Mozilla, Microsoft rebuilding their browsers’ foundations without anyone noticing

Enlarge / Browsers, just like GeoCities sites, are always under construction. (credit: Derek Σωκράτης Finch)

One of the common questions I see about the rapid release schedules for the browsers (every six weeks or so for Chrome and Firefox) and even Windows-as-a-Service (Edge has a major update every six months) is, “how can the developers make large-scale, high impact changes if they break everything up into small chunks?” Firefox 53, released yesterday, and Edge 15, released as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, show us how it can be done.

Mozilla is planning a major overhaul of its Gecko rendering engine to make it both safer and faster. This work is being done under the name Project Quantum.

When Gecko was first developed, webpages were largely static, simple things, and computers were mostly single core. The only time that GPU acceleration was used was when playing a game or some other 3D application. But today, pages are dynamic and complex, computers have lots of cores and simultaneous threads, and our GPUs are used all over the place. Not only is the browser itself now a 3D application (thanks to WebGL), but GPUs are being used to accelerate 2D content as well.

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