What's in the latest Firefox update? More speed
- 29 January, 2018 08:29
Firefox, which can be downloaded from here, updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update, click the help icon - the question mark within a circle -- after pulling up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right. Choose "About Firefox." The ensuing page shows that the browser is either up to date or details the updating process.
Mozilla usually updates Firefox every six to eight weeks, although the interval tends to lengthen around the end of each year; the last time it upgraded the browser, to version 57, aka "Quantum," was Nov. 14, or 10 weeks ago.
Previously, the bulk of the page composition was done on a single processor thread, but Off-Main-Thread shifts some of the work - executing the graphics draw commands and thus generating the pixels to be put on the display - to a thread all its own. By reducing the main thread's workload, it's more likely that Firefox will be able to compose pages in time to keep high frame rate chores from skipping frames.
Better Tracking Protection
Mozilla also spent time in its standard on-release blog post to hype an older feature, Tracking Protection. With Firefox 57 (Quantum), Mozilla opened the opt-in to all sessions, not just the private browsing mode in which Tracking Protection debuted two years ago.
Tracking Protection does just what the label implies: When enabled, it blocks a wide range of content, not just advertisements but also in-page trackers that sites or ad networks implant to follow users from one site to another.
Historically, Mozilla has touted Tracking Protection as a win for individuals' online privacy, a message in line with the company's broader theme that its products, Firefox in particular, are designed as privacy-first. Now, however, Mozilla has bent that pitch to align with its overall need-for-speed mantra.
"In addition to protecting their privacy, users actually have a better, faster experience with the web when pages load without trackers," argued Nick Nguyen, Mozilla's top Firefox executive, in a post to a company blog last week. On average, page load times were cut in half compared to Firefox with Tracking Protection disabled, Nguyen said.
Many content blockers - ranging from those that specialize in stymying ads to those that remove everything but a page's text - make the same claim, of course. By stripping a page of some of its content, it will load faster.
Mozilla patched 32 security vulnerabilities in the just-released version, only one of them marked "Critical," the firm's highest ranking.
The next edition, Firefox 59, should reach users March 12, according to the browser's release calendar.