My first browser experience was the venerable Mosaic on a Mac, circa 1994. It was obvious, even with a 14.4k-baud modem, that the future was being born. Thanks to the browser revolution, the earth would become a village.
At least, that’s what I thought back in the days of innocence.
What happened? Mosaic’s popularity moved to Netscape, Microsoft moved to crush Netscape, Internet Explorer became the browser of choice for those of mankind traversing the world wide web, and the information superhighway became a toxic hell stew of misinformation.
Along the way, we had a few browser wars. Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari offered choices with better performance than Internet Explorer. Google’s Chrome became the most used browser on the planet and the future looked dark once again.
Firefox Quantum aims to change that. Whatever it is Mozilla is doing to Firefox these days is different than what you find in Safari, Chrome, or Microsoft’s new Edge browser. Firefox is screaming fast on macOS High Sierra, Windows 10, and various flavors of Linux. On iPhone, not so much (but with a caveat).
Why people use Google Chrome en masse is beyond me. You know how Google gets revenue and profits, right? Advertising and user tracking. Firefox Quantum seems to be taking an approach that goes beyond Apple’s Safari.
Speed, privacy, security, features, but not in that order.
The speed is remarkable. Try it. Empty Safari or Chrome or whatever you use; delete the cache and history. Then click to a few websites you visit regularly. For me, a few thousand miles away from most of the websites I view, Firefox loads pages visibly faster. Turn off all the tracking and turn on privacy options and website pages seem to slap against the screen.
Firefox has a simpler, more elegant, almost minimalist design. The layout is clean and uncluttered. Yet, most Firefox extensions– at least the ones I use– work. I’m one of those Mac users who insists on opening up a few dozen tabs on multiple windows. Firefox handles what seems to stutter Safari.
Even better, Firefox blocks online trackers during each browsing session with Private Browsing and Tracking Protection. Just click to turn them on. It isn’t as if Firefox has gone bare bones, either. The Toolbar remains customizable. Themes are available to create a more personal browsing experience. Extensions for password managers are easily installed.
Synchronizing passwords, bookmarks, and other settings is simple, too. You get the same browser experience on multiple devices– Mac and Windows and Linux and even Android. iOS users are somewhat out in the cold as the Firefox Quantum engine did not make the journey to iPhone and iPad, but the very minimalist and fast Firefox Focus browser did, including the one-click option to erase browser history.
Yes, Firefox is free, though I worry about Mozilla’s business model since most of the company’s revenue comes from advertising generated by search engine results.
Regardless, the browser wars are back and everybody wins.