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article imageOp-Ed: New Firefox 57 browser could challenge Chrome

By Ken Hanly     Nov 14, 2017 in Technology
Mozilla released its new Firefox Quantum browser. The new Firefox 57 is much faster than an earlier Firefox browser, twice as fast. Mozilla promised the new browser would deliver a big bang and it does.
In a speed test, the new Firefox 57 beat out Google Chrome the most popular browser at present.
Mozilla wants to keep the web open and competitive
Mozilla famously undermined the dominance Microsoft's Internet Explorer had over the browser field back in 2004. However its fortunes have sagged of late and Chrome has become dominant in the browser market. On phones and tablets Firefox has largely been sidelined.
David Smith an analyst at Gartner said: "Their mission is a good one and does keep pressure up to keep the web open." Gartner recommended that surfers use multiple modern browsers.
Mozilla wants to continue Firefox improvements
Mozilla undertook a complete overhaul of Firefox spending more than a year to achieve the new release. Firefox 57 represents an attempt to start fresh. This time around it will need to change to challenge the dominance of Chrome.
Mark Mayo senior vice president of Mozilla said: "We pulled ourselves up to and in some cases ahead of Chrome. We doubled the performance of Firefox this year. The tentative goal is can we double it again in 2018."
Firefox has a long way to go to catch Chrome
Once a person finds a browser that works for them, it may be difficult to persuade them to change. Microsoft, first with Internet Explorer and now with Edge, produces the default browser shipped with most computers with Windows operating systems. This was a huge advantage to Internet Explorer but Firefox was able to overcome this. Perhaps it can again as Chrome does not have that advantage.
According to a Cnet article Firefox has only a six percent share of the browser market while Chrome has 55 percent versus 15 percent for Apple's Safari.
If one just considers personal computers, Firefox still has just 13 percent to Chrome's 64 percent.
Trial versions released earlier have had a favorable response. Mayo said:"It's the biggest jump in sustained upswing in sentiment since I've been here." However, it remains to be seen whether this optimism is justified
Project Quantum overhauling FIrefox
Some improvements were released over the summer and perhaps helped stem the defections from Firefox. The Photon project changes tabs to rectangles and brings a new "page actions" menu within the address bar eliminating the need for a separate box to begin searches.
Another large part called Webender is due in early 2018.
Mayo said of the major overhaul: "Everything major we wanted to get in made it. ... It's almost certainly the biggest refactoring ever done in software engineering, at least in public. Seventy-five percent of the code base had to be touched. Almost five million lines of code were impacted."
There is also a new tool for taking screenshots and sharing them through Firefox.
The new Firefox is also described in another recent Digital Journal article. There may be some problems integrating the new Firefox with older extensions which will not be supported.
Yahoo search engine replaced by Google in U.S. and Canada
In spite of Google being a competitor with Chrome, Firefox has made Google the default search engine in the U.S. and Canada.
Denelle Dixon, Mozilla's Chief Business and Legal Officer said: "We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo based on a number of factors including doing what's best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users."
Outlook for the future
The new Quantum Render project should arrive with Firefox 59. This has just entered the testing stage. Render derives from Mozilla's experimental browser project called Servo.
The new Firefox architecture loads the part of websites you want first. Ads are a lower priority according to Mayo. There are many little speed boosts so that websites such as Facebook load faster.
Mayo touts Mozilla as the little guy taking on the giants: "What we've shown is you don't need to be one of the Frightful Five (Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook) to build software. People like that story. They want to believe it. At some level, everyone likes the David versus Goliath, little guy versus big guy thing."
The little guy needs to show a lot of browser users that there are good reasons to leave the Google giant Chrome.
To find out for yourself if Mayo's hype is justified, you can download the new Firefox 57 Quantum here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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