Software

Mozilla whips out Rusty new Firefox Quantum (and that's a good thing)

Landmark build promises to be faster, slimmer, better at multi-threading

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

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Mozilla has pushed its much-hyped "Firefox Quantum" browser build into public beta.

The build, also known as Firefox 57, is being hailed by Mozilla as the most significant overhaul of Firefox in years, boasting a rewritten browser engine and the integration of multiple new components.

Nearly a year in development, Firefox Quantum will aim to make better use of modern PC hardware than previous versions, while also looking to reduce memory footprint. Among the updates, says Mozilla, is the ability to use multiple cores – something Firefox hasn't done in the past.

"Firefox has historically run mostly on just one CPU core, but Firefox Quantum takes advantage of multiple CPU cores in today's desktop and mobile devices much more effectively," Firefox VP Nick Nguyen explained today.

"This improved utilization of your computer's hardware makes Firefox Quantum dramatically faster."

The use of Mozilla's own Rust programming language is also among the new features in Quantum. The browser's CSS engine has been rewritten in the systems coding lingo to be both faster and better able to multi-thread. Rust aims to be a memory safe, concurrent and fast alternative to C. We're big fans of Rust here: it's a secure, thread-friendly and elegant evolution of C/C++.

Mozilla also says it will be bundling in the recently acquired Pocket reader application, and introducing an interface based on the Photon project. That interface will be used for both the desktop and the mobile (iOS and Android) builds of the browser.

In introducing Quantum, Mozilla makes no secret of who the primary targets for the upgraded browser will be.

Looking to win back some of the legions of users who in recent years abandoned the slow, dated Firefox for Chrome, Mozilla says its new browser will not only catch the market-leading Chrome in performance, but will "often" be faster to load and will take up 30 per cent less RAM than the notoriously memory-hungry Google browser.

In addition to the beta release, Mozilla is kicking out a developer edition of Quantum that includes both the test build and additional Mozilla developer tools. ®

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