About three months ago, after many years of using Chromium exclusively, I came back to Mozilla Firefox. Actually I was forced to switch because the hardware acceleration in Chromium was crashing my GPU driver (don’t even ask…) but after a few days I was perfectly happy with this forced change.
When I switched to Firefox, it was already much snappier than I remembered from my last time. I was really impressed with what the Firefox Quantum team did but up until this point it was still just a good replacement for Chromium. Even a great replacement but still not a clear improvement. Not anymore! Alluding to its original name—Phoenix—Firefox was reborn from its ashes and is better than ever.
WHAT I LIKE
Firefox 57—or Firefox Quantum—starts a new era of Mozilla Firefox, a truly modern browser. These are my favorite features that make me feel good I chose Firefox again. Actually most of them were there already for a few months but now they got polished.
1. The screenshot tool
The screenshot tool that allows for the easy selection of the webpage element to share and then to upload that screenshot to the Mozilla servers (it gets removed after 14 days). Personally I already have a set of scripts for screenshot sharing but now it’s available for everyone.
It’s fast, it’s simple and—most importantly—it works. I like it!
2. “Send Tab to Device”
I never liked the synchronization of the open tabs in Chromium — I usually need to share a single tab from my mobile to desktop or vice versa, never the whole set. Mozilla gets it — it’s possible to send a single tab to the selected device with just a few clicks. No other 3rd party software needed (e.g. Pushbullet). Sometimes some delays may be experienced but otherwise it works pretty great.
The browsing on multiple devices feels interconnected yet not intrusive or overwhelming.
3. The buttons on the right side of the address bar
Related to (1) and (2): I really like the idea of using the address bar for some page-related actions like screenshotting, bookmarking, tab-sending or the reader-mode. Separating them from the regular addons makes the whole experience fluid and pleasant. Did I mention it’s customizable? Now I did.
It’s not as much of a feature as a fact about the company — Mozilla itself.
The browser market is currently divided between Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Apple. Among these companies only Mozilla may be considered “independent” and “pro-user”. There are no hidden agendas, no profiting off the users’ data. The browser is free (as in freedom) and open with no proprietary components. Mozilla has proven on numerous occasions that it values its users’ privacy. I feel much more confident using the Mozilla cloud services (like the screenshot hosting) than choosing the services of their competitors. I know I can trust them, that I am a user, not a product.
5. Better incognito mode
I use the incognito mode pretty extensively, mostly out of habit. In Chromium it was always annoying me that I cannot restore a closed tab in the incognito window. In my opinion it should be possible for as long as the whole window still exists. Well—good news!—this is exactly how it works in Firefox, how it always was ever since Firefox 3.5! I missed it!
Additonally Firefox now treats the incognito windows in a special way: it tries to block the tracking elements on the visited webpages. Actually I dislike the fact that incognito is treated in a special way because it will reinforce the notion that incognito is a security feature and not a convenience feature. I suspect Mozilla decided the webpages would start blocking Firefox if it did block the trackers by default. It’s trivial to enable this feature in the non-incognito mode, so I think it’s still a good move in the long run.
6. Redesigned UI & the amazing performace
Last but not least: The redesigned user interface is gorgeous. It’s filled with beautiful yet not distracting animations, polished icons and dozens of little tweaks and changes.
What’s even more important, the new Firefox feels at least as responsive as Chromium. It’s blazing fast and surprisingly memory-efficient.
WHAT I STILL MISS
Is Firefox better than Chromium in every way? Not exactly.
1. Multiple tabs selection
Chromium has an obscure feature making it possible to act on multiple
tabs at the same time. By Ctrl+clicking (or Shift+clicking for a
slightly different behavior) the tabs, we can select all the clicked
tabs and then close or move them all at once!
EDIT: Added in Firefox 64.
2. Profile management
I use multiple browser profiles heavily. I use them to separate my work stuff from home stuff or to test things on a clean setup.
While Firefox have supported multiple profiles since forever,
switching between them is still far from seamless. In Chromium it’s
done with a button in the upper right corner (or Ctrl+Shift+M). In
Firefox I have a bunch of scripts running
firefox -P <PROFILE-NAME>.
While I like it for the added control (I found no way to script the
Chromium profiles), it felt awkward at first and I’m sure it feels the
same for many other users.
On the other hand, Chromium aggressively encourages the user to log into the Google services which effectively change the local browser profiles into the online Google accounts negating all the privacy benefits.
At the end of the day I think I prefer the Firefox profiles but only because of Google being Google.
You might have noticed that I still didn’t mention the hot topic of the legacy Firefox addons that were deprecated in favor of the new so-called WebExtensions. I did so on purpose. It’s arguably the most brave change in Firefox Quantum and while I will miss one or two legacy addons, I understand this decision and I agree it was necessary. Let the past be the past.
Personally I consider Firefox Quantum a new bright era of modern Firefox, a worthy browser for a truly free person.