Firefox for Android to Introduce Private Browsing and Improved Customizability in 2013

Last year, Mozilla promised to rock your World Wide Web with Firefox for Android. While Chrome is still my default browser, mainly due to a preference for its user interface, Firefox Mobile has indeed gone on to garner sizable fan base, with an impressive rating of 4.2 in the Play store.

Mozilla has revealed some of the features that are lined up for Firefox for Android in 2013. The most significant new feature to be disclosed is Private Browsing. Private Browsing has become a standard feature in desktop browsers, and several mobile browsers including Chrome and Dolphin have offered it on mobile phones also for quite some time. Incidentally, Private Browsing in Firefox for desktop is also being rewritten to offer increased flexibility.

Firefox-Android

The other focus point for Firefox in 2013 will be enhanced customizability. The mobile edition of Firefox will support themes as well as offer a customizable start-page. “No matter how you browse with Firefox for Android — for news, the most useful sites, the funniest pages — we’ll never stop trying to give you the best and fastest experience”, Mozilla promised in its note.

The final revelation concerns increased availability, both in terms of device compatibility and language support. Mozilla didn’t offer a timeline, but promised to make these features available “soooooooon”.

Cleanup Your Facebook and Other Network Profiles with MyPermissions Cleaner

While Facebook’s one-click login button makes it really easy for users to signup for new apps and services, it also makes it ludicrously easy for malicious entities to get their hands on your private info. All they need to do is to create a quiz to lure you into sharing your Facebook profile data.

In a previous article we reviewed Privacyfix, which automatically identifies and highlights security issues in your Facebook and Google settings. One of the threats that Privacyfix identifies is app permissions. However, it doesn’t provide a quick way to withdraw access you have previously granted to various apps. Chances are that over the years you have allowed hundreds of apps to access your Facebook profile. Manually delisting them is likely to take quite a while. Thankfully, there is another browser extension, which can take care of this problem.

My-Permissions-Cleaner-Facebook-Scan

MyPermissions Cleaner is a handy extension for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox, which scans your Facebook profile and lists all apps that have access to your Facebook information, and allows you to revoke access to all apps with a single click. Ideally, you will not want to revoke access to all apps. For example, if you are an avid Instagram and Tweekdeck user, it makes sense to let these apps be. Thankfully, MyPermissions allows you to add select apps and services to a whitelist (Trusted Apps) with just a couple of clicks. Once you have whitelisted the apps you need, you can get rid of the rest of them with a single click. However, if you have several hundred apps in your list, then it might be easier to simply revoke permissions for everything and add back the apps that you use as and when required. MyPermissions Cleaner does a good job at exposing exactly what sort of info each app has access to, and allows you to filter apps by their access levels. The only trouble is that the extension doesn’t always work perfectly, and sometimes gets stuck while deleting an app. However, a page refresh generally takes care of the issue.

My-Permissions-Cleaner-Facebook-App-List

It’s not just Facebook alone, MyPermissions Cleaner currently also supports Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Dropbox, Foursquare, Instagram, Flickr, AOL, and Windows Live. For each of these services the app works in an identical manner, and offers to cleanup your app permissions. If you have never bothered to look into the apps that have access to you profiles on various networks, go ahead and do it now. Let this be your little end of the year cleaning.

[ Download MyPermissions Cleaner ]

Videocon Launches Dual-Core Jelly Bean Tablet for Rs. 11000

Google and Amazon rained on the parade of budget Android tablet manufacturers with the Nexus and Kindle Fire series respectively. However, both of those devices aren’t officially available in India, which has left the field open for Indian brands as well as Chinese manufacturers. Videocon is hoping to grab a slice of this market with its new VT10 tablet.

Videocon-VT10-Tablet

As you might have guessed from the naming scheme, the Videocon VT10 is a 10” tablet. It sports a capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280×800, which is pretty good for a budget tablet. It’s powered by a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor, which is again better than what is found in most budget tablets in India, but not as powerful as the Nvidia Tegra 3. The VT10 is equipped with 1 gigabyte of RAM, and 8 gigabytes of storage. You will almost certainly fill up the limited internal storage quickly. Thankfully, the VT10 includes support for external memory up to 32 GB. Both front and rear-cams are 2 megapixels, and the battery is rated at a hefty 6800mAh. The VT10 is Wi-Fi only, but supports 3G dongles. The default packaging includes an adapter, headset, battery, HDMI cable, OTG cable, and manual.

On paper, the VT10 appears to be a competitive tablet, which makes just the right compromises. However, its biggest draw isn’t really the hardware specifications. It’s the software and the price. The Videocon VT10 ships with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), and is available for purchase from Snapdeal and HomeShop18 for Rs. 11200 (about $204) with free shipping.

Sony Mobile 2013: Odin to be Xperia X, and Yuga to be Xperia Z

We already have some idea about the phones in Sony’s 2013 Xperia lineup, now details have emerged about what they are going to be called.

The C660X, which was until now known by its codename ‘Yuga‘, is rumored to be the Xperia Z. According to a source on XDA, the Xperia Z will be both water and dust resistant with IP57 certification. It will also sport a 5” 1080p display with OptiContrast technology, which will reduce reflection and glare under sunlight.

Sony-Xperia-Yuga

Odin, which is the other powerhouse that Sony will be releasing next year, will probably be launched as the Xperia X. It will be identical to the Xperia Z in terms of specifications with a 5” full HD display, Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core chipset, and 13 megapixel camera. However, it will sport a different design.

There are also rumors that the Xperia Z and the Xperia X might be announced in China on January 15 at a price point similar to that of Xperia T. Even if that doesn’t turn out to be true, the phones will almost surely make an appearance at next year’s CES and MWC.

Facebook Poke Sinks as Snapchat Gains in Popularity

Making it to the top isn’t easy, but staying there is even harder. And, Facebook is finding this out the hard way. Facebook Poke shot to the top of the free apps list in the iTunes App Store within a day of its release. Fast forward a week, and it has not only lost its #1 spot, but has vanished entirely from the top 10. In fact, Facebook Poke is currently languishing at #35.

Snapchat vs Facebook Poke

Facebook Poke’s rise and fall shows that even if you already have a billion users, things don’t necessarily become easier for you. Sure, the massive existing userbase allowed Facebook to climb rapidly to the top of the App Store charts. However, once users discovered that Facebook’s app offers little that isn’t already there in Snapchat, interest waned. In the meanwhile, Snapchat, the service that pioneered the concept of self-destructing messages, climbed to the #4 slot. The fear of having to use real names while sending risqué messages might have also played a role in Poke’s quick fall.

Blindly copying features from other apps hasn’t worked out well for Facebook in the past either. Questions, which was perhaps inspired by the popularity of Quora, was shuttered fairly quickly. The check-in feature has fared comparatively better, but hasn’t managed to come anywhere near dethroning Foursquare, as the original ambition was.

Mobile is Facebook’s biggest challenge, and it won’t be able to conquer the segment by simply copying and iterating. Facebook has some of the smartest engineers in the world. Perhaps its time that it went into another lock-down and brainstormed ideas that can lend Facebook the decisive edge.

Lock Down Your Facebook and Google Accounts with Privacyfix

Way back in 2010, just as the controversy surrounding Facebook’s Open Graph was exploding, we had reviewed a nifty bookmarklet called ReclaimPrivacy that could automatically scan your Facebook settings and highlight areas of concern. Recently I came across a Firefox and Chrome extension called PrivacyFix, which does the same thing, but better.

As soon as you install the extension, it will scan your currently-logged-in Facebook and Google accounts, as well as your browser cookies to identify privacy threats. Once it finishes scanning, you will see a neat report, which highlights potential areas of concern. Privacyfix explains each of the identified issues, and assists you in fixing them.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Recommendation

Privacy Fix also maintains a database of popular websites that track and retain user data. For websites with an opt-out policy it offers to send a mail requesting to opt-you out. Additionally, it can delete existing tracking cookies, and block tracking cookies from being placed in the future.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Configuration

Privacyfix is a simple, hassle-free solution that goes a long way towards avoiding accidental privacy breaches on social networks. Both Facebook and Google offer great privacy tools. Unfortunately, they are either difficult to find, or too confusing for most users. By automatically identifying and highlighting potential issues, Privacyfix makes things easier for the user. It’s a tool that even your parents could use with confidence. Go ahead and download it. There is no reason not to.

Privacy-Fix-Health-Bar

[ Download Privacyfix ]

Google Spotted Testing Quick View for Wikipedia in Mobile Search

Google Search is known to test new features on random unsuspecting users. At any point of time, there are probably several different versions of its search page floating around. The latest feature that has been spotted in the wild is “Quick View” for mobile search results.

Google has been offering the Quick View option for documents (PPT, PDF etc.) for quite some time. Now, it’s toying with the idea of introducing Quick View for websites. Wissam Dandan spotted that Google is displaying a Quick View link in the search results page for Wikipedia pages. Tapping on the link opens up the mobile version of Wikipedia.

Google-Mobile-Quick-View-1 Google-Mobile-Quick-View-2

Currently this feature seems to be limited only to Wikipedia. However, there’s no reason why Google couldn’t expand this feature to include all webpages. It can either attempt to load the mobile website whenever possible, or load a stripped down version (sort of like Readability mode) of the webpage. Right now this feature doesn’t really make much of a difference; however, I like the concept. Hopefully, Google will expand the feature and roll it out to all mobile users in the future.

Facebook Releases Snapchat Clone Called Facebook Poke

Facebook has released yet another app for the iOS platform, and this one was apparently created in just twelve days by Zuckerberg and a small team of coders. The new app is called Facebook Poke, and is essentially a Snapchat clone. The story is that Facebook attempted to buy Snapchat’s tiny team of five, but the team chose to stay independent. So, Facebook decided to simply build its own Snapchat like app.

Facebook-Poke-Inbox

Facebook Poke is a mobile messaging app which can be used for sending pokes, messages (120 char), photos and videos (up to 10 seconds). However, like in Snapchat, the message self-destructs seconds (1,3,5, or 10 seconds) after the recipient views it. It also has a screenshot alert that notifies the sender if you attempt to screenshot the message.

Facebook-Poke-Message-View

In less than a day after Poke was launched, it has climbed to the #1 spot among free apps in the App Store, with Snapchat staying at #9 position. Poke is tightly integrated with the Facebook graph, and the Facebook brand name alone is strong enough to drive millions of downloads. However, the are a couple of areas of concern with Poke that might hold users back from jumping ships. Snapchat allows users to use custom usernames. On the other hand, Facebook Poke displays your real name, which is pulled from your Facebook profile. The other concern is related with data retention. Snapchat promises to delete your messages as soon as possible after the message is transmitted. Facebook on the other hand holds onto the message for two days after they have been seen by the last recipient, and after that it deletes the encryption key making the message inaccessible for everyone. However, the encryption key might persist in backups for up to 90 days. This if of course better than the standard Facebook terms of service, which grants the company liberty to store your content for as long as you have an account. But, will it be good enough for an app, which is meant for sharing the intimate photos you don’t want to be committed to record?

[ Download Facebook Poke ]

Google Music Introduces Free Song Matching Feature in the US

Google-MusicGoogle Music hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as Google was hoping it would. However, there is no denying that it is a pretty neat service. It’s biggest selling point is perhaps the free digital locker that could store up to 20,000 songs in the cloud. Unfortunately, before you could use the digital locker, you had to manually upload your media library. Even with a conservative estimate of 5 MB per song, we are looking at 100 gigs of data transfer for 20,000 songs. Obviously, this could take a while.

The good news is that starting today, users won’t have to upload their library before being able to access it through the cloud. Thanks to the newly introduced song matching feature, Google will simply cross-reference song signatures before unlocking access to that song in the cloud. Google’s desktop app called Music Manager will take care of syncing songs from your PC to the cloud. This feature was available for European users for over a month, but was enabled for US users only a few hours back.

Google’s competition also boasts of a similar feature; however, Google is the only one to offer it for free. Apple charges $24.99 for iTunes Match services and stores up to 25,000 songs. Amazon’s Cloud Player Premium also charges the same amount, but it can store up to 250,000 songs. Amazon also offers a free version, which is limited to 250 songs.

The Scan and Match service has long been dubbed as a sin tax. Since none of the service providers attempt to validate the source of the music file, it’s assumed that a lot of the tracks in the users library are illegally sourced. Apple and Amazon pay out most of its subscription fee to publishers as a compensation. AllThingsD is reporting that Google also has a deal in place with record labels. However, instead of paying them on a per-user basis, it’s offering a hefty upfront payment.

Facebook Bans Popular Extension F.B. Purity, Again!

FB-PurityWith the turf war between social media services heating up, these services are getting more and more hostile. Startups that were once proud of their open gardens have begun constructing walls to keep out competitors. Recently we saw Instagram pulling support for cards from Twitter, possibly in reaction to Twitter blocking Instagram’s friend import feature. Facebook and Google had earlier tussled over access to contacts data. Now, in a controversial move, Facebook has slammed the ban hammer on F.B. Purity.

F.B. Purity, which stands for Fluff Busting Purity, is a browser extension (actually an userscript) that promises to get rid of all the bloat from Facebook. It filters out the annoying and irrelevant pieces in your newsfeed, such as application spam, ads, and sponsored stories. F.B. Purity’s relationship with Facebook has always been tenuous. Facebook had threatened to ban F.B. Purity as far back as 2010 for infringing on its trademark. However, the developer managed to reach an agreement with Facebook and the script survived.

Now, Facebook is outlawing F.B. Purity because “Facebook’s terms specifically prohibit interference with the way Facebook is rendered to its users”. It also alleges that the script breaks Facebook’s ToS as it doesn’t connect via Facebook API, which is the approved method for interacting with Facebook’s services. Last time around Facebook tried sniffing F.B. Purity to render it useless. However, the developer managed to quickly find a workaround. So, this time Facebook didn’t even try. Instead, it banned the developer’s Facebook account, imposed a site-wide ban on the fbpurity domain, and threatened legal action.

Of course, a cursory investigation of the way F.B. Purity works is sufficient to unravel Facebook’s allegations. F.B. Purity is neither a Facebook client nor a Facebook application. It’s an userscript or an browser extension. It doesn’t directly access Facebook’s services. It’s a client-side script that modifies the page after the browser has downloaded it. In some ways it can be considered to be a browser feature. Hence, its ridiculous to force F.B. Purity to use Facebook’s APIs.

Facebook owns its services, and as such is free to do whatever it feels like. However, its latest complaint against F.B. Purity is simply thinly veiled bullying. If courts start buying Facebook’s logic, pretty much all browser extensions and scripts including ad-blockers and pop-up blockers will become illegal. I can appreciate that Facebook is trying to protect its interest. But, it is doing so by clearly inconveniencing the users and stepping on their freedom. It should be up to the user to decide how he wants the pages to be parsed by his browser, not Facebook.