The browser world has changed considerably since the release of the first version of the Google browser Google Chrome.
Google Chrome managed to snag a sizeable share of the browser market not only on the desktop but also on mobile.
Google pushed Chrome hard on its properties and via third-party agreements (Flash pushes Chrome up to this day), but that was just one part of why Chrome is used by the majority of Internet users on today’s Internet — at least on the desktop.
This rise had an impact on the then reigning browsers Firefox and Internet Explorer which both lost market share to Google’s browser.
Mozilla found itself in a situation where it was clearly behind in many areas: in performance, responsiveness, and security for instance. Firefox still reigned in other areas, customization options, a superior add-on and personalization system, and general user control of the browser.
Quantum is the next step in Mozilla’s plan to reconquer the browser market and provide its users with an improved way to browse the web.
Quantum, as David Bryant, head of platform engineering at Mozilla, puts it, is “Mozilla’s next-generation web engine”. Mozilla plans to land parts of Quantum in Firefox in 2017, and Bryant suggests that Firefox users will see “major improvements” by the end of the year.
So what is so special about Quantum?
Quantum is all about making extensive use of parallelism and fully exploiting modern hardware. Quantum has a number of components, including several adopted from the Servo project.
Implementation-wise, Quantum parts will replace their equivalent in Firefox’s Gecko engine when they are ready. This allows Mozilla to ship those parts when they are ready which in turn means that Firefox users will benefit from the improvements they bring along with them immediately.
Quantum will replace parts that benefit from parallelization and offloading to the GPU.
The components that will likely make it into Firefox in 2017 are parallel layout, parallel styling, WebRender, and Constellation.
You are probably wondering how big of an impact those components make when they are introduced. The answer is it depends. First, on the machine that Firefox is running on. To use parallelization, there need to be multiple cores available. Second, on the website that the user accesses. On Wikipedia for instance, a site that is not optimal for Quantum optimizations, style and layout compute times drop by about 50% with four cores.
On Reddit however, a site that Quantum benefits from more due to the way the site is designed, compute time drops to a quarter or less of the Gecko compute time.
The worst case scenario — nothing can be handled using parallelization — still offers a 10% advantage over Firefox’s current engine Gecko.
The following video is a presentation by Jack Moffitt who talks about Servo in particular and how it will benefit Firefox in the near future.
Quantum will make Firefox a lot faster and more responsive than it is today. The difference is significant, and will be noticeable when you compare Firefox’s performance to that of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or other browsers according to Mozilla.
You can find out more about Quantum on Mozilla Wiki.
Can the Quantum Project make Firefox king again in the browser world? I think it will be beneficial to the browser’s market share, provided that Mozilla gets it done right and that Chrome or Edge won’t introduce similar functionality at around the same time.
I doubt that it is enough to kick Chrome from the throne, but it is likely that Firefox will see an uptick caused by it.
Now You: What’s your take on Quantum?
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