Firefox is Cool Again
Even though it is not news anymore, I think it is worth mentioning that Mozilla Firefox improved by a large margin with the Firefox Quantum (57) release. Although I have been using Firefox since it started back in 2004, from time to time I was jealous of the performance of Chrome and other engines. Still I never left the platform with the deep conviction that Firefox will catch up sooner or later. This time has finally come!
Around the end of September 2017 the Mozilla newsletter announced significant performance increases to be expected soon. The impatient could take a look at whats coming through the Firefox Beta program. While sitting at a Hotel bar, it was easy to install that on my Android phone and sure enough the performance increase was impressive. As I didn't want to switch to Firefox Beta on all my machines, I kept an eye open until the new code base became available through the stable Firefox releases.
Only a few weeks later the 57.0 release gained a lot of attention in all of the IT media. Even regular media took notice and commented on the big speed improvements. If you want to know more details about the contributions of the newly developed programming language Rust to this achievement, I found the Blog of Bobby Holley to be a good source of information. It is interesting how Mozilla is able to gradually convert a giant code base to this new paradigm and gain significant advantages already on the way. It will be interesting to see what further improvements are coming this way. A recent Mozilla blog entry on Making WebAssembly even faster is another hint in that direction.
My Ubuntu machines received the Quantum release simply on the next regular update. The Debian stretch machines however still have Firefox-ESR 52, so I installed Firefox manually below below /opt. As Firefox has its own update management system, all that is needed to keep Firefox up-to-date is to restart it regularly to apply the automatically downloaded updates.
From a practical perspective, the Changes for add-on developers bemoaned by a lot of technical versed people had near zero impact on me. All that I lost was a gestures plugin that I did not use heavily lately anyway. What did confuse me for a while was the disappearance of the bookmarks menu in its known form. Through a few searches I learned through a Support form entry that it is easy to put back a comparable such a menu into the toolbar with a few mouse clicks and thus also solved that problem.
All in all I'm pretty happy with Firefox and I can recommend it to anyone without any restriction. On a fresh install its also a matter of only a single click to install and activate uBlock Origin (mentioned in the An Increasingly User-Hostile Web post) as it is listed immediately activating the "Add-ons" menu. The new look needed a few days to accommodate but from then on it felt home like ever.