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.

Microsoft Pushes IE to Edge of Extinction

Sometime this week, Microsoft is ending its support for Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10. It’s not that the company didn’t tell you it would happen. Word – make that Notice – went out in the summer of 2014. One final round of patches for those versions of IE came out recently, but that’s it. Your options are to upgrade to IE 11 or make the jump to Microsoft Edge.

We recommend making the jump to Edge, which you’ve already done if you run Windows 10. While it has some quirks and limitations, it gives you a couple of good features as soon as you launch it. The first thing you see is “Where to next?” It’s the address bar to go right to a website or you can use it to search. Speaking of searching, you can use Cortana, Windows 10’s virtual assistant. Cortana pops up as you browse with Edge when you highlight a word and choose Ask Cortana or when you type in queries for weather and other common search terms in Edge’s search bar.

You can also have a lot of the features already enjoyed by users of Firefox and Safari. Those features include a Reading List feature to save articles and webpages for later reading, much like Pocket or Instapaper, though it doesn’t work offline. You can see a page in a stripped-down format that removes ads and extraneous banners for easier reading, similar to Apple’s Safari browser on OS X. A note-taking mode lets you doodle and mark up a webpage, then save that image to OneNote or share it though another app. Edge’s native sharing feature makes it easy to post a link to Twitter or Facebook without having to bounce between apps.

Part of the strategic thinking behind Edge is to make it compatible with mobile devices, such as the Surface tablets and Windows-based phones. That has led to a lean, mean browser that loads pages much faster across all platforms. In many ways, Microsoft’s move reflects those of other software publishers, most notably Adobe and Flash, as old standbys give way to new generations.

If you are a Microsoft devotee and have weathered IE and all of its faults, you’ll like Edge a lot better. But beware of those quirks and limitations. Changing your default search engine from Bing to Google, for example, is a chore. You’ll have to go to Settings in Google to make it your default.

It doesn’t have some Chrome and Firefox features, nor does it support extensions or plugins or have the ability to pin tabs. For now, you can’t sync your browsing history or favorite sites with your mobile device – not until Windows 10 for phones launches. Edge also doesn’t play nice with Google’s web apps.

We don’t think the shortfalls are reason to back away from the Edge, but if IE is still your choice, you should upgrade to IE 11. With close to 350 million IE users worldwide, Microsoft is not about to let it just die, but you should consider it a transition from IE to Edge. For most individuals, the switch to Edge should be beneficial with a short learning curve. For organizations that use IE for a number of Internet functions, take this as a warning that you need to make the switch sooner rather than later. We can help you with installing Edge and bringing over the sites you use to drive your business. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us to ride the Edge to better browsing and Internet utilization.