Mozilla Accelerates Firefox 57 with Quantum Speed Boost

The Upcoming open-source browser release benefits from multiple technology innovations including a Rust based Cascading Style Sheet engine.

Firefox Quantum

The race for internet browser supremacy is accelerating once again, with Mozilla's latest open-source Firefox browser. The new Firefox Quantum browser, which is currently available as a beta, is two times faster than the Firefox 52 release which debuted in March 2017.

Firefox Quantum is actually the Firefox 57 release, but Mozilla developers have decided that the speed gains in the upcoming browser milestone are so noteworthy that it should have a unique name as well. Mozilla has been incrementally adding features to Firefox over the past year to help speed up the browser, in an effort to provide better performance than Google's rival Chrome browser.

In a video, Mozilla developers demonstrate that Firefox Quantum is measurably faster than Google Chrome, in terms of page load times on multiple leading internet sites. Among the tested sites in the video is a Google account login, which loads faster in Quantum than in Google's own Chrome browser.

Quantum is not a single technology or feature, but rather is a set of innovations that Mozilla has been developing and adding to Firefox. The Firefox 53 release that debuted in April 2017 for example, added the Quantum Compositor feature which helps to help reduce the number of browser crashes due to graphics issues. 

Firefox 54 further accelerated the browser with the introduction of the multi-process web content rendering technology called Electrolysis (E10S). According to Mozilla, the multi-process approach can help to accelerate page loads while consuming less system memory.

Mozilla has also made use of the open-source Rust programming language to build a new Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) engine for Firefox Quantum. CSS defines the style and layout of modern web pages. The Rust programming language effort was originally started by Mozilla back in 2009 as a memory-safe, advanced development technology. Other vendors including Oracle have used Rust to also build tools.

"Firefox's new CSS engine runs quickly, in parallel across multiple CPU cores, instead of running in one slower sequence on a single core," Nick Nguyen, VP of Firefox at Mozilla, wrote in a blog post. "No other browser can do this."

Photon User Interface

Performance improvements aren't the only feature that users will notice in Firefox Quantum. Mozilla is also introducing a new user interface that is code-named Photon, which provides a minimalist design that enables users to quickly access the browser features they need.

"We're confident that with Photon, Firefox Quantum users will be impressed by the modern new design that puts their needs first," Nguyen wrote. "Photon doesn't just look good, it’s also smarter."

Firefox Quantum is currently available as a beta for users to preview, with generally availability scheduled for Nov. 14.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.