Mozilla Releases Firefox 57 ‘Quantum’ Web Browser

Mozilla on Tuesday officially announced Firefox 57, the new "Quantum" version of its flagship desktop web browser for Mac, Linux, and Windows. Aside from a redesigned interface and a slew of new UI features, Mozilla says Quantum offers speeds twice as fast as Firefox 52 and a new engine that uses 30 percent less memory than Google Chrome.


The performance advantages are said to be down to Firefox's "just right" multi-process architecture, which uses separate processes to run its user interface and tabbed web page content. These additional processes are able to run across multiple CPU cores, making it much less likely for open web pages to negatively impact each other or the performance of the web browser in general.

While both Firefox and Chrome now run using multiple processes, Mozilla claims to have done things differently to avoid using up precious working memory. Chrome creates a separate content process for each open tab, and each tab typically consumes hundreds of megabytes of RAM, which has earned the browser a reputation as a resource hog.


Where Quantum differs, claims Mozilla, is in its more conservative approach to using multiple processes. By default, Firefox now creates up to four separate processes for web page content, so the first four tabs each use those four processes, and additional tabs run using threads within those processes. This leads to multiple tabs within a process sharing the browser engine that already exists in memory, instead of each one creating their own.


In addition to the under-the-hood improvements, the redesigned "Photon" user interface offers a less cluttered, more minimalist environment for browsing the web and aims to look better on modern high DPI displays. It also adds several new features including a built-in tool to take screenshots, and a new library for putting things like browsing history, bookmarks, Pocket lists, and synced tabs in one convenient place.

Firefox 57 also includes support for WebVR, which enables websites to take full advantage of VR headsets like the HTC Vive, while Mozilla's Pocket service is now more integrated in the browser and displays trending articles on the new tab page. Last but not least, a new feature called Tracking Protection blocks extensive requests for online user tracking. It works by default in the Private browsing window and Mozilla reckons it reduces the average page loading time by around 44 percent.


With all the changes, Firefox has had to lose support for many existing extensions written in XUL. Firefox Quantum only supports WebExtensions, which have more limitations, similar to Chrome extensions. Existing users can check the status of their extensions by navigating to Menu -> Add-Ons. Compatible ones are shown under "Extensions", while deactivated browser extensions appear under "Legacy Extensions" alongside an option to find the closest equivalent replacement available.

If you're already a Firefox user, you should receive an automatic upgrade to Quantum after restarting the browser. For everyone else, Firefox Quantum is available for macOS as a free download directly from the Mozilla website.


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Firefox Updated With Screenshot Feature, Cross-Platform Tab Delivery, and Form Autofilling

Earlier this week Firefox announced its upcoming "Quantum" browser that will bring twice the internet browsing speeds when it launches on November 14. Ahead of that major update, the company is now releasing a few minor additions to Firefox on desktop that will let you save screenshots, share content more easily between your computer and smartphone, and more.

Screenshots allow you to capture any area within the Firefox browser without needing to download new software. After tapping a "Screenshot" button, Firefox presents a new interface where you can customize the specific part of the page you want to take a shot of, or let Firefox automatically detect the area you want, and then click save.


You can save the screenshot to the web and generate a URL for easy sharing, or download the file to your computer. Firefox will also keep track of all the screenshots in a new "My Shots" folder, saving images automatically for two weeks.

"Send Tabs" allows you to two-finger click on a tab open on Mac and select "Send tab to..." and choose between synced iPhone and iPad devices, which will then have the same tab ready for you in the mobile Firefox app. The same function can be repeated in reverse, and is supported by PCs and Android smartphones as well. Firefox also ensured that Send Tabs is encrypted end-to-end, so "even Mozilla can't decrypt it."


The last new feature is coming to the United States first and aims to make filling out address forms easier, allowing you to complete online forms on shopping sites and relief organizations through a dropdown menu.

After you fill out the relevant information once on Firefox, the browser will ask to automatically save the field information to "Saved Addresses," which will then resurface when another website asks for similar data. You can save multiple addresses, which Firefox said should be useful for information like where you work, your home, and addresses of family members when you send gifts.

These updates are available in the latest version of Firefox, which you can download now from the Firefox website.

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Firefox Announces New ‘Quantum’ Browser With 2X Faster Speeds, Coming November 14

Firefox today announced that the latest version of its web browsing software -- which it's calling "Firefox Quantum" instead of "Firefox 57" -- will be available as an update for users beginning November 14, with a beta of the browser hitting iOS, Android, and desktop today.


The company said that the biggest advantage of Quantum is its speed, which is twice as fast as Firefox 52 when measured using Speedometer 2.0, a benchmark that simulates modern web applications. Firefox said that Quantum takes advantage of multiple CPU cores offered by today's desktop and mobile devices, instead of running on just one core, resulting in a "dramatically faster" web browser.

The company updated a few other features so that Quantum runs smoothly, including making sure that the tab open on the browser downloads and runs prior to other tabs in the background. When compared to Chrome -- which Firefox directly compared itself to in a new video -- Quantum is said to be faster than Google's browser, "while consuming roughly 30 percent less RAM."


The user experience of Quantum has also been overhauled and enhanced through the company's Photon project, which tasked Firefox's design team to research and understand "how users perceive web browsers." The team's findings have resulted in a more "modern" design that's built for "task focused" users. Quantum also comes with more direct integration with read-it-later app Pocket, which Mozilla acquired last year.
The new, minimalist design introduces square tabs, smooth animations, and a Library, which provides quick access to your saved stuff: bookmarks, Pocket, history, downloads, tabs, and screenshots. Firefox Quantum feels right at home with today’s mouse and touch-driven operating systems: Windows 10, macOS High Sierra, Android Oreo, and iOS 11.
Quantum will also continue to support Firefox's "Tracking Protection" privacy technology, which the company found to mitigate invasive tracking of online activity throughout various studies. Specifically, Firefox's technology demonstrated a 67.5 percent reduction in the number of cookies set to a user's browsing habits during a visit to 200 websites. These improvements also allow for performance enhancements, according to Firefox, reducing page load times by as much as 44 percent and lowering mobile data usage by 39 percent on the sites visited in the study.

Firefox encourages users to sign up to be notified regarding news about the new Quantum browser, which can be done on the company's website right here. Ahead of the November 14 public launch, developers can also download the Firefox Quantum: Developer Edition starting today.

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Firefox 55 Browser Gains Screenshot Utility, WebVR, and New Performance Features

Mozilla released Firefox 55 for macOS on Wednesday, touting new performance settings, faster speeds, several new features including a screenshot utility, and the addition of WebVR support.

Firefox 55's major front end feature is Firefox Screenshots, accessed via a new screenshots icon on the toolbar. The feature allows users to capture a region of a web page by clicking and dragging a selection manually, or allowing Screenshots to capture one for them simply by hovering over the page element.

It's also possible to capture a full page view without scrolling, and selections can be saved to an online Screenshots library, shared, and downloaded. Mozilla says Firefox Screenshots will be a gradual rollout so not everyone will see it immediately.

Meanwhile, WebVR is the big platform feature shipping in Firefox 55 that allows users with an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to experience VR content on the web. Although the feature is currently only available to Windows users, there's good reason to believe that macOS support is on Mozilla's roadmap, given that Apple developers have recently joined the WebVR open community initiative.

In addition to the above, Firefox 55 promises users a dramatic performance improvement in session restores with large numbers of tabs, an option to fine-tune browser performance with e10s multi-settings, a new click-to-activate Flash Player, search suggestions in the Awesomebar enabled by default, and a modernized update system.

Firefox 55 is a free download for macOS and can be directly from the Mozilla website.


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Firefox 54 Promises Faster Browsing on Macs With Limited RAM

Mozilla yesterday announced the release of Firefox 54 web browser with new multi-process architecture that promises to make browsing with multiple tabs open faster and more stable, especially on computers with 8GB of memory or less.

With the latest release, Firefox uses up to four processes to run web page content across all open tabs. This means that a heavy, complex web page in one tab has a much lower impact on the responsiveness and speed of other tabs, according to Mozilla:
The old Firefox used a single process to run all the tabs in a browser. Modern browsers split the load into several independent processes. We named our project to split Firefox into multiple processes 'Electrolysis' (or E10s) after the chemical process that divides water into its core elements. E10s is the largest change to Firefox code in our history. Besides running faster and crashing less, E10S makes websites feel more smooth. Even busy pages, like Facebook newsfeeds, spool out smoothly and cleanly.


In Mozilla's own tests comparing memory usage for various browsers, it claimed that Firefox used significantly less RAM in macOS than both Safari and Chrome. The group has published an article on Medium explaining how the new E10s architecture works.

In one section titled "Why Chrome gets too hot when Firefox does not", Mozilla writes that Chrome's method of creating separate processes for each open tab can end up with each one consuming hundreds of megabytes of RAM, whereas Firefox reuses processes and content engines to limit memory usage.
By default, Firefox now creates up to 4 separate processes for web page content. So, your first 4 tabs each use those 4 processes, and additional tabs run using threads within those processes. Multiple tabs within a process share the browser engine that already exists in memory, instead of each creating their own.
Mozilla claims that Firefox's considerate memory usage means users with 8GB of memory or less can browse the web without the browser hogging resources, allowing them to do other things on their computer. Meanwhile, users with more than 8GB of RAM can bump up the number of content processes that Firefox uses to make it even faster.
To change the number of content processes Firefox uses, enter about:config in your address bar, and adjust the number for the dom.ipc.processCount setting (we'll be exposing a visible preference for this in an upcoming release).
Users can test out the claims by downloading Firefox 54 for free from the Mozilla website.


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Firefox 52 Announced With ‘Game Changing’ Support For Complex Web Apps

Mozilla has heralded the release of a new version of Firefox that it says enables resource-intensive web content like games, apps, and image-editors to run in a browser window at previously unachievable native speeds.

To accomplish the feat, Firefox 52 supports Web Assembly, a new standard developed by Mozilla, which it calls "a game changer for the web".


WebAssembly allows complex apps, like games, to run faster than ever before in a web browser. We expect that WebAssembly will enable applications that have historically been too complex to run fast in browsers – like immersive 3D video games, computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization. We also expect that developers will use WebAssembly to speed up many existing web apps.
Mozilla has posted a video, embedded below, that demonstrates the WebAssembly standard and WebGL 2 in action, with the help of an 3D environment rendered in real-time using the Unreal 4 Engine.

In addition to Web Assembly, the update adds automatic detection of "captive portals" often used by hotel wifi networks that require the user to log in before they can access the web.

Mozilla has also built contextual alerts into input fields to warn users when they're prompted to enter username and password information on a page that isn't encrypted with HTTPS.

Other additions to this version of Firefox include CSS Grid, a Grid Inspector developer tool, and automatic disabling of plugins that use the Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) besides Flash.

Firefox 52 is a free download for the Mac.




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Mozilla and Tor Warn of Critical Firefox Vulnerability, Urge Users to Update

Mozilla and Tor have published browser updates to patch a critical Firefox vulnerability used to deanonymize users (via ArsTechnica).

Privacy tool Tor is based on the open-source Firefox browser developed by Mozilla, which received a copy of the previously unknown JavaScript-based attack code yesterday. Mozilla said in a blog post that the vulnerability had been fixed in a just-released version of Firefox for mainstream users.

tor-firefox-logo
The code execution flaw was reportedly already being exploited in the wild on Windows systems, but in an advisory published later on Wednesday, Tor officials warned that Mac users were vulnerable to the same hack.
"Even though there is currently, to the best of our knowledge, no similar exploit for OS X or Linux users available, the underlying bug affects those platforms as well. Thus we strongly recommend that all users apply the update to their Tor Browser immediately."
The exploit is capable of sending the user's IP and MAC address to an attacker-controlled server, and resembles "network investigative techniques" previously used by law-enforcement agencies to unmask Tor users, leading some in the developer community to speculate that the new exploit was developed by the FBI or another government agency and was somehow leaked. Mozilla security official Daniel Veditz stopped short of pointing the finger at the authorities, but underlined the perceived risks involved in attempts to sabotage online privacy.
"If this exploit was in fact developed and deployed by a government agency, the fact that it has been published and can now be used by anyone to attack Firefox users is a clear demonstration of how supposedly limited government hacking can become a threat to the broader Web."
The Firefox attack code first circulated on Tuesday on a Tor discussion list and was quickly confirmed as a zero-day exploit – the term given to vulnerabilities that are actively used in the wild before the developer has a patch in place.


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