Firefox 52 Release Marks The Beginning Of a New Web Era! Or, Is It?

The latest release by Mozilla, Firefox 52, boasts at being the first browser having “game changing” support for new technology.

Mar 8, 2017News
Firefox 52 and WebAssembly

Have you ditched Firefox lately in favor of Google’s Chrome? if you did, it might not surprise you that you’re not alone.

At the endless war waging between the popular Web browsers, which became highly prominent during this decade, Chrome has currently gained the upper hand.

Nevertheless, the rest of the browsers and Firefox in particular, haven’t been stagnant and are constantly making efforts to change the status quo.

Such attempt, now becoming officially active in Firefox version 52, is claimed by Mozilla to be a game changer and for a good reason too.

Before we delve into this new intriguing tech recently introduced, let’s go over the new stuff Firefox 52 has to offer:

Firefox 52 New Features

  • Easier connections to Wi-Fi hotspots – Firefox now automatically detects “captive portals” (usually a hotel or business network) and notifies you about the need to log in.
  • Firefox warns about insecure logins – Firefox now displays a warning message when you click into a username or password field on a page that isn’t secure.
Firefox 52 new warning message about insecure page

Firefox 52 new warning message about insecure page

  • Security and performance improvements –  by disabling all plugins that use the aging Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) besides Flash, Firefox is thus bolstering its performance and security.

And now that we’ve cleared all the rest of the notable features in Ff 52, it’s time to explore the main course.

Firefox’s New Cutting Edge Tech

WebAssembly (wasm) is a new low-level programming language developed in a concerted effort led by all 4 major browser vendors – Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and WebKit (Safari).

Incorporating wasm in Web browsers is supposed to elevate the natural advantages of a low-level programming language which is, simply put, to make things notably faster than they are today.

To very briefly explain how wasm can make the Web a lot faster, imagine yourself a car which is assembled in a factory, then this car goes through a series of modifications that each of which adds another layer to the car, for instance, a new layer that adds outer armor to make the car bulletproof but also makes it less aerodynamic, etc…

Obviously, driving the car as it came out straight from the factory, “bare metal” as people tend to say, would yield the fastest speed as that way it’s the lightest and least cumbersome.

So does the integration of wasm in Firefox means that Web apps could now run bare metal, enabling resource hungry applications: 3D video games, video and image editing, scientific visualization, etc…  to shine on Internet, as those were so far shied away from on the Web platform due to their lagging performance.

Does this means the Internet is going to be immensely faster now?

Some of it, probably, yes. Remember that in order for Firefox to execute a Web app (video games or whatever) in wasm, that Web app first needs to be written in wasm and that’s a whole different story.

You can liken the writing in wasm to (using that car metaphor mentioned earlier) making each part of a vehicle by hand, no machines intervention whatsoever – a highly tedious task.

Will the Internet now be faster than a “native” desktop app?

The answer is NO. For even if browsers will now default to run low level code there’s still another stopper preventing them from running faster than your desktop “native” app and that’s latency.

We have to keep in mind that in order to reach our machines, some Web pages have to first cross the entire world, bumping into all sorts of “gates” along the way which delays the performance.