Mozilla plans to rejuvenate Firefox in 2017

Will replace parts of Gecko browser engine, offload chores to multiple CPU cores and the device's GPU

Mozilla last week named its next-generation browser engine project and said it would introduce the new technology to Firefox next year.

Dubbed Quantum, the new engine will include several components from Servo, the browser rendering engine that Mozilla has sponsored, and been working on, since 2013. Written with Rust, Servo was envisioned as a replacement for Firefox's long-standing Gecko engine. Both Servo and Rust originated at Mozilla's research group.

"Project Quantum is about developing a next-generation engine that will meet the demands of tomorrow's web by taking full advantage of all the processing power in your modern devices," said David Bryant, the head of Firefox engineering, in a piece published Thursday on Medium.

Mozilla plans to start with the existing Gecko engine, said Bryant, but replace the pieces that will most benefit from offloading chores to the graphics processor unit (GPU) or from splitting tasks among the multiple cores found in the bulk of today's CPUs (central processing units). From Bryant's description, Mozilla will start slowly, replacing a few Gecko components with ones from Servo at the start, then adapt and adopt others as Quantum progresses.

"Quantum is an ambitious project, but users won't have to wait long to start seeing improvements roll out," claimed Bryant. "We're going to ship major improvements next year, and we'll iterate from there."

Bryant promised a very different Firefox, one that would be noticeably quicker to render pages and run web apps. "Pages will load faster, and scrolling will be silky smooth. Animations and interactive apps will respond instantly, and be able to handle more intensive content while holding consistent frame rates," he wrote.

Mozilla has been working both sides of the browser street in its Firefox modernization: The rendering engine and the user interface/user experience (UI/UX). While Quantum is the former, a different project labeled Tofino unveiled in April was to come up with a next-generation UI/UX. The open-source developer hasn't shared any Tofino updates since mid-July.

The Quantum-powered Firefox will eventually be released in versions for Windows, macOS, Linux and Android. iOS remains out of bounds because Apple requires that all rivals use the engine of its Safari browser.

Some technical information about Quantum has been published on the Mozilla Wiki website.

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