Mozilla has released the latest update to its Firefox browser. The Firefox 67 update is the tenth update since Mozilla introduced its new Firefox Quantum engine, and continues to build on its improvements.
The standout feature in Firefox 67 is its next-gen GPU-based 2D rendering engine – WebRender. It is designed to move some of the core graphics rendering processes to the GPU which will allow webpages to load faster and more efficiently.
Initially WebRender will not be shipped to all users, but will be made available to a small group of users that qualify for it. Specifically Mozilla is targeting users that are running Windows 10 on desktop PCs that have Nvidia graphics cards. Assuming everything proceeds smoothly, it aims for all qualified users to have WebRender enabled by early June.
The latest Firefox Nightly build has WebRender enabled for a larger group of users encompassing recent Intel and AMD GPUs. It is expected that it will be introduced in Firefox 68.
In addition to WebRender, Firefox 67 has several other improvements that are specifically targeted to improve its performance.
The new version of the browser will deprioritize some features when loading webpages in favor of prioritizing scripts that are more commonly-used. That can help webpages to load significantly faster overall and some features may only be loaded when they are specifically required.
Another optimization to Firefox that should improve its performance is its automated suspension of unused browser tabs. It is designed to trigger when computers are running low on RAM and will suspend any tabs that haven’t been activated in some time to make resources available.
Aside from performance improvements, the new Firefox has packaged in a new decoder for the AV1 video format. Effective immediately the reference decoder that it was using will be replaced by the dav1d decoder that was jointly developed by the communities at VideoLAN, VLC, and FFmpeg and is designed to be more efficient.
According to Mozilla it has observed a significant increase in the use of AV1 video on its browser. In February only 0.85% of video playback on Firefox used the format when support was introduced, but it increased to 3% in March, and now stands at 11.8%.
As a founding member of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) foundation that developed AV1, Mozilla’s early support of AV1 is not surprising. Its decision to replace its existing reference decoder with dav1d should improve decoding performance overall.
The big hurdle that stands in the way of AV1 becoming more widely-used is still the lack of hardware support. New devices are only expected to support the format starting next year, and it will be some time before it is widely-available or as easy to convert to and from as other formats such as here.
On the privacy front, Firefox 67 has made several noteworthy advancements to its browser. By default the browser has been blocking trackers for some time, and it now has started to try block cryptomining and fingerprinting as well by providing users with an option under its Content Blocking preferences.
The browser has also updated its Private Browsing feature to support saved passwords and extensions. With the latter, Firefox will provide users with the option to let extensions run in Private Browsing mode when they are installed.
More improvements to performance, privacy and AV1 are expected in Firefox 68, which is scheduled to be released in early July. It should follow the current release schedule that Mozilla has adopted of rolling out a new release every 6 to 8 weeks.