that title.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The Quantum of Firefox

      Yeah... because a 30% faster browser would really scare the living daylights out of their competition...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: The Quantum of Firefox

        THUNDERBIRD!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Quantum of Firefox

          "THUNDERBIRD!"

          Thunderball, Shurley?

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            Re: The Quantum of Firefox

            "THUNDERBIRD!"

            Thunderball, Shurley?

            Thunderbirds Are Go!

            1. Nick G

              Re: The Quantum of Firefox

              "Thunderbirds Are Go!"

              Ah... The Brains of the outfit.

              Those Bond quotes are Virgil on the ridiculous

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The Quantum of Firefox

      That's for your eyes only...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Quantum of Firefox

        Losing noscript is the sort of thing that could cause a fork in the palemoon derivative - anyone for a moonraker branch?

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: The Quantum of Firefox

          Oh no, I can't cope with the Spectre of yet another Firefox fork. I hope that's just fake news From Russia with Love.

          1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge
            Flame

            Re: The Quantum of Firefox

            Whatever improvements they deliver, it shouldn't have given them a licence to kill add-on compatibility.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: The Quantum of Firefox

              Whatever improvements they deliver, it shouldn't have given them a licence to kill add-on compatibility.

              Why not? The change in the add-on API was announced well over a year ago. It actually makes things easier for developers to provide add-ons for all browsers.

              1. bombastic bob Silver badge
                Mushroom

                Re: The Quantum of Firefox

                "The change in the add-on API was announced well over a year ago. It actually makes things easier for developers to provide add-ons for all browsers."

                * N * * O * ! ! ! ! ! <-- read that as a VERY loud "NO"

                It *BREAKS* things that *USED* *TO* *BE* *POSSIBLE* !!!

                The legacy plugins can *NOT* "just be rewritten". They CAN! NOT! BE! DONE! ANY! MORE!!!

                Get it?

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                  Re: The Quantum of Firefox

                  The legacy plugins can *NOT* "just be rewritten". They CAN! NOT! BE! DONE! ANY! MORE!!!

                  And for good reasons that were all explained at the time. Sorry if you want 2000 back again but the rest of the world has moved on.

                  Still, it's open source so you're free to write your own XUL-based piece of crap: XUL was always a bad idea.

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