Firefox gets under-the-hood updates to attain parity with other browsers
Firefox’s multiple processes architecture finally puts it at par with its biggest rival Chrome
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In a fresh bid to take on rivals, Mozilla has released a new version of Firefox browser for Windows, MacOS and the Android platforms. Also known as the version 54, the new edition of Firefox is faster and better at handling multi-tasking than the earlier versions. For this, Mozilla has moved from a single process model to a multiple processes architecture, where each process is treated as a separate task by the PC or smartphone it is running on.
So if you open more than one tab in a browser, multiple processes architecture will treat them as two separate processes. This will use up the available resources better and the browser will run smoother.
The old vs the new model
In the earlier model, Firefox used a single process architecture to run multiple tabs. It was designed at a time when webpages used to be a lot lighter and accommodating multiple tabs in one process was easy. Modern day web pages are a lot more complex and involve more animation and visual content.
Running them simultaneously as a single process was too much for Firefox and was one of the reasons for its sluggish performance in recent versions of the browser.
In the multiple processes model, Firefox will be using four different processes to handle four tabs and any additional tabs will be allocated to threads within those processes.
How it compares with Chrome
Google’s Chrome browser is one of the few browsers designed to run multiple processes from day one. However, Chrome creates a separate process for every tab automatically. So the more tabs you open the more processes will be created. Its only limitation is that it shoots up memory (RAM) consumption and makes Chrome one of the most resource-intensive browsers.
Mozilla has tried to address this issue by shifting the load of more than four tabs on to threads built within the processes. So the browser will continue to run only four processes, yet mange to run multiple tabs simultaneously.
What it means for user
Mozilla claims the new browser not only crashes less but also works a lot smoother. The fact that it uses less memory with multi-threading means the new browser is likely to run better than Chrome on low-configuration devices. The other advantage of the new browser is that it will run web extensions. These are more stable and secure than ad-ons as their API requires developers to declare which permissions their code will require to operate. Also, web extensions work on all browsers, which means developing an a extension for Firefox will be a lot easier. For an end user, this means access to more extensions within the browser.