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.

Opera Ditches Presto, Will Begin Using Chrome’s Engine

Opera Software has never had it easy. Opera has always been the browser that is ignored by most, and loved zealously by a few. Yet, not only has it managed to survive for almost two decades, but has also grown into a profitable publicly traded company employing almost a thousand people across the globe. Today, the Norwegian browser firm announced that it has reached the milestone of 300 million users.

Three hundred million is a major landmark for Opera, which had reached the hundred million mark less than three years ago. However, Opera Software can hardly afford to sit back and relish its achievement. It’s desktop market share has practically stagnated, and its head-start in the mobile segment has been practically nullified by the rise of Android and iOS. Realizing the difficult situation it is in, Opera has done what very few fans and followers could have even imagined. It has decided to completely ditch Presto.

Opera-Presto-Rendering-Engine

Presto is Opera’s layout engine, and one of its prized creations. It has served Opera well. It allowed Opera to promote web standards, push for a faster surfing experience, innovate with advanced developer features, and earn additional revenue through licensing deals. However, it was also turning out to be Opera’s biggest drawback. Developing and maintaining a rendering engine is an extremely complex task. The fact that there are only four modern rendering engines – Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox), Webkit (Safari), and Presto (Opera) — exemplifies this. The fact that Presto had the least market share often meant that developers didn’t test their websites on Presto. The end result was annoying compatibility issues in Opera. Opera Software tried long and hard to tackle the compatibility issue. It created dedicated positions called “Web Opener” to promote cross-browser development practices, and in extreme cases, even fixed website bugs on its own through browserjs. However, with Webkit becoming a de-facto standard in the mobile space, and gaining momentum rapidly in the desktop market, Opera was fighting a losing cause.

This is not the first time Opera is making a big, bold move that few could have predicted. Back in 2005, Opera went from being a shareware to a freeware on the back of a search deal with Google. The move allowed Opera to break out of its niche, and increase its user base from hundreds of thousands to millions. Now, Opera is taking another bold step. Will it work? Or is it too little too late for the browser that seems destined to be forever the little guy.

I believe that Webkit offers Opera a way out that didn’t exist earlier. It’s a shared code base that is being used and improved by multiple entities. Switching to Webkit will free up valuable resources for Opera, as it will finally be able to stop worrying about website compatibility. It will also save Opera the effort of duplicating cutting edge standards that other browsers have already implemented. Yet, I can not help but wonder, how things would have turned out if Opera had open sourced Presto earlier.

Through this year, Opera will be transitioning to the the Chromium rendering engine, and V8 JavaScript engine. We have already seen an experimental browser called Opera Ice, which utilizes Webkit. At this year’s MWC, Opera will be exhibiting another new Webkit based Android product.

While the move to Webkit is undoubtedly the right one for both Opera Software and its users, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness to see Presto go. When it was released, it was the fastest and the most standards compliant engine in the market. It did a lot of good things, for Opera as well as the web. Hallvord Steen fittingly paid homage to the mere bits and bytes that was Presto.

Its software personality was one of surprising brilliance combined with equally surprising shortcomings. It was resourceful, forward-looking and often ahead of its time yet at other times neglectful of even long-stated needs and requirements. It had some hissy fits and temperamental interaction with other software, especially certain plug-ins. Nevertheless it carried out great work and brought the company that cared for it 300 million users, over the years being ported to an incredible number of platforms.

Firefox 18 Released with Numerous Performance Enhancements

Firefox 18 is expected to be officially released anytime now. However, as always, it has been uploaded to the FTP servers well in advance. If you wish to grab the stable release of Firefox 18 ahead of its announcement, scroll down and head over to Mozilla’s servers.

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Changelog for the final version is also yet to be revealed. However, we can get a pretty good idea about what’s new by looking at the changelog for the beta. Firefox 18 ships with the new IonMonkey JavaScript engine, which promises up to 26% improvement in speed compared to Firefox 17. Mozilla has fixed several bugs related to Firefox’s proxy handling, and users surfing behind a proxy should be able to enjoy a much faster browsing experience. Mozilla is also promising improved startup times through smart handling of signed extension certificates, in addition to performance improvements surrounding tab switching. Beginning with Firefox 18, Persona backgrounds will no longer support animated images, in order to improve performance.

There are quite a few goodies for developers also in Firefox 18, including preliminary support for WebRTC and CSS Flexible boxes. Both of these features are disabled by default, and must be enabled from about:config. Other enhancements include support for W3C touch events, better image scaling algorithm, and support for retina displays.

[ Download Firefox 18 for Windows, Mac, and Linux ]

Mozilla to Introduce Support for Private Windows in Firefox 20

Apple introduced the concept of private browsing way back in 2005; however, this feature became mainstream only about three years back. When surfing in private browsing mode, the browser covers your tracks. Browsing history is not recorded, and cookies are automatically deleted once you end the session. Currently, all major browsers support private browsing. However, the implementation varies from browser to browser. Opera, which was the last major browser to support this feature, has the best implementation. It supports not only private windows, but also private tabs. Chrome and Internet Explorer on the other hand support private windows, but not private tabs. Firefox’s implementation is currently the most limited one. It supports neither private tabs nor private windows. If you enter private browsing mode, your current session is halted, all existing tabs are closed, and a new private session is created. However, this is set to change soon.

Mozilla-Firefox-Private-Browsing

Mozilla has been working on re-writing its private browsing implementation for the past 19 months, and is finally ready to showcase its progress. A new experimental build is now available, which features support for private windows. You can now begin a private browsing session in a new window while retaining your existing session. The experimental build is available for Winows, OS X, and Linux. This feature will make its mainstream debut in Firefox 20, which is scheduled to be released in March/April 2013.

[ Download Firefox with Private Windows ]

Opera Software Q3 2012 Financial Results: Mobile Drives Growth as Desktop Stalls

Opera Software has released its financials for the third quarter of 2012, and they look pretty good. Revenue grew 40% year-on-year to 56.4 million USD. However, due to a significant increase in expenses, net income fell to 6.5 million USD from 9.9 million USD in Q3 2011.

Over the past several years, Opera’s real strength has been the mobile segment. Opera Mini has been the real growth driver for the Norwegian firm. This trend continued into the recently concluded quarter. Opera finished the quarter with more than 207 million users of their mobile products alone. Opera Mini’s astronomical growth has slowed down a bit over the past few quarters, but it is still expanding its user base at a fair click. Year-on-year, Opera Mini’s user base grew by 112%. The growth was primarily driven by partnerships with operators like Airtel, Etisalat, MTN and Vodafone. Opera’s revenue from mobile consumer and mobile publishers and advertisers grew by more than 400%. Perhaps most crucially, Opera exhibited strong growth in Android with 300% year-on-year increase in users. As more and more people move away from feature phones to smartphones, Opera will have to keep on innovating to grab a slice of the smartphone segment.

Opera-Financials-Revenue-Q3-2012

Opera for desktop on the other hand, remained to be an area of concern. Opera exhibited practically no growth with just 2% increase in user base year-on-year. Currently, Opera for desktop has 55 million active users. Opera admitted during its Q&A with the investors that it’s not happy with the desktop growth and the impact of Opera 12 was less than expected. Opera Software promised strong products at the beginning of 2013, which suggests that Opera 12.20 will be released within a few months. Although, Opera didn’t manage to expand its reach, revenue from desktop increased quite nicely from 13 million USD in Q3 2011 to 19 million USD in Q3 2012.

Opera-Financials-Users-Revenue-Desktop

Internet Explorer 10 Coming to Windows 7 Next Month

Internet-Explorer-10Microsoft has a horrible track record when it comes to supporting older operating systems. Now, don’t get me wrong – they continue publishing patches and hotfixes for a Windows release for several years. However, when it comes to supporting older operating systems in their software, Microsoft often plays it dirty. For example, Internet Explorer 9 introduced a host of new features, but was limited to only Windows 7 and Vista. Similarly, Windows Live dropped support for XP in 2009 with Wave 3. This stands in stark contrast with software from third parties like Opera Software, which continues to support even Windows 2000.

The story is no different with Internet Explorer 10. IE 10 will be baked into Windows 8, and will arrive for Windows 7 in November. However, there is a big caveat. Windows 7 users will only get a preview release next month, and will have to wait further for the final release. Not only is Microsoft ignoring older operating systems like Vista, but it is already treating Windows 7 users as second class citizens.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.