Category Archives: Internet Browsers

News and Information about Internet Browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Flock, Safari. Extensions, Add-ons, User Scripts, Tips and Tricks for all the Internet Browsers available today.

Firefox 16.01 for Desktop and Android Plugs Security Vulnerability

Just a day after releasing Firefox 16, Mozilla pulled the update citing security concerns. Needless to say this was a pretty unusual move. Typically any security vulnerability present in a major release is fixed through point updates. Removing a new release was a drastic move, which indicated that Mozilla reckoned that the vulnerability had a significant chance of being exploited in the wild.

Firefox

The vulnerability concerned could allow a malicious site to potentially determine which websites users have visited and have access to the URL or URL parameters. The security vulnerability was actually more of a privacy issue that could become a security issue on stupidly coded websites that use GET to transmit confidential information.

Mozilla released a fix for the Android version yesterday, and an updated desktop version was released moments ago. You can download Firefox 16.01 from here, or you can wait for your Firefox installation to automatically download the latest version.

Teenager Wins $60,000 at Pwnium 2 by Hacking Google Chrome

The second installment of Google’s hacking fest Pwnium has just wrapped up, and once again Google Chrome’s security features were successfully bypassed. Earlier this year, Chrome fell for the first time when VUPEN managed to exploit Chrome within five minutes at the first installment of Pwnium. During the same event, two more hackers – Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov, managed to humble Chrome and bag the top award of $60,000.

Google-Chrome-PwniumThe second edition of Pwnium was organized as a part of the ‘Hack in the Box 2012′ security conference held in Kuala Lumpur. This time around, Chrome’s sandboxing mechanism was defeated by exploiting two flaws – an “SVG use-after-free” and an “IPC arbitrary write”. The exploiter was once again Pinkie Pie. Since his exploit depended entirely on bugs within Chrome to achieve arbitrary code execution, it qualified for Google’s highest award level as a “full Chrome exploit”, and won him $60,000 and a free Chromebook.

Detailed explanation of the bugs leveraged by Pinkie Pie is still not available. However, the good news is that Google has already patched the vulnerability, so even if you use Chrome, you are safe. Google deserves a round of applause for not only encouraging the security community to discover bugs in Chrome, but also for patching the vulnerability in less than twelve hours after its disclosure.

Firefox 16 Released with New Awesome Features for Web-Developers

To all those keeping pace with the rapid release cycle of Firefox, Mozilla just released version 16 of the Firefox web browser, and as always, it has arrived with a slew of attractive changes. Firefox switched to a rapid release cycle more than a year ago, and most people found it disconcerting. Some stuck to Firefox 3.6 or Firefox 4 for a long time. However, Firefox users have become a lot more flexible lately, and Firefox 15 accounts for the highest 58% of all Firefox users. Today, the next version of Firefox — Firefox 16 is here with new features and improvements.

firefox-logo

Firefox 16 on Mac now comes with Voice Over support. The feature is in its preliminary stage, but it is definitely a good start. Behind the scene changes, include improved garbage collection, so you will probably see Firefox hogging less memory. HTML 5 support has been improved with better CSS3 implementation. From now, Firefox will drop its vendor prefix of “-moz-” from many CSS3 animations and transitions.  However, the new features that pack a punch are the new web-app support and the improved Developer Toolbar.

The developer toolbar has a new command line, which can run common tasks like editing a page, manipulating cookies, taking screenshots and inspecting. It is a heavenly improvement for all command line junkies out there. This video illustrates the new features quite well.

On mobile devices, Firefox 16 gives developers access to the Battery API for reading battery state and the Vibration API. However, the big new feature for end-users is the Reader mode, which offers a distraction-free reading experience.

reader_mode

You can get the complete release notes at this page. Go ahead and grab your copy of Firefox 16 at this page. If you are an Android user, you can also get your copy of Firefox for Android at this page on Google Play Store.

Firefox 15 Beta Adds Support for Opus Audio Codec

Opus-Audio-FormatOne of the most well-known features of HTML5 is its ability to play video and audio files natively. With HTML5’s <video> and <audio> tags, you do not need to have third-party software like Windows Media Player or Real Player to enjoy multimedia content. Your browser should be able to take care of audio and video files out of the box, independent of the system. Unfortunately, due to a lack of consensus, HTML5 specifications don’t actually specify the codecs in which the multimedia content must be encoded in. This is similar to how to image tag works – the image tag can be used to embed images in all popular image formats including BMP, JPEG, GIF, and PNG. Initially, Internet Explorer and Apple supported the proprietary H.264 technology for the video tag, and Opera and Mozilla backed Ogg Theora. While H.264 posed licensing challenges, Ogg Theora was widely believed to be an inferior solution. Google tried to solve the conundrum by stepping in and proposing WebM, which uses a superior VP8 video codec and Vorbis Ogg audio codec. For audio tag also something similar happened with some browsers throwing their weight behind Ogg and others supporting AAC.

Now, Mozilla is proposing a new audio format called Opus as an alternative to Ogg and AAC formats that have emerged as the de facto choices for the audio tag. Opus is a completely free audio format that was developed by collaboration between members of the IETF Internet Wideband Audio Codec working group, which includes Mozilla, Microsoft, Xiph.Org, Broadcom, and Octasic.
Mozilla is promising better quality to size ratio for Opus than its competitors. According to its tests, Opus is the best-in-class for live streaming and static file playback. In fact, it is being heralded as the first audio codec to be well-suited for both interactive and non-interactive applications. Mozilla’s listening tests show that at 64 kbps, Opus sounds better than both HE-AAC and Vorbis, and a 64 kbps Opus file sounds as good as a 96 kbps MP3 file.

Mozilla is adding support for Opus with Firefox 15 beta, and is hoping that other browser manufacturers will follow suit.

SPDY/3 Support Comes To Google Chrome 22, Firefox Sandbox Builds

Google recently released 21 in the beta channel with support for Webcams and Gamepads. However, another important feature that Google has been working on is the introduction of SPDY (pronounced as Speedy) in the HTTP/2.0 specification. The SPDY protocol has gained a lot of momentum with committing to support the protocol yesterday and several other big players including Twitter and browsers such as 13 supporting it as well.

Chrome SPDY/3 Support

Google has been working on the SPDY protocol since 2009, with it being included in the HTTP/2.0 specifications in January 2012. Since then, several contributors have worked to release newer versions of the protocol with the latest being an experimental release dubbed SPDY/3. Google has also been testing the SPDY protocol on mobile as well. While the goal of the SPDY protocol is to speed up the web, it is up to websites and browsers to implement of the protocol.

However, it looks like two of the major browsers including Firefox and Google Chrome are already working on supporting the SPDY/3 protocol. While the SPDY/3 protocol is restricted to Sandbox builds of Firefox. Google Chrome dev and canary build versions also support SPDY/3 through a switch in about:flags. The support for SPDY/3 is available on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and .

The SPDY protocol is definitely a step towards the future of the web and with major browser support it could help speed up how we access content on the web. Right now, other major browser like Internet Explorer, Safari and do not support SPDY, but hopefully they should do it in newer versions of their browser.

Mozilla BrowserID is Now Persona, and the Name is Justified

Mozilla wants to change the traditional ways of authentication on the web. Until now, we were habituated to enter a combination of login credentials to sign in to a website. Going further, Mozilla is working on a unique system that requires only an email ID to sign in. The system was dubbed as BrowserID earlier, though Mozilla has recently rebranded it as Persona, increasing the cool factor.

The sole aim of BrowserID, or Persona is to create a secure system for authentication, while giving users more flexibility over a cumbersome login process. Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, though, we still use decade old authentication processes. It is good to see that someone is working hard to change that, and present it as a part of the user experience.

mozilla-persona-signin

We have seen other single sign-on mechanisms, like Oauth based login from Twitter, Facebook etc. The problem is that, these are all centralized, and the authenticating entity is sitting on a pile of personal information, and gets to know each time you login to any website. Slightly apart, OpenID is a decentralized mechanism for authentication, so it provides an experience similar to what we expect from BrowserID. However, with BrowserID, you are in control of your entire personal information and online behavioral data. Moreover, BrowserID will allow pseudonyms and multiple identities too.

With data breaches becoming the order of the day, this project will relieve enterprises of a large number of responsibilities and legal issues when it comes to storing user data. Needless to say, it will provide for a seamless browsing experience for end-users.

Google Chrome 21 Beta Introduces Native Support for Webcams and Gamepads

Google-ChromeGoogle has announced that Chrome 21 is ready for the beta channel. As always, the changelog isn’t spectacularly impressive, but there are a couple of new stuffs worth mentioning.

Google has been consistently pushing the boundaries of what a web browser can do. After enabling browsers to render sophisticated 3D graphics with the help of WebGL and Native Client, Google is aiming for plugin-less support for hardware peripherals like webcams and gamepads.

The first new feature in Chrome 21 is support for getUserMedia API that can be used to access the user’s webcam and mic without relying on any third-party plugins like Flash. Google is dubbing this as the first step towards “enabling high quality video and audio communication as part of WebRTC, a powerful new real-time communications standard for the open web platform”. Google currently has a few cool demoes to showcase what this piece of new technology can do. However, don’t expect it to gain prominence until other browser developers also move to support it. Opera 12 for desktop and mobile is the only other browser to support getUserMedia.

The other new feature is a JavaScript API called Gamepad. As the name suggests, this API allows browser-based games to directly access any standard gaming controller that is attached with the user’s system.

Both of these enhancements represent another step towards realizing Google’s dream of a fully featured browser based operating system.

In a separate announcement, Google also revealed that Chrome 22 onwards it will be dropping support for Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

[ Download Google Chrome 21 Beta ]

Chrome Starts Blocking Extensions, Apps and Greasemonkey Scripts Outside Chrome Store

When Google launched the Store, it was one a good step ahead to provide users with Extensions and apps from a centralized location. However, Chrome still allowed users to install extensions and user scripts from any website making it a little insecure.

Chrome Blocking Extensions

However, it looks like Google is now beefing up on security and disallowing users from installing extensions, apps and user scripts from outside the . Users will now be prompted with a message saying “Extensions, apps and user scripts can only be added from the Chrome Web Store” when they try to install something which is not part of the Chrome Web Store.

While this is a good thing, it means that and Stylish scripts will stop working out of the box now unless a users changes Chrome’s settings or till they are included as a part of the Chrome Web Store.

So will users be able to still install extensions and scripts that are not part of Chrome Web Store? Well, the answer is Yes. Earlier this month, Martin from GHacks had posted about this problem and the potential fix. The fix is listed in a Chrome bug report which says:

You are no longer supposed to be able to install extensions off-store in Chrome. See  bug 55584  for details.

In order to install off-store extensions, the user must download them to a directory and drag them onto chrome://extensions/.

I intend to polish this UI a bit to hide the download bar so that people don’t click on it. I’d also like to add some UI that tells users that extension install is disabled off store or something, but we still haven’t figured out what that will look like.`

The bug referred in the above fix was a feature request which will allow enterprise users to disable users from installing extensions outside the Chrome Store while providing them with an option to whitelist other sources through an admin interface.

So dragging and dropping those extensions and user scripts to the extension page should currently allow you to install those extensions. You can also completely disable this feature by loading Chrome with the “–enable-easy-off-store-extension-install” flag. However, this is not recommended.

*Please note that the blocking currently does not happen in stable builds of Google Chrome.

Chrome Tries to Slim Down by Unloading Inactive Extensions from Memory

Google-ChromeWhen Google released Chrome browser, it promised a bloat-free and light-weight browsing experience. However, over the years, Chrome has put on a fair amount of weight. I still wouldn’t call it bloated, but I have consistently found Chrome to be the most demanding of all the browsers that I use. One of the major contributors to Chrome’s overhead is extensions. Now, Google is trying to do something about it.

Google has announced a new feature called “Event Pages” that will enable extension developers to put their Chrome extensions on a diet. All current generation Chrome extensions continue running in the background, even if they aren’t being actively used. Event Pages will allow developers to create extensions that will automatically be unloaded from the memory, if the user is not interacting with it.

Chrome has always been resource hungry due to its architecture. All plug-ins, extensions, and tabs have their own process. This means that on the whole Chrome require mores CPU cycles and memory than other browsers. Modern day computers do have sufficient memory to handle a browser, even a resource hungry one. Still, it’s still heartening to see Chrome developers trying to keep the extension overhead under control, as Chrome will also have to run on devices like the Chromebook.

This feature is currently available in the Chrome Dev Channel, and will be incorporated in Chrome Beta and Stable channels over the summer.

Avoid Being Misinformed with Rbutr

RbutrWhile most savvy internet users typically treat anything they read online with a healthy degree of skepticism, innumerable people are still fooled every day. This might be by something as dangerous but obvious as a Nigerian 419 scam, or something as innocuous as an email forward claiming that entering ATM pin code in reverse will summon the police. While there are phishing and fraud protection tools that strive to protect you from the first kind of disinformation, there isn’t really anything to help you out with the second kind. Now, a new app is trying to fight back against false information on the internet.

Rbutr is a browser extension that is trying to tackle the serious challenge of online disinformation. It hopes to employ crowd-sourcing to build up a knowledgebase of rebuttals to various pieces of content on the web. You will need to register to be able to use the service. This is a stumbling block, which might put off many users. However, once you get past this step, it’s pretty simple to use Rbutr. Install the Chrome extension and continue browsing as you normally would. If Rbutr finds any rebuttals for the content you are currently viewing, its icon will change to alert you. The drawback here is that the icon change isn’t really prominent enough to draw attention. Rbutr needs to figure out how to better draw the user’s attention without really annoying him. If you want to give back to the community, you can submit rebuttals directly through the extension in a couple of simple steps.

At the moment the utility of Rbutr is limited as its database is pretty small. However, this is something that definitely has a lot of promise. If it ever gains critical mass, it is something that everyone should go ahead and install. However, right now, I would only recommend it to early adopters and enthusiasts.

Rbutr is currently only available for Chrome, but support for others browsers is in the works.

[ Download Rbutr ]

Collusion from Mozilla Shows How You Are Being Tracked on the Web

The explosion of personalized web has pretty much clobbered online privacy to its death bed. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, someone or the other is tracking your surfing habits. The worst part is that this practice has become so rampant that most of us have come to accept online tracking as standard affair. Mozilla has been trying to tackle the problem of behavioural tracking on the web for quite some time. Couple of years back, it introduced the “Do Not Track” header, which has already been adopted by Internet Explrer, Safari, and Opera. Now, Mozilla has released an experimental add-on to showcase how personal data is being tracked across the web.

Earlier this month, Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla Corporation, unveiled Collusion. Collusion is a Firefox extension that visualizes the spider-web of interaction between websites and third-party trackers that often track you without your explicit permission. Collusion is essentially a reporting tool whose purpose is to make netizens realize just how grave the situation is. Here’s how my Collusion graph after a brief ten minute browsing session involving Techie-Buzz, TechCrunch, Mashable, and BBC.

Collusin-Spiderweb-Data

Collusin-Third-Party-Tracking-Websites

My Collusion graph is peppered with third-party tracking website that I never explicitly browsed to. Personalized web isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can increase engagement, reduce user frustration, and improve productivity. However, the mad rush of advertisers to track users without their knowledge and permission is something that is deeply worrying. Kovacs very righty remarked that “with every click of the mouse and every touch of the screen, we are like Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs of our personal information everywhere we travel through the digital woods”.

[ Download Collusion for Firefox ]

Chrome Surpasses Internet Explorer to Become the World’s Most Popular Web Browser

It’s been over several months since I last used Internet Explorer. Perhaps it could be the same case with you as well. Over the last two years, Internet Explorer has not only lost momentum, but the number of IE users have drastically dropped. Right from the first day of Chrome’s release, it has been a serious threat to the future of Internet Explorer, and today we see the fate of once-upon-a-time popular browser — Internet Explorer, going down the drain.

According to the latest figures from StatCounter, for the first time ever, Google Chrome has become one of the most popular Web browsers worldwide, surpassing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Chrome has taken an overall lead with 32.76 percent share, while IE has drastically dipped to 31.94 percent.

Chrome Become's World's Most Popular Web Browser

Back in March this year, Chrome had surpassed IE, however, that was just for one single day over the weekend. The browser reached 32.7 percent of the global rankings on March 18. Chrome was pushed back behind, as IE continued to dominate in the market.

Exactly a year back, IE dominated the Web browser market with a 43 percent share, which was followed by Mozilla Firefox with 29 percent share. Chrome, which was picking its pace slowly, was at the third position with just 19 percent share. Today, IE has lost almost 12 percent market share while Google’s Chrome has grown by 13 percent to the dominate IE and Firefox.

StatCounter’s data is based on over 15 billion page views per month (4 billion from the US; 850 million from the UK) to the StatCounter network of more than three million websites. StatCounter’s statistics are prominently considered to be reliable, however, stats shared by NetMarketShare are quite radical and differ widely. NetMarketShare’s stats show that Internet Explorer had 54.09 percent share this month followed by Firefox with 20 percent share, and Chrome placed in the third position with 18.85 percent.

Browser Market Share

It is known that most of Chrome’s traffic share is from Asia and South America, however, IE and Firefox are still dominating in North America and Europe. In India, Chrome has already achieved the number one spot with 8 percent lead over Firefox. On the other hand, IE continues to rule in Japan, China and South Korea with nearly 50 percent of traffic share.

Firefox 13 Will Have a Reset Button

You install Firefox on your freshly minted computer. Everything is great for a while. Firefox loads up in seconds, web pages open in a snap, and everything works. But then, over time, Firefox starts acting up. It gets slower and slower. Things that used to work stops working. Sudden freeze-ups and crashes begin appearing. I am sure this is something many of you have personally experienced. As our Firefox profile begins accumulating clutter, the performance and stability of Firefox takes a hit. This might be due to a toolbar you unknowingly installed, or some extension that has a memory leak bug. The thing is that finding out the root cause is both time consuming and frustrating.

Reset-Firefox-Troubleshooting-Option

In order to make things simpler, Mozilla is adding a magical reset button to Firefox. The new option will be available under about:support (accessible via Help –> Troubleshooting Information). Clicking on this button will create a new profile with default settings, which will hopefully solve your performance issues. Firefox will also copy over your browsing history, cookies, saved form history, saved passwords, and bookmarks. This means that you will essentially have a fresh install of Firefox, but with all of your personal data intact.

Reset-Firefox

The biggest drawback of the reset feature is its location. It’s buried deep within Firefox, and is practically impossible to discover. To counter this problem, Mozilla is currently thinking about prompting the user to reset Firefox after it crashes for the third time. It is also exploring the possibility of giving Windows users this option when they are reinstalling Firefox.

Mozilla Working on Firefox Redesign to Unify Desktop and Mobile Browsers

Mozilla designers have been pretty busy in the recent past. Mozilla introduced a significant user interface overhaul with Firefox 4, which received somewhat mixed reviews. Since then, Mozilla has periodically tweaked the interface to address many of the complaints. Now, a little more than a year after Firefox 4 was released, Mozilla is gearing up for another significant redesign.

Mozilla’s Stephen Horlander is working on a new design called “Australis” that will unify Firefox’s appearance across platforms and form factors. This includes Firefox for desktop (Windows, Unix, and Mac), Firefox for Android (phones and tablets), and Boot2Gecko.

The most distinctive features of Australis are soft textures, smooth curves, and a streamlined experience. Here’s how Firefox is expected to look in Windows, Mac, and Unix respectively.

Firefox-Australis-Windows
Firefox-Australis-Mac
Firefox-Australis-Unix

As you can see, the tab strip has been redesigned in accordance with Australis’ design principles, and the menu button has been overhauled. It has now been merged with the address bar, and features a completely reworked layout.

Firefox-Australis-Windows-Menu

Firefox for Mobile already looks a lot like the Australis mockups. It will be tweaked further to bring it in close alignment with its desktop counterpart.

Firefox-Australis-Android-Tablet-Tabs
Firefox-Australis-Android-Tablet-Menu
Firefox-Australis-Android-Mobile-Browsing
Firefox-Australis-Android-Mobile-Tabs

We also know that Mozilla is working on a Metro compatible version of Firefox for Windows 8. Development on that still has a long way to go, but the mockups suggest that Firefox for Metro will look a lot like Firefox for Android tablets.

Firefox-Australis-Windows-8-Metro

Although the frequent redesigns might irk some users, it’s hard to not get excited about the Australis mockups. The new design is modern, beautiful, and minimal. You can get a taste of the new Firefox design with the Australis theme that is already available in the Firefox add-on repository. Don’t forget to chime in with your take on the planned Firefox redesign.

Firefox 13 Beta Ships with SPDY Enabled by Default

SPDY has seen a major push yesterday, with Firefox finally making the move to SPDY. The latest beta of Firefox 13 arrived with SPDY enabled by default and this makes SPDY a primary candidate in the world of application layer protocols. Besides Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome are the two major browsers by market share. While Google Chrome has shipped with SPDY for a long time now, although Firefox had SPDY present from version 11 onwards, it was turned off by default. Finally, after a series of bug fixes, SPDY has made it to the latest beta of Firefox 13.

Apart from SPDY, Firefox 13 will have major behind-the-scene changes and some long-awaited UI changes too. The latest release of Firefox version 13 brings the much awaited speed dial, which is a necessity for any modern browser. Firefox 13 will also turn on smooth scrolling and on-demand tab loading, when opening tabs from a saved session.

firefox-13

When Google announced SPDY for the first time, it was unclear whether it would catch up with the well-established HTTP protocol. SPDY was invited to be a part of the new HTTP standard and things were off to a promising slow start. However, Google has also taken the alternate path, by marking a presence on major browsers first, and then creating a lock-in situation so that it ends up as a web-standard anyway. Nevertheless, to survive the competition with a rapidly developing browser like Google Chrome, Firefox has to improve on speed, and SPDY will be a good start.

The release notes for the latest beta can be found at this page.