Firefox aims to win back Chrome users with its souped up Quantum browser

Brian Heater

The last half-decade hasn’t been great for Firefox marketshare. Chrome first overtook Mozilla’s browser back in late-2011 and now hovers above 60-percent, according to StatCounter numbers. But after a fair amount of struggles, Mozilla’s been undergoing an interesting sort of renaissance of late, and is banking on its new Quantum browser to bring bygone users back into the Firefox fold.

After two months of beta testing, the 57th version of the browser drops today for public consumption, belying the slow moving condiment that shares its build number. According to the foundation’s numbers, the latest build users 30-percent less memory than the competition when running on a Windows System.

It’s also somewhere in the neighborhood of double the speed of the two-month-old Firefox 52 (aw, memories), according to benchmarks on a Surface Laptop. Mozilla’s team has also built a new engine here to make the experience of switching between tabs smoother than before. That’s paired with a new streamlined UI called Photon, which appears to take some minimalist cues from the mobile browsing experience.

There are other bells and whistles, too, including additional integration with the read-it-later service, Pocket, recommending stories based on the sites you frequent.

“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,” SVP Mark Mayo explains in a post. “Our designers created a system that scales to more than just current hardware but lets us expand in the future.”

It all seems to be a step in the right direction — the first Firefox felt revolutionary back in 2004, but browsers like Chrome and Safari have taken great pains to strip excess baggage in order to make browsing as fast as possible. Meantime, Firefox's marketshare has slipped substantially. 

Actually convincing users to switch back — or even try Firefox for the first time — is a different conversation altogether, of course. Change is tough with a daily driver like a browser. But interested parties can check it out now for Windows, Mac and Linux. A similarly designed version will follow soon for iOS and Android.