Faster Firefox? Mozilla's Quantum shoots for quicker page loads, smoother scrolling

Mozilla is overhauling its Gecko-based web engine so that it's better at handling the dynamic features of modern websites.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Quantum also introduces the Rust language and features from the Servo project to exploit chip technologies, such as the GPU.

Image: Mozilla

Mozilla has announced project Quantum, kicking off a major overhaul of its web engine to deliver a faster browsing experience by the end of 2017.

The new Quantum engine will improve Firefox's ability to handle modern website features, such as auto-playing video, rich animations, and instant messaging. Because users expect these features to just work, and developers want to use them, Mozilla thinks it's time to do a better job of supporting the needs of both groups.

The engine aims to harness the hardware the browser runs on more effectively. Firefox users should see dramatic performance improvements by the end of next year, according to Mozilla.

"Pages will load faster, and scrolling will be silky smooth. Animations and interactive apps will respond instantly, and be able to handle more intensive content while holding consistent frame rates. And the content most important to you will automatically get the highest priority, focusing processing power where you need it the most," said David Bryant, head of platform engineering at Mozilla.

Quantum builds on Firefox's Gecko engine but also introduces the Rust language and features from another Mozilla-backed project, Servo, to exploit processor technologies, such as the GPU.

Mozilla's efforts to modernize Firefox come as the browser continues to lose market share to Chrome on the desktop while on mobile it's got a smaller share than Opera Mini.

The Quantum project follows the recent completion of Electrolysis, a long-overdue effort by Mozilla to bring multi-process capabilities to Firefox. These capabilities arrived for a small number of users in August and should reach all Firefox desktop users in the "next few months", according to Bryant.

The Quantum engine will be used for Firefox on Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux at some point next year. Apple doesn't allow developers to use anything other than WebKit for iOS.

"Quantum is an ambitious project, but users won't have to wait long to start seeing improvements roll out. We're going to ship major improvements next year, and we'll iterate from there," Bryant said.


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