Chances are, you currently use Google Chrome as your primary browser, for a variety of reasons, but with Firefox Quantum (version 57), Mozilla has finally released the first version since 2011 that’s worth getting excited about. Back in 2011, Firefox 3.6 was getting long in the tooth, and out came Firefox 4. Lots of people (such as myself) hated it and stuck with 3.6 until it was unusably outdated, and then (perhaps somewhat resentfully) switched to Chrome. But now, the time has come, you’ll want to give Firefox another chance.
Major Improvement: Significantly Faster Performance
Mozilla is hyping up the performance of Firefox Quantum, claiming that it’s “2x as fast”, and they aren’t joking. Older versions of Firefox felt slow, and this is why I switched to Chrome when Firefox 4 was such a disappointment – it just felt faster.
I’ve tried switching back to Firefox from Chrome several times the past few years, but I always ended up on Chrome again simply because Firefox was slow, and not just slow rendering pages, but the interface was slow. One heavy page (MSN.com, for example) would cause other tabs as well as the entire user interface to lag, even on powerful computers, which was extremely frustrating. The new Firefox Quantum doesn’t have this problem – I’ve tried opening multiple intensive tabs at once and they load lickety-split and there is no noticeable lag in the interface anywhere.
While it’s hard to me to provide factual, scientific data on how much faster Firefox 57 is over Firefox 56 and Chrome, how fast it feels is almost more important, and when I browsed the internet with Firefox 56 on several computers, and then let each one upgrade to Firefox 57, and used it similarly, it was clear how much faster Firefox 57 was. Consistently, across all three machines, Firefox Quantum feels faster than both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (an absolutely terrible browser that only has one thing going for it -Edge feels fast).
So, Mozilla, great job, you did it. Firefox is now the fastest browser on the block. If the only reason you switched to Google Chrome was real-world performance, you’re all clear to switch back to Mozilla Firefox.
Major Improvement: (Optional) Combined Address Bar and Search Box
Google Chrome’s second best feature besides speed was the “Omnibar” – basically, the combined address bar and search box. Some people hate it (the five passionate Firefox 4-56 users, perhaps?), but overall the Omnibar was another great reason to switch to Chrome, and one of those things that you miss once you get used to it.
Mozilla has finally built in native support for this (there were third-party add-ons available previously) and not only does it work wonderfully, but it’s optional. Unlike Google, who takes the my-way-or-the-highway approach with this, you can simply go into Options>Search and pick whether you want separate address bar and search box (the default) or combined.
Minor Improvement: Refreshed User Interface
There was really nothing wrong with Firefox’s UI before, but with Version 57, they changed it just enough to make it feel fresh, which is smart given that Firefox Quantum is far better under the hood. It feels more modern, and is generally cleaner and more efficient. It’s hard to say exactly why, but it’s better.
Minor Improvement: Default Search Engine is Google Again
Back at version 34, Mozilla replaced Google with Yahoo as the default search for North American markets, and that sucked. Yahoo search is slower, uglier, and has far more adware-filled advertisements than Google. Sure, it was easy enough to go back to Google as the default, but for non-techy people the switch to Yahoo sure brought me more clients for virus removals than it should have. Thankfully, Google is once again the default search engine in Firefox. Personally, I use Bing anyway (hey, with Bing Rewards, I get free Starbucks), but I won’t disagree that Google is the best search engine out there, and it’s nice to have it back.
Minor Improvement: New Logo
While largely irrelevant it’s nice that with the pretty much all-new browser, the logo is updated. It’s familiar, but refreshed enough so you know it’s new. Nobody will really care, but I like it.
Something Worth Noting: New Default Home Page
Nothing’s perfect, and really the only thing that’s a bummer about Firefox 57 is the new “about:home” page, also known as the default home page. It used to be a super clean thing with the Firefox logo and a search box. Now, it’s the same as the new New Tab page, with a search box, some top sites, and some news stuff. Sure, it’s not bad, but it’s my opinion that cleaner is better. Somehow though, Firefox 57 still opens quicker with this more advanced New Tab page than it did with the old start page, so it’s not really a bad thing, and most people will probably find the new setup better.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Firefox doesn’t suck any more – in fact, it’s fabulous. Download it now, try it out, and feel free to let me know in the comments section below how you feel. And the big question, is it worth switching back to Firefox from Chrome (the answer is yes). Thanks for reading, and happy browsing!