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Firefox Quantum Offers Huge Leap in Speed, Usability

Mozilla remains dedicated to creating an open-source web browser that not only benefits from a global community of volunteer coders, but leads in speed, standards support, usability, and memory savings.

Today, the nonprofit launches a major update to its web browser called Firefox Quantum, aka version 57. It's faster, cleaner looking, better with memory usage, and integrates the Pocket webpage-saving service.

"We have put a ton of hard engineering work into rebuilding the core web rendering engine," Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff tells PCMag. "This is the guts that make the product fast."

The Firefox development team used the Rust programming language to build this new rendering engine, which incorporates code from the Servo project and can take advantage of parallel processing using today's multicore CPUs. The new code is also 64-bit, Kaykas-Wolff says.

A Faster Browser

To demonstrate the speedup, we ran the JetStream and Speedometer benchmarks (both available via browserbench.org) on a Surface Book with a Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.

On the Speedometer benchmark, the pre-Quantum Firefox release scored 45, compared with 70 for Firefox Quantum. JetStream is one of the most thorough JavaScript benchmarks around, incorporating tests from Google's Octane and the WebKit Sunspider benchmark. Firefox Quantum scored 151 on JetStream compared with 144 for Google Chrome.

Firefox Quantum Speedometer

Keep in mind that those are synthetic benchmarks that only test JavaScript and DOM manipulation. Mozilla concentrated on actual page load speed, and posted video demos of comparative page loading speed with Chrome.

RAM usage also goes on a diet with Firefox Quantum: Kaykas-Wolff says the browser uses 30 percent less memory than Chrome. Indeed, even the previous versions of Firefox tested by PCMag showed significantly lower memory usage than competing browsers.

The new Firefox is also a 64-bit application when installed on a 64-bit version of Windows, a performance and security boon. Chrome, by contrast, still defaults to 32-bit, though a 64-bit version is available on demand. And Microsoft Edge only installs as 64-bit on 64-bit machines.

The new release means it's the moment of truth for legacy add-ons, aka extensions. Quantum will no longer tolerate legacy extensions, but only those that use the new extension system. The new system will bring some real benefits, such as improved security and stability. Best of all: You'll no longer need to wait for all your extensions to be checked and updated every time Firefox updates.

Interface Redesign

The new design features, part of what Mozilla calls the Photon Design System, include lots of tweaks to the user experience. The new design sports Edge-like, squared-off tabs, and an interface tour familiarizes new users with the browser. A new Library button give you access to your history, bookmarks, Pocket list, downloads, screenshots and synced tabs. That's right, screenshots—Firefox Quantum includes built-in screenshot capability. A new start page not only shows tiles linking to your top sites, but also Pocket-recommended sites and highlights from sites you've frequented.

Firefox Quantum Tour

Pocket

Last February, Mozilla acquired Read It Later, maker of the Pocket website-saving service. But the organization thinks of Pocket as more than just a site saver. The point is "discovery and accessibility of high quality web content," according to the acquisition announcement. Mozilla now uses Pocket to suggest sites of interest on the browser's new-tab page. Of course, there's still a button, now in the address bar, that lets you save sites you want to read later, regardless of what devices you're on, since it's saved in the cloud.

Speedboat

To celebrate the launch of Firefox Quantum, Mozilla is offering ferry service for three days in New York City. The ferry runs between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, and, as Kaykas-Wolff points out, it's 10 minutes faster than comparable ferries—just like Firefox is faster.

To try it for yourself, download Firefox Quantum from Firefox.com. For more background, watch the video below. And be sure to look for an updated review of Firefox on PCMag in the coming days.

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Facebook mistakenly leaked developer analytics reports to testers

Set the “days without a Facebook’s privacy problem” counter to zero. This week, an alarmed developer contacted TechCrunch, informing us that their Facebook App Analytics weekly summary email had been delivered to someone outside their company. It contains sensitive business information including weekly average users, page views, and new users. 43 hours after we contacted Facebook about the issue, the social network now confirms to TechCrunch that 3 percent of apps using Facebook Analytics had their weekly summary reports sent to their app’s testers, instead of only the app’s developers, admins, and analysts. Testers are often people outside of a developer’s company. If the leaked info got to an app’s competitors, it could provide them an advantage. At least they weren’t allowed to click through to view more extensive historical analytics data on Facebook’s site. Facebook tells us it has fixed the problem and no personally identifiable information or contact info was improperly disclosed. It plans to notify all impacted developers about the leak today and has already begun. Below you can find the email the company is sending: Subject line: We recently resolved an error with your weekly summary email We wanted to let you know about a recent error where a summary e-mail from Facebook Analytics about your app was sent to testers of your app ‘[APP NAME WILL BE DYNAMICALLY INSERTED HERE]’. As you know, we send weekly summary emails to keep you up to date with some of your top-level metrics — these emails go to people you’ve identified as Admins, Analysts and Developers. You can also add Testers to your account, people designated by you to help test your apps when they’re in development. We mistakenly sent the last weekly email summary to your Testers, in addition to the usual group of Admins, Analysts and Developers who get updates. Testers were only able to see the high-level summary information in the email, and were not able to access any other account information; if they clicked “View Dashboard” they did not have access to any of your Facebook Analytics information. We apologize for the error and have made updates to prevent this from happening again. One affected developer told TechCrunch “Not sure why it would ever be appropriate to send business metrics to an app user. When I created my app (in beta) I added dozens of people as testers as it only meant they could login to the app…not access info!” They’re still waiting for the disclosure from Facebook. Facebook wouldn’t disclose a ballpark number of apps impacted by the error. Last year it announced 1 million apps, sites, and bots were on Facebook Analytics. However, this issue only affected apps, and only 3% of them. The mistake comes just weeks after a bug caused 14 million users’ Facebook status update composers to change their default privacy setting to public. And Facebook has had problems with misdelivering business information before. In 2014, Facebook accidentally sent advertisers receipts for other business’ ad campaigns, causing significant confusion. The company has also misreported metrics about Page reach and more on several occasions. Though user data didn’t leak and today’s issue isn’t as severe as others Facebook has dealt with, developers still consider their business metrics to be private, making this a breach of that privacy. While Facebook has been working diligently to patch app platform privacy holes since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, removing access to many APIs and strengthening human reviews of apps, issues like today’s make it hard to believe Facebook has a proper handle on the data of its 2 billion users.

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