Mozilla’s long-awaited Firefox Quantum browser launched today. But if you’re still sat on the fence about whether you want to upgrade, perhaps this will persuade you. TNW spoke to Nick Nguyen, Vice President of Product at Firefox, about what punters can expect from Quantum, and how it actually works under the hood.
Mozilla says Firefox Quantum is twice as fast as the versions of Firefox released in 2016. Moreover, it’s less taxing on your computer’s memory, and purportedly uses 30 percent less than the latest version of Google Chrome. So, how has Mozilla managed to accomplish this?
“This story starts a couple of years ago. Probably the most unique aspect of Firefox Quantum, our secret sauce, is its use of Rust, the programming language that we developed, to run parts of the browser in parallel (e.g CSS engine), utilizing multiple CPU cores,” Ngyuen told me.
But where Quantum really distinguishes itself is its use of Rust:
“Browsers have traditionally been written in C++. When programming in C++, it’s rather easy for programmers to inadvertently introduce bugs or security vulnerabilities when they try creating complex algorithms that run in parallel. Rust has allowed us to code new algorithms that make the web experience in Firefox Quantum super fast and safe.”
“We’re also using a few extra tricks, like prioritizing the foreground tabs rather than the tabs you’re not looking at, or first loading the content you care about e.g. the article you’re reading rather than the contextual design elements (website logo or ads),” he added.
To emphasize this massive performance leap, Mozilla has released a video showing a side-by-side comparison between Chrome and Firefox Quantum, as it opens ten popular sites.
As highlighted by Nguyen, a huge part of the “secret sauce” that makes Firefox Quantum perform so well is its brand-spanking new CSS engine. I asked him to explain how this works.
“Because battery life is so important, most modern computers utilize multiple processing cores to execute programs. Writing software for multiple processors is difficult for many reasons, not the least of which being that the most popular programming languages today were not created with multi-core processing in mind, requiring developers to do a lot of mental bookkeeping to prevent errors. With Rust, we had a hand in creating a programming language where many of the common errors associated with programming for these systems are simply impossible.
Computing styles for CSS is a difficult task and up until now, one that was hard to split onto multiple cores because of the complexity of the work. To take advantage of the most common modern hardware, we wrote…
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