I have been in a relationship with Mozilla Firefox for the past some years, but unfortunately, it is an on-again, off-again kind of relationship. Every time there was a major new Firefox update, it would get me excited, hoping I would finally be able to break free from the shackles of Chrome — but my hopes would die as soon as I began browsing the web using Firefox.
The performance of Firefox would be way too low then what I am usually used to and would struggle to keep up with my workflow, thus I would end up again with Chrome (right where I started) after a very short while of poking around. No matter how amazing and compelling the rest of Mozilla’s features were, they could never convince me to go for that “Yes” button whenever that dialog box in Firefox asked whether I’d like to set it as my default browser. Reaching the level of Chrome almost started to seem like an impossible feat for Firefox — until recently.
At the end of last year, finally tired of resource-hogging practices of Chrome and the growing web monopoly of Google, I gave another chance to Firefox. As I used to do previously, I downloaded the most recent release of Firefox, opened up my usual set of web applications, and started praying. I think my prayers were finally answered as months later, I’m still writing this article in Google Docs on Firefox.
So, I guess now the question arises, what kept me using Firefox?
Well, the primary reason for me was, of course, the fact that Firefox can finally catch up with Chrome on the performance front, it’s no longer a far-fetched goal and more often than not it manages to edge it out as well. But that didn’t happen in a flash.
Since the ’17 overhaul of Firefox, Mozilla has been pushing updates ceaselessly.
Today, unlike its competitors, Firefox is not only fast but is also very resource-efficient. I don’t sweat and think before opening up yet another tab, I just go for it. I don’t remember the last time when I closed an existing tab to make room for a new one. When I used to use Chrome, in order to keep things running the fans of my poor 2015 laptop would blast past my noise-canceling headphones, but this not the case with Firefox.
As mentioned above, Mozilla has been pushing updates around the clock for quite some time now, all that effort has resulted in this rare balance of efficiency and performance. In May this year, one of the latest major performance updates arrived, when Mozilla natively integrated a number of clever optimizations for which one had to rely on third-party add-ons previously.
In order to understand which components need to be displayed (or rendered, whatever helps you understand) first and which ones can wait, Firefox began breaking down webpages starting from v.67. To help you better understand let me give you an example, let’s say there is a blogging website, Firefox will load an article’s content before all the ads. All this allows Firefox to process Amazon, Instagram and other such popular websites anywhere from forty to eighty percent quicker. Moreover, those tabs which haven’t been visited in a while are suspended by Firefox when the computer is running low on memory.
Apart from these major updates, there has also been a lot of small, yet significant updates. In order to make the browser more power-efficient on Macs, the engineering team of Mozilla managed to circumvent a critical macOS limitation at the end of last year. After this update, the power usage for most websites (if not all) was nearly halved.
A better browsing experience
So, the biggest obstacle between me and Firefox was its performance, once I got past that, it was also quickly apparent to me how vastly amazing and superior the rest of browsing experience of this browser was.
Most of Mozilla’s efforts are aimed at privacy and Firefox is no different. To keep its users identity safe, Firefox makes use of Enhanced Tracking Protection framework that blocks trackers and cookies that otherwise follows users wherever they go on the internet and collects sensitive information the users probably didn’t even know they were giving up.
Furthermore, users can also get a warning if a website is covertly mining cryptocurrency in the background. Users don’t have to do anything to enable these protections as they all kick in by default and users have an exhaustive set of options to customize them any way they want.
Firefox actively updates the personal privacy report, this lets users know how invasive each website they visit are, the report contains how many trackers has been shut overall and for a specific website.
There are lots and lots of Mozilla first-party add-ons out there that users can install for better security. Firefox Monitor lets the users know if any of their credentials have been compromised in a breach. There is this pretty amazing encrypted password manager called Firefox Lockwise that allows users to sync their devices across devices. What’s even more amazing is that it’s completely free.
I think many will agree with me if I say that Mozilla design language is also a lot more logical and consistent. Its interfaces and themes give out a very modern feel and look, its settings are descriptive and approachable, and all of that stays true not only for the desktop users but for mobile users as well.
Moreover, It comes with a number of useful tools out of the box. The screenshot utility can automatically detect individual sections in a website page, such as a heading, thus allowing users to quickly capture precisely what they need to. Other out of the box features includes picture-in-picture for watching videos in a floating window, reader mode, and native integration of Pocket (in-case you don’t know it’s a Mozilla-owned read-later service). Also, to make the notification pop-ups less intrusive it stuns them.
Getting away from Google
What really turned me toward Firefox was the fact that it’s the only cross-platform browser that’s not running the open-source Chromium platform of Google. Microsoft’s Edge, Opera and other such major browsers run on Chromium, further increasing the dominance of Google over the world wide web even when you’re not directly using a Chrome browser. While, Firefox is powered by Mozilla’s in-house Gecko engine that’s not in any way dependent on Chromium.
Now, you may be thinking that it’s not a big deal, well, let me tell you something it is, even though Chromium is open-source. A huge chunk of the world wide web, including ads, and search is overseen by Google, and this supremacy has allowed the giant firm to pretty much run a monopoly and set its own rules for the open internet.
Now, I know that my move and your move to Firefox won’t have a significant effect on all this but it’s still a step in the right direction. As they say the ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.
Let me tell you something from my own experience, when you move from being a Google user to a Mozilla customer you’ll feel very liberating. There were many instances during its rocky journey, where Mozilla as a company toke bold stances. One particular that comes to my mind at the moment is when Mozilla announced it would no longer run Facebook advertisements in the Cambridge Analytica aftermath, cutting off direct marketing to over two billion users. With that I’ll wrap up the article, thank you for reading.