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.
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.
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 has plans for a device that can boot and go online, without requiring a middle app platform like Android or iOS. This is an excellent thought, although there are many initial challenges. The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce the cost of cellphones by allowing them to have less processing powers and compensate local apps with HTML5 based web-apps.
Boot to Gecko wants to create an open platform, that will let developers and users get on the web to use apps, without depending on platform specific technologies. Undoubtedly, in theory, this is as good as any other open idea. However, in my opinion, the ground realities will not permit this project to have a smooth take-off. The mobile space is saturated beyond comparison. While Android has managed to show its head after an aggressive push by Google, it is doubtful whether there is room for another platform in the mobile room.
In a joint press conference, Telefónica revealed their intention to work with us to deliver the very first open Web devices in 2012. These devices, architected entirely on the Web and built based on an HTML5 stack with powerful Web APIs, will mean significant advances in speed and cost reduction for mobile devices in the future.
The target hardware platform for these devices is a Qualcomm chipset. The plans for this Open Web Device will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.
Here is a proof-of-concept video of Open Web Device from YouTube. It clearly shows the Gaia UI from Boot to Gecko.
If you are a Google Chrome user, you must have seen how notifications work for Gmail. Google created the Desktop Notification system based on HTML5, and proposed its inclusion in the W3C web standard. The draft for the notification can be seen on this page at W3C.
Notifications is designed to allow brief messages to be sent to a user however they are connected. Somewhere between email and IM lies Notifications.
Push notifications are a way for websites to send small messages to users when the user is not on the site. iOS and Android devices already support their own push notification services.
With this feature, Mozilla wants to bring the web-application closer to the desktop application. A similar experience on a desktop browser is a good start. Native mobile clients on Android have used push-notifications successfully, for a long time. However, the Push Notification system will also help developers send notifications to their mobile users, without investing in a separate mobile client.
Mozilla has recently announced the latest release of its browser, Firefox version 10. Although this release of Firefox does not sport many evident changes, it is Mozilla’s flagship browser for the year 2012. Mozilla has planned an “Extended Support” feature to prevent the rapid release cycle from affecting developers. Finally, Firefox 10 is the first Firefox version to get this feature, and it will live through 2012.
Changes and Improvements
Detailed information on changes in Firefox 10 can be found at the Firefox 10 Release Notes page. Though, some of the evident changes are the disabled forward button for pages where there has not been any backward navigation, support for full-screen API allowing application to run in full-screen, and a number of bug fixes. Moreover, Add-on compatibility has been taken care of, extensively.
Firefox 10 is the first “Extended Support” version of Firefox, ensuring it will get support and security patches for the next nine release cycles. The main aim of the Extended Support Release (ESR) is,
The shift to a new release process has been difficult for organizations that deploy Firefox to their users in a managed environment. We’ve heard 2 primary concerns:
The release schedule doesn’t allow sufficient time for the organizations and their vendors to certify new releases of the products
The associated end-of-life policy exposes them to considerable security risk if they remain on a non-current version past Firefox 3.6.
More about ESR can be found at this ESR proposal page. This Extended Support Release will be developed parallel to the regular release cycle of six weeks, which Firefox adopted as part of its rapid release strategy, last year.
A year ago, Mozilla revamped the development process of Firefox. They started the year with version 4 of Firefox, and released Firefox 9 by the end of the year. This was a giant leap for Firefox, and the improvements in speed and usability are evident in version 9. However, some critical things that matter for the user experience have remained unchanged, like the “New tab” and Home page on Firefox. Finally, after improving performance drastically, Firefox has started focusing on user experience, and the changes are beginning to show in the experimental channel of Firefox, named Aurora.
The New Tab page on Firefox is similar to the new tab page of Chrome, where it will showcase your most visited websites in a Speed-dial like interface. This puts your most visited websites in a 3×3 grid where you can drag and re-position the tiles. Therefore, the New Tab page can show your nine most visited websites. However, the new tab is still not as feature-rich as Firefox New Tab King extension we talked about, two years ago.
Firefox has to get innovative about these features, if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Right now, it seems like these features are rip-offs of Chrome’s new tab, and Safari’s Home Tab. After seeing these user-experience changes, all I can say is, “better late than never”!
Although these changes were expected in Firefox 12, Mozilla has pushed the release of these new features to Firefox 13. The release date for Firefox 12 is April 24, and Firefox 13 will be released in May. However, you can try these new features before the release, by getting one of the Firefox UX Nightly builds.
One of the primary reasons why enterprise systems stick to Internet Explorer or Firefox is that both these browsers are released slowly with considerable difference between two releases. However, over the last year, Firefox went from version 4 to version 9. It was rapid and new releases kept coming out, pretty much like in the rapid release cycle of Google Chrome. This endangered the enterprise love that Firefox enjoyed. Therefore, Mozilla has decided to release one Firefox version that will be supported throughout a year. This version will be called the Firefox Extended Support Release, similar to the Ubuntu LTS. The feature is due to appear in Firefox 10. It will have add-on compatibility turned on by default and will simply be called the MozillaFirefox ESR.
We are pleased to announce that the proposal for an Extended Support Release (ESR) of Firefox is now a plan of action. The ESR version of Firefox is for use by enterprises, public institutions, universities and other organizations that centrally manage their Firefox deployments. Releases of the ESR will occur once a year, providing these organizations with a version of Firefox that receives security updates but does not make changes to the Web or Firefox Add-ons platform.
Although the ESR version uses the same version number as the base Firefox version, there is a chance it will change later. Moreover, now that ESR has been finalized for Firefox, the Thunderbird team is also discussing an ESR version on their mailing list. However, Firefox mobile will not have an ESR version unfortunately. As if the new release process was not enough, Mozilla is bringing major changes into Firefox making it future proof. From being notorious for its memory leaks and slow speed, Firefox has emerged as the challenging browser it used to be. Now, it only needs to recapture the market it lost to Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. You can read this interesting discussion on Slashdot to get a better perspective on the matter.
If you thought the site you were browsing was secure simply due to the little s at the end of HTTP, you may want to re-evaluate.
Security researchers at ACROS have posted details concerning a vulnerability in versions 14 and 15 of Google’s Chrome browser. The issue comes from an inconsistency that Chrome has when following and rendering redirections to other web pages. This means that an attacker can redirect a visitor to a page that looks identical to a legitimate page, with a real looking HTTPS URL, when infact they are not on the expected page. This can lead to theft of credentials, credit cards and other personal information.
The crux of the issue comes down to Chrome being very quick to update the address bar, even before any of the page content has actually loaded. This allows the researchers to change the destination without it being reflected to the address bar. Most users will “confirm” they are on the correct page simply by reading the address page and matching it with what they are looking at, especially when the majority only visit a handful of specific websites.
While the newest releases of Chrome (16, beta and above) have had this issue resolved, Google’s browser holds a relatively large marketshare of approximately 20% world wide. That’s more than 70 million. If over 75% of those users have updated version, one can speculate that roughly 1.7 million users are susceptible to this attack. With Google’s auto-update mechanism, it’s highly unlikely that there are so many old installations.
At Techie-Buzz alone, more than 1 million of the 3.5+ million visitors use Chrome. Google Chrome has been growing at a very rapid rate, pushing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox lower and lower. Chances are, you’re using Chrome because it’s fast, so if you want to stay as safe as possible, keep Chrome updated and take a look at some of the popular security/privacy extensions.
Earlier this week, Mozilla announced a new search agreement with Google that will ensure that Google remains Firefox’s default search provider for at least the next three years. However, Mozilla had declined to share exactly how much Google had agreed to pony up for this privilege. Now, Kara Swisher has managed to learn the juicy details.
Contrary to speculation from so-called pundits and analysts, the renewal of the search partnership got delayed not because of lack of interest from Google, but due to intense competition from Microsoft. Even Yahoo, which also uses Bing’s results, was in the race. As a result of Microsoft’s heightened interest, Google was forced to provide a minimum revenue guarantee of 300 million per year for three years, which is almost a three folds increase from the previous agreement.
Mozilla will continue to have search partnerships with Microsoft Bing, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo. However, it is the default search engine agreement that yields the maximum benefits for both sides. Opera’s default search agreement with Google will expire at the end of March, 2012. It will be interesting to see how much Opera Software, whose desktop browser is estimated to have less than 10% of Firefox’s market share, will be able to extract from a search deal.
Mozilla has signed a new search agreement with Google that will last for at least three years. Under this multi-year agreement, Google Search will continue to be the default search provider for hundreds of millions of Firefox users around the world,affirmed Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla. This announcement comes three weeks after the existing agreement had lapsed. The delay had prompted many pundits to promptly speculate about the impending demise of Mozilla, which makes up to 84% of its revenue from Google.
Even though Google’s own browser is flourishing, having an agreement with Mozilla is still crucial for it. In case, Google and Mozilla had failed to reach an agreement, Microsoft would have almost surely stepped in and inked a deal for Bing. Mozilla Firefox is still mighty enough to be impossible for Google to ignore. Allowing Bing access to hundreds of millions of additional eyeballs is something that Google would hardly prefer. In fact, Google has search agreements with far smaller browsers like Opera, which has less than 100 million desktop users. Additionally, niche search engines like DuckDuckGo have also begun striking revenue sharing deals with browser manufacturers. While the nitty-gritty of the deal might have caused the delay, Mozilla’s future was never really in jeopardy.
Yesterday, the Mozilla team has released the seventh version of its popular browser for both desktop and mobile.
On the desktop side, there are not many changes visually. The only visible change is that the http://’ prefix is hidden from the user by default. Most of the changes are internal, and won’t be visible to the end-user. According to the Mozilla developers, the most important change is the reduced RAM usage. The press release states that the new version consumes around 20-30% less memory compared to its predecessor.
Other features include improved start-up and tab loading times, hardware accelerated Canvas to speed up HTML5 based animations and games. The overall stability and security of the new version is also improved compared to its predecessor.
On the mobile side, Firefox for Android has also been updated to version 7. The new version includes improved copy and paste functionality, built0in language detection tool, and WebSockets API. Sadly, Firefox for Android still lacks a major feature Flash support.
The latest version of Firefox can be downloaded from Mozilla.org. Android users can download the latest version from the Android Market.
If you are wondering why Firefox is gaining version numbers so quickly, it is because the Mozilla team has shifted to a new 6-weeks build timeframe. The Alpha build of Firefox 8 is already available for download.