New Browser War

Mozilla just launched Quantum, the fastest and most feature-laden version of its Firefox browser. Will it be the shot heard ‘round the internet? We think it’s overtaken Chrome and that it’s way ahead of Edge, which Microsoft launched to replace Internet Explorer.

When it was introduced in 2004, Firefox, an open-source darling, shot ahead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but its star faded with the development of Google’s Chrome. By the time it launched Quantum, also known as Firefox 57, Mozilla saw its user base at 6 percent of the browser market. Chrome, which was my browser of choice, had 55 percent of the market, and Safari had 15 percent. In the desktop market, Chrome has had a 64 to 15 percent market advantage over Firefox. Clearly, Mozilla had to make some big changes.

The name Quantum may come from the quantum leap the browser made in speed. The 57th iteration of Firefox is reportedly twice as fast as Firefox 52. Mozilla claims it uses 30 percent less memory than Chrome, which will enable you to run other programs or apps faster on your computer, and it claims to have better privacy features than Chrome. Its new Tracking Protection is a default operation that blocks extensive requests for online user tracking and reportedly reduces the average page loading time by 44 percent.

The new browser supports WebVR, which enables websites to take full advantage of VR headsets, and Mozilla’s Pocket service is now more integrated in the browser and displays trending articles on the new tab page. Last but not least, for those of you who didn’t like being locked into Yahoo as the default search engine for Firefox, you get several choices after entering your search topic.

One drawback might be the loss of add-ons from the old Firefox engine. They allow a lot of customization. Most of the top extensions have been updated, but if you need to retain some of them, you could try Firefox ESR, which will give you the add-ons but at a slower speed. In the meantime, you get plenty of extension, theme and toolbar options to customize it.

Since I’ve installed it, I think Quantum – or Firefox 57 – will give Chrome a run for its money. Firefox says it will have several tweaks over the next year to make the browser even faster. If you want to check it out, download it directly from Mozilla.

If you have questions about Quantum/Firefox 57, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for help. We think you’re going to like it.

Upgrade for Better Browsing

Browser performance is becoming a bigger issue as browser updates and website advances require new versions – and even new computers. Not upgrading can also present security issues.

The problem we are seeing is a combination of clients with older computers using older versions of their favorite browsers trying to view websites that have advanced features the browsers and computers can’t support. The problem manifests itself when visitors can’t access a site or they can’t move around the site and use all of its features. They also start to see pop-up messages to upgrade their browsers.

We all tend to keep using our older systems and make a lot of allowances until something has to give. In this case, it’s your browser and/or computer. If your computer is not woefully out of date, you likely can upgrade your browser, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Most important, don’t click on an upgrade pop-up message without being absolutely sure it’s a legitimate message. We have not heard of scammers and hackers using this type of pop-up to get your money or your data or both, but if they’re doing it already…

You can always go to the browser publisher’s website (Microsoft, Firefox/Mozilla, Chrome/Google, Apple, etc.) and download a browser upgrade from there. We believe it’s a safer way to do it. If you happen to download more than one upgraded browser, make sure you designate only one as your preferred or default browser. That will ensure that links you click – such as the link from our email message to get to this article – open in the browser you prefer to use.

If your computer cannot support a browser and a website you use, you should consider upgrading your computer. It’s not really an arbitrary suggestion; it’s all about security.

From the website owner’s point of view, they constantly need to incorporate new software to cover multiple platforms, such as Windows or Apple computers and a host of mobile devices. At some point, they just cannot incorporate the software needed to function properly on older browsers and older computers. Some of the reasons may include the ability to perform e-commerce transactions efficiently and securely, the storage of financial and medical records, the protection of encrypted messages and vulnerability to a variety of attacks.

Those needs take into account legal and insurance issues that affect their decisions about the software and systems they use and support. (We will discuss those in a future issue of Technology Update).

For you, the computer user, you need to consider costs – and that goes beyond just the cost of a new computer.

  • What is your cost if you cannot purchase business items online from your preferred vendors?
  • What is your cost if you cannot purchase any items online – personally or for business – because your browser (and computer) may have security risks?
  • What is your cost if you cannot bill customers and clients because of doubts about your security (see Protection in the Third-Party World)?
  • What is your cost if your data is breached?
  • What is your cost if you are found liable for others’ data breaches?

Browser requirements are likely to get tighter as we go deeper into our Internet-based world and as security becomes an even more important concern for website owners. We can help you get the most up-to-date browsers onto your computers, and we can help you plan an orderly upgrade of your personal and commercial systems to take advantage of any possible cost efficiencies. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help keep your website browsing as safe and enjoyable as possible.

The OS Outlook

Operating System updates are a way of life, but some of them can offer the means to change your technology life.

Apple’s iOS 8 is getting all the attention now because it coincides with the introduction of the iPhone 6 models and the Apple Watch. In our home, we’re using the new OS to monitor and control our kids’ use of their phones and devices, and we’re taking advantage of cool features, such as integrating with our iPads and computers.

Yosemite, the next OS for Apple computers will have similar ties. The net effect will be to put more pieces of the integration puzzle together.

Similarly, Google is looking for more integration with its Android OS for mobile devices and Chrome for laptop and desktop computers. Reports indicate that Android ???L devices will able to tell a Chromebook the user is nearby and have the laptop automatically login — doing away with the password once again. Chrome will also be able to display SMS messages and call details on a Chromebook and warn that your nearby phone is running low on battery.

On the Microsoft side, we’re working hard to get past our issues with Windows 8, which we believe fell short of integrating the tablet look and feel with laptop and desktop computers. We are looking forward to hearing about changes or seeing previews of the next Windows OS – hopefully a new Windows 9.

To counter the problems of Windows 8, we have encouraged clients to buy new computers capable of running Windows 7. We are now hearing rumors that Microsoft will end its support of Windows 7 in January 2015. What that means is that support options will change.

We believe Windows 7 will remain a strong OS. Many companies are still rolling out Windows 7 systems, and we still see more XP operating systems than we care to acknowledge. We continue to recommend migrating from XP to Windows 7 to get better performance and tighter security.

We can help you select and manage devices, computers and operating systems. Drop us an email or call us at 973-433-6676 to discuss your needs.