Fire­fox Is Back With Its Quan­tum Up­date

DEAR CHROME USERS: If you haven’t tried the new Fire­fox, give it a go. Sure, some Chrome power users might not be con­vinced, but for pri­vacy-con­scious users who grit their teeth and use Chrome for its speed, Fire­fox 57 may up­set the sta­tus quo.

Maximum PC - - QUICKSTART - Alex Camp­bell is a Linux geek who en­joys learn­ing about com­puter se­cu­rity. Alex Camp­bell

De­spite the drama sur­round­ing op­er­at­ing sys­tems, the web browser is cen­tral to to­day’s com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. For most PC users, the ma­jor­ity of work and so­cial me­dia use, and me­dia con­sump­tion is han­dled by a web browser. For the Linux com­mu­nity, this has meant using one of the two good de­faults that come in most dis­tri­bu­tions: Fire­fox or Chromium.

For years, Chromium (and Chrome) have reigned supreme due to page load­ing speed and lower mem­ory use. But while Fire­fox was slower than Chrome, Mozilla’s browser fo­cused on se­cu­rity and pri­vacy. Users could be con­fi­dent that teleme­try data wasn’t be­ing fed back to Big Brother in Moun­tain View to be used to gen­er­ate ad rev­enue. Fire­fox’s solid base is im­ple­mented in the Tor Browser, for in­stance. But for some rea­son, Fire­fox was plagued by slug­gish page loads and mem­ory us­age, that sent peo­ple scram­bling back to Google’s warm em­brace.

On Novem­ber 14, Mozilla re­leased Fire­fox 57—or Fire­fox Quan­tum—for mo­bile and PC plat­forms. No longer wish­ing to play sec­ond fid­dle, Fire­fox is now much snap­pier and eas­ier on the RAM. Its blog says that con­trib­u­tors triaged some 369 per­for­mance- re­lated bugs alone. The UI re­mains fairly min­i­mal­is­tic, though Fire­fox adopted a flat­ter ap­pear­ance that helps unify the mo­bile and desk­top ex­pe­ri­ence. Speak­ing of desk­top, Fire­fox 57 looks great on HiDPI screens on GNOME with Way­land.

One thing I find handy out of the box is Fire­fox 57’s screen­shot tool. If you’ve ever used a web clip­per from Ever­note or OneNote, Fire­fox’s im­ple­men­ta­tion will feel fa­mil­iar, though much faster and more in­tu­itive. Once you take a screen­shot, you have the op­tion to save it on your lo­cal ma­chine or upload it. Once up­loaded, it is pub­licly avail­able on a Mozilla server for 14 days by de­fault. You can set re­ten­tion time to a cus­tom value, or even make it per­ma­nent.

The screen­shot tool in­te­grates with Fire­fox’s new li­brary menu, which is a wel­come ad­di­tion. This com­bines quick ac­cess to Pocket, your down­loads, his­tory, screen­shots, and book­marks in a sin­gle menu. While this sounds busy, it’s laid out pretty in­tel­li­gently, and keeps tool­bar clut­ter to a min­i­mum. I haven’t used a browser to save in­for­ma­tion for some time, in­stead opt­ing for apps such as Ever­note or Pocket for clip­ping and ar­ti­cle sav­ing. With this new func­tion­al­ity, Fire­fox edges into some of those con­ve­nience fea­tures, mak­ing it easy to save and re­call in­for­ma­tion in your browser again.

While this up­date has a lot to en­joy, it falls short in one key area: There is lit­tle of­fi­cial sup­port for off­line or “stand­alone” Fire­fox apps. One of the coolest things about Chromium is that I can “in­stall” a web app, such as Ever­note or Spo­tify, add it to my ap­pli­ca­tion menu, and launch it in a stand­alone win­dow (with­out tabs or a tool­bar), so it feels like a na­tive desk­top app. Work has been done to be able to make Fire­fox com­pat­i­ble with Chrome apps, but the im­ple­men­ta­tion is not as sim­ple as it is in Chrome. Sup­port for stand­alone Chrome apps is the main rea­son I will likely keep Chromium around.

I also no­ticed that Fire­fox 57 still mucked up my Yu­biKey au­then­ti­ca­tion when log­ging into my Google ac­count. After sev­eral tries, I had to start Chromium in Incog­nito mode just to see if it was a bad USB port, or if my Yu­biKey had gone on the fritz. Sure enough, Fire­fox couldn’t han­dle Google’s two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion. Log­ging into the LastPass extension pre­sented no prob­lems when the app asked for the Yu­biKey two-fac­tor auth.

I have to say, I’m im­pressed with the new Fire­fox, and I’m look­ing for­ward to using it more as a daily driver. After all, if Mozilla’s zippy new browser some­how man­ages to piss me off, Chromium will be there to pick up the slack.

Fire­fox looks great, load­ing pages light­ning-fast.

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