Switching over to Firefox Quantum was relatively painless

April 5, 2018

As you might have guessed from my very weak excuse in a recent entry, I've been increasingly tempted to switch my primary browser over to Firefox Quantum (from Firefox 56). Not because I knew I had to do it sometime (although that was true), but because I genuinely wanted to be running Quantum; the more I used it in various secondary environments, the more I was okay with it, and I have a tropism towards the new and shiny. Today I gave in to that temptation and switched over both at work and at home. The short summary is that it went reasonably painlessly.

There are things that aren't as good as Firefox 56; the most glaring is that there are any number of annoying places where gestures don't work any more, such as a new blank tab or the error page you get when a network connection times out (I'm used to gesturing up-down to cause a refresh in order to retry the connection). I'm also having the usual issues when Firefox's GUI moves controls that I'm extremely used to (I expect 'refresh' to be at the right side of the URL box, for example). But these are reasonably minor and tolerable (and I'll probably get used to the UI switch in time).

(Perhaps someday Mozilla will figure out a way of letting people very selectively grant more permissions to certain addons, so we can have gestures in more places.)

I don't know if I'm imagining things or not, but Firefox Quantum at least feels faster and more responsive than Firefox 56 did. Of course this is what Mozilla said people would experience, but I browse in an atypical environment that isn't bogged down by all of that JavaScript so I wasn't sure how much of the Quantum speedups would apply to me. Since some of the Firefox improvements are in things like processing CSS, I'm willing to believe that I'm seeing something real here.

(There's also that Firefox Quantum is inherently multiprocess now, whereas I was running Firefox 56 in single-process mode because not all of my addons were e10s compatible.)

While I'm glad that I finally made the switch, I'm also glad that I took so long to make it. Getting to the point where this switch was relatively painless took a bunch of experimentation, testing, research, and a certain amount of hacking. I've also benefited from all of the work that other people have done to develop and improve new Firefox Quantum addons, and the improvements in the WebExtensions API itself that have happened since Firefox 57.

(I've been building Firefox Nightly and trying out things in it for months now, and more recently I've switched various other Firefox instances and used them, starting when I accidentally let my Fedora laptop force-upgrade Firefox despite me nominally having held the Fedora package at Firefox 56.)

PS: I'll admit that I knew I was going to have to do this before too long, as uBlock Origin will be dropping support for its legacy version in early May.

PPS: The one difference from my set of Quantum addons is that I'm experimenting with just turning off media.autoplay.enabled and not installing a 'disable autoplay on Youtube' addon. This seems to work so far.

Written on 05 April 2018.
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Last modified: Thu Apr 5 01:16:41 2018
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