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A new update to Firefox Quantum lets it make better use of multi-core processors

By Koh Wanzi - on 25 Jan 2018, 6:13pm

A new update to Firefox Quantum lets it make better use of multi-core processors

Image Source: Mozilla

Firefox 58 continues to reap the benefits of Project Quantum, Mozilla’s biggest modernization effort for Firefox in over a decade, with improvements for faster, smoother web graphics.

First announced last November, Firefox Quantum delivers significant improvements in browser performance, security, and a brand new look. That said, Mozilla is continuing to forge ahead, and the latest update now allows Firefox to take better advantage of multi-core processors and gives it more robust privacy features.

The new multi-threaded page rendering further separates the various processes that are required to generate the pixels that make up a web page, which helps the browser maintain a higher frame rate.

Older versions of Firefox did most of the work on the main thread, where the visible elements of a page are identified, separated into different layers based on how they’re scrolled or animated, rendered into individual layers, and then finally put together into a single image.

A separate thread (also known as the compositor thread) is responsible for putting together these pixel groups into the web page you see.

However, Firefox 58 does things slightly differently. The process of generating pixels for each layer is split into two, with the first step comprising the generation of a sequence of drawing commands and the second the actual running of these commands in the graphics engine.

This first step remains on the main CPU thread, but the second now gets its own dedicated thread (called the paint thread). This second step is usually the more time-consuming one, but it can now happen a lot faster because it’s offloaded to a separate thread.

Image Source: Mozilla

This reduces the time taken to render each frame, and the end result is faster, smoother web browsing because of higher frame rates. According to Mozilla, the improvements should be especially apparent on sites where the main thread is hard at work, such as pages with JavaScript and more complicated content.

The other new feature is optional Tracking Protection, which you can now apply to the regular browsing mode instead of just Private Browsing. This blocks ads and analytics trackers for greater privacy, with the possibility of improved page load times as well.

Firefox for Android is also getting improved bookmarking features, where users will now get a full screen to organize their bookmarked sites and sort them into folders instead of just a small dialog box.

There is better support for Progressive Web Apps (PWA) as well, a type of website that can appear as a mobile app on your smartphone. Compatible sites can then be added to your home screen as an app by tapping the house icon that pops up.

Source: Mozilla