Web browsing is a fundamental part of life for the majority of the planet, so it stands to reason that a fast, safe, and reliable web browser sits at the foundation of our online experiences. Firefox Quantum for Windows and MacOS aims to provide exactly that.

Firefox can trace its lineage way back to the heady Netscape Navigator days of the late 90s. Back in 2003 a team at the Mozilla Foundation (a nonprofit group) decided to create a new browser that would be fast, feature rich, safe, and secure for the world's internet users. It's now 2018, and Firefox is Mozilla's flagship product with its current incarnation, Firefox Quantum, setting a high standard.

And in contrast to a few makers of other popular browsers, Mozilla continues to take a principled stand on protecting its users online privacy.

Firefox speed

Firefox Quantum is arguably the fastest browser currently available. Certainly, many factors go into measuring performance, but Mozilla has been tweaking its browser's performance in a steady stream of updates over the past year to eke out speed gains -- from tuning how it uses memory to embracing more efficient image file formats. According to Mozilla, the Quantum version of the browser is twice as fast as the previous Firefox iteration and uses 30 percent less memory than Google Chrome through a combination of careful resource management and taking advantage of multicore processing.

In our informal tests on Windows and on MacOS, Firefox is either a bit faster and at the very least holding its own with Chrome.

Firefox privacy and security

Some of what helps Firefox achieve its speed gains are its anti-tracking features. There is some good evidence that tracking actually slows browsers down because of the data exchanges that must occur to track your movements through the web.

But even if you're not concerned about how trackers are slowing down your browsing experience, you probably should be worried about how much data your browser and trackers are collecting on you, from the sites you visit.

SEE: Stay private and protected with the best Firefox security extensions

If don't like companies knowing every single page you look at and every single link you click, anti-tracking tools are extremely valuable. Firefox Quantum automatically provides tracking protection, and you can adjust the level of blocking you want in the Privacy & Security tab of the Preferences area. You can choose to block all tracking, or just some tracking, and you can even create a list of specific websites that are either allowed or blocked. You can also take control of third-party cookies.

When it comes to auto-fill on forms and passwords, Quantum similarly gives you plenty of options. You can have Firefox ask you to save passwords for each website, or you can disable this feature and enter passwords for each site. Quantum also offers the ability to use a master password for all websites. A pop-up blocker is also standard.

Other standard features include the ability to set permissions for your computer's camera, microphone, location services, and notifications. Ultimately, Firefox gives you a great deal of control over everything from browser history to warning you when a website is attempting to install an add-on piece of software. The default settings are powerful, and most users probably won't touch them, but the flexibility exists to tweak Firefox to run exactly the way you want it to.

And if you do want to tune your privacy settings beyond what Firefox gives you, a solid collection of add-ons gives you greater control over trackers, passwords, and more.

firefoxprivacy.png
(Credit: Mozilla)

Firefox's interface

The Firefox Quantum interface is clean and crisp, and the controls are intuitive and easy to follow. This is likely because everything is where we've come to expect them to be through decades of browser evolution. The clean, fast interface makes it easy to open dozens of tabs, which appear in a list at the top of the browser. Simply clicking on the tab brings up the web page that tab is displaying. And you can of course move tabs around as well as pin one.

One pleasant tab feature in Mozilla's browser: if you constantly have an excessive number of tabs open, at some point, Firefox detects you've crossed a minimum tab width and starts scrolling tabs off to the side, with an arrow on either side of the tab row to navigate to ones out of view.

firefoxtabs.png
(Credit: Mozilla)

You can also move to full-screen viewing, or if you want to have separate browser windows rather than a row of tabs you can drag a tab out of the browser and it will open in an entirely new window.

Quantum includes an integrated search engine, automatic updates, voice interaction, screenshot and copy-link tools, bookmarks, and parental controls, all of which are valuable on a desktop machine. Parental controls in particular are very handy to have when there is a family computer and you want to limit what your kids are doing or seeing while they're browsing.

Pros

  • Interface. A slick, easy-on-the-eyes interface that's highly intuitive.
  • Speed. One of the fastest browsers out there. And it goes light on the resources and memory usage.
  • Privacy and security. Arguably the best mainstream browser for limiting or eliminating tracking cookies. The company even has a manifesto outlining its no-nonsense stance on privacy.

Cons

  • Marketshare: Chrome dominates the browser market -- on both desktop and mobile. And in part because it of its market size, Chrome attracts extensions to its marketplace. And some websites may work better in Chrome than Firefox. Is the difference enough to not use Firefox? Probably not.

Bottom line

Firefox Quantum may not have the giant market share that Google Chrome commands, but it is a highly reliable, safe, and fast browser that is worthy of consideration if you are looking to switch from another browsing platform.

Apps

Windows and MacOS. Mozilla has Firefox available for Windows and Macs.

Competitive products

  • Google Chrome. Google's browser (Windows and Mac) is the most used in the world.
  • Safari. Apple's signature browser (Mac) is used mostly by Mac users but is also available for Windows.
  • Opera. A browser with fewer features (Windows and Mac), but good for slower internet connections.
  • Microsoft Edge. A fast browser (Windows) that's only available for Windows 10.
  • Brave. A new browser (Windows and Mac) with a focus on privacy and an interesting way of compensating websites.

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See also

Bart G. Farkas is an author and writer and has more than 100 print gaming strategy guides to his name. He has been writing about gaming and technology for over 20 years in numerous magazines. He has also written more than a dozen non-gaming technology books and writes the odd romance novel when so moved. Bart lives in Alberta, Canada.