Mozilla today launched Firefox 57, branded Firefox Quantum, for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. The new version, which Mozilla calls “by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004,” brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign.
The Quantum name signals that Firefox 57 is a huge release that incorporates the company’s next-generation browser engine (Project Quantum). The goal is to make Firefox the fastest and smoothest browser for PCs and mobile devices — the company has previously promised that users can expect “some big jumps in capability and performance” through the end of the year. Indeed, three of the four past releases (Firefox 53, Firefox 54, and Firefox 55) included Quantum improvements. But those were just the tip of the iceberg.
Firefox 57 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, and the iOS version (which is usually updated separately from the other platforms) should eventually arrive on Apple’s App Store.
Mozilla doesn’t break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say that “half a billion people around the world” use the browser. In other words, it’s a major platform that web developers target — even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.
Mozilla says that Firefox Quantum will feel speedier when you browse your favorite websites, thanks to faster page loading, smoother scrolling, and a more responsive user interface. The company noted three ways Firefox now bests the competition:
- Firefox Quantum is 2X as fast as Firefox was 6 months ago, according to the (still-in-development) Speedometer 2.0 benchmark
- Firefox Quantum is oftentimes perceivably faster than Chrome in a side-by-side comparison
- Firefox Quantum often uses less memory than Chrome (~30 percent less using a Windows 10 PC)
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 prioritizes the tab you’re actively using — that tab downloads and runs before other tabs you have open in the background — and includes a new CSS engine called Stylo, which takes better advantage of multiple CPU cores that are optimized for low power consumption. Mozilla has also fixed hundreds of issues related to Firefox speed in the past several months, which adds to the feeling of a faster browser.
Performance aside, Firefox Quantum includes a visual refresh, called Photon, that “feels fast, fluid, and 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.
“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,” the team explained. “You guessed it: The Photon UI itself is incredibly fast and smooth. To create Photon, our user research team studied how people browsed the web. 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. Our designers created a system that scales to more than just current hardware but lets us expand in the future.”
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, a dark color scheme, smooth animations, and a restructuring of menus. There’s also a Library feature that provides quick access to bookmarks, Pocket, history, downloads, synced 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. Firefox Quantum lets you save to Pocket right from the address bar. If you have the Pocket app for Android or iOS, you’ll also get offline access to your saved stories.
In Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S., Firefox will use Google as its default search provider. Back in November 2014, Mozilla swapped the default from Google to Yahoo for these countries. Firefox default search providers in other regions are Yandex in Russia, Turkey, Belarus, and Kazakhstan; Baidu in China; and Google in the rest of the world. Firefox still lets you swap between search providers — Mozilla says Firefox offers more than 60 search providers pre-installed across more than 90 languages, which is more than any other browser.
Here’s the full Firefox 57 for desktop changelog:
- A completely new browsing engine, designed to take full advantage of the processing power in modern devices
- A redesigned interface with a clean, modern appearance, consistent visual elements, and optimizations for touch screens
- A unified address and search bar. New installs will see this unified bar. Learn how to add the stand-alone search bar to the toolbar
- A revamped new tab page that includes top visited sites, recently visited pages, and recommendations from Pocket (in the US, Canada, and Germany)
- An updated product tour to orient new and returning Firefox users
- AMD VP9 hardware video decoder support for improved video playback with lower power consumption
- An expanded section in preferences to manage all website permissions
- Various security fixes
- Firefox now exclusively supports extensions built using the WebExtension API, and unsupported legacy extensions will no longer work. Learn more about our efforts to improve the performance and security of extensions
- The browser’s autoscroll feature, as well as scrolling by keyboard input and touch-dragging of scrollbars, now use asynchronous scrolling. These scrolling methods are now similar to other input methods like mousewheel, and provide a smoother scrolling experience
- The content process now has a stricter security sandbox that blocks filesystem reading and writing on Linux, similar to the protections for Windows and macOS that shipped in Firefox 56
- Middle mouse paste in the content area no longer navigates to URLs by default on Unix systems
- Removed the toolbar Share button. If you relied on this feature, you can install the Share Backported extension instead.
- Some older versions of the ATOK IME, including ATOK 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, can cause crashes and are therefore disabled on the Windows 64-bit version of Firefox Quantum. To fix those incompatibility issues, please use a newer version of ATOK or one of other IMEs.
- The default font for Japanese text is now Meiryo
- Complete visual refresh of both the Light and Dark DevTools themes, matching the new visual style of Firefox Quantum
- The Inspector shows the values of CSS variables on hover
- Completely new and re-designed Console panel. Joining the Debugger and the Network Monitor, the Console has been rewritten using modern web technologies such as React and Redux. It now also allows to inspect objects in context.
If you’re a web developer, more details are available for you here: Firefox Quantum 57 for developers.
Here’s the full Firefox 57 for Android changelog:
- Performance improvements for faster page loading and stability
- Updated interface, including a revamped new tab page that includes top visited sites, recently visited pages, and recommendations from Pocket (in the US, Canada and Germany)
- Video decoding is shut down when the tab playing the media is sent to the background. Video resumes when the tab is brought to the foreground. Audio will not be affected.
- Added an option to enable tracking protection outside of private browsing
- Automatically enable private mode on compatible keyboards during private browsing
- Long URLs in the URL bar are now scrollable
- Added Wolof (wo) locale
- Various security fixes
- Firefox for Android now exclusively supports extensions built using the WebExtension API, and unsupported legacy extensions will no longer work. Learn how we made extensions faster and more secure
- Allow Android Apps to launch a customized web browser
Mozilla releases new Firefox versions every six to eight weeks, and Firefox 58 is currently slated for late January.