How Firefox Quantum is loosening Google’s stranglehold

Mozilla have launched their new Firefox Quantum browser, promising increased speeds and user privacy. But is it enough to challenge Google?

Google Chrome is the undisputed king of the browsers. Since its release in 2010, Chrome 5.0 has decimated the competition to become easily the world’s most used internet browser. Its market share is 64% for desktop computers and even higher for mobiles, as Android devices come with Chrome as standard. You’re probably reading this on Google Chrome now, and you probably can’t imagine changing. You could be wrong though…


Last week Mozilla announced the new Firefox Quantum browser,which they describe as ‘by far the biggest update we’ve ever had.’ Early tests indicate that it compares favourably to Chrome in terms of performance, but will that be enough to break Google’s stranglehold?


The rise and fall of Firefox


It’s easy to forget that Chrome wasn’t always on top. Before 2010, many people’s browser of choice was Mozilla Firefox. In the mid 2000s it offered a fresh alternative to the agonisingly slow Microsoft Internet Explorer. It was the first to boast multi-tab browsing and instant searches and, before it was unseated by Chrome, it was the preferred choice of one in three internet users.


Firefox didn’t stand a chance against the new Chrome. It was slicker, faster, and gradually became integrated into Google’s growing internet empire. By tying it into other services such as Google Drive and Google Docs, Google has made it very hard for people to switch. However, the convenience of Chrome comes at a price. Google’s main source of profit is user data. By continuing to use Chrome we continue to sacrifice our privacy. Mozilla, on the other hand, is a non-profit company with a strong commitment to user privacy. But is this enough to convince people to change?


A more ethical browser


Speaking to Wired, the senior vice-president of Firefox at Mozilla Mark Mayo explains the privacy problems that arise from using Chrome:


“Fundamentally Chrome exists to defend Google’s advertising business – it’s a large corporate strategic reason for Chrome to exist.”


Because the vast majority of Google’s profits come from advertising revenue, the company obsessively collects users’ data in order to effectively target them with adverts. Mozilla, on the other hand, is committed to the privacy of their users and does not exploit user data in this way. This has made the browser especially popular in Europe, where people tend to be more mindful of their online privacy than in the States.


Most people would prefer to protect their privacy if possible, but not if it means sacrificing convenience. Mozilla’s ethics are admirable, but they won’t count for much if their browser can’t measure up to Chrome. Let’s take a look at how they compare.


Is Quantum faster than Chrome?


Mozilla are brimming with confidence about their new product, claiming that it can load some popular websites twice as fast as Chrome, and that it uses 30% less memory than its rival. Initial reviews are mixed but generally positive. Many have praised the browser’s speed and ability to handle multiple tabs without slowing down. Digital Trends says that the browser ‘makes Chrome look old’. LaptopMag decided that, in terms of speed, the two browsers were too close to call. They concluded that “no matter which browser you choose, you’re getting one that’s decently fast and capable.”


Even if Quantum can’t outstrip Chrome, it has definitely caught up with it. All things being equal, users should choose the more ethical of the two companies and make the switch to Mozilla. However, Google has done a very good job of integrating its browser into every aspect of our internet use. For many, switching might seem like too much hassle. We think that it’s worth it though: a little extra work is a small price to pay for an ethical browser that protects our privacy.


Mayo is confident of Mozilla’s chances:


‘It is possible to compete with the biggest, most powerful, software companies in the world – arguably the largest companies ever, across any industry. It’s totally possible to beat them.’


We hope he’s right.

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