Skype Toolbar Crashes Firefox; Mozilla Blocks It

Looks like several people have been facing frequent crashes with and the team is on the case. The Skype Toolbar for Firefox is an extension that detects phone numbers on webpages and allows you to call them using Skype desktop application.

Skype Logo

The add-on is bundled with Skype desktop and is automatically installed in Firefox. Mozilla has pinpointed that the current version of Skype toolbar is one of the main culprits behind Firefox crashes. For instance, according to data collected by Mozilla (when users send crash reports to them), the Skype toolbar accounted for 40,000 crashes last week.

Additionally, depending on the version of the Skype Toolbar you’re using, the methods it uses to detect and re-render phone numbers can make DOM manipulation up to 300 times slower, which drastically affects the page rendering times of a large percentage of web content served today (plain English: to the user, it appears that Firefox is slow loading web pages). We believe that both of these items constitute a major, user-facing issue, and meet our established criteria for blocklisting an add-on.

Starting today, Mozilla will add the Skype Toolbar to their blacklist and soft block it. With soft blocking they will automatically disable the extension while giving users an option to re-enable it. Mozilla has already blocked several add-ons in the past, some of them include the Bing Bar, Apple QuickTime Plugin, AVG SafeSearch and more. You can view the entire list of blocked add-ons.

Back in 2009, Mozilla had blocked Microsoft .NET and WPF extensions terming them as unsafe for Firefox. Unlike the Skype block, the Microsoft block was hard block, wherein users were not given an option to turn it on. There are only a few extensions which have been hard blocked since then.

There is no official statement or update on this issue from Skype. We will keep you posted when more information becomes available.

Firefox 4 Beta 9 Released, Inching Closer to Release Candidate

Mozilla has released the beta 9 version of , bringing them closer to a release candidate and final version release in February 2011. Mozilla has been working on 4 for quite some time now and the numerous delays have been costing them.

Firefox 4

Mozilla has overhauled the bookmarks and history code in Firefox 4 enabling for faster bookmarking and startup performance. They have also improved performance for complex animations. Firefox 4 also has the JaegerMonkey engine for JavaScript which is supposedly very fast. Firefox 4 Beta 9 also uses hardware acceleration on and using Direct X.

Mozilla has also added support for 7 new languages for Firefox 4 taking the total supported languages to 76. To view the complete list of changes visit this page. You can download Firefox 4 Beta 9 from here or visit this post to learn what has changed in this beta.

Firefox has been losing market share in the past few months because is stealing their thunder. However, the good news for Mozilla is that Firefox just became the most used browser in European countries.  Hopefully the release of Firefox 4 might turn things around for Mozilla.

(h/t arpitnext)

Mozilla Slips Up, Publishes User IDs and Encrypted Passwords

Mozilla-Password-Breach Close on the heels of the Gawker Media security breach, Mozilla has disclosed that it had accidentally published a partial database of addons.mozilla.org user account information. As many as 44,000 user ids and password hashes were left publicly accessible.

The affected accounts were inactive ones, which were using md5-based password hashes. MD5 is a weak encryption technique that is crackable. Security firm Sophos explained:

MD5 has cryptographic weaknesses that permit creation of the same hash from multiple strings. This permits security experts to compute all the possible hashes and determine either your password or another string that will work even if it is not your password.

Active accounts on Mozilla’s add-on repository use SHA-512 password hash with salting that offers stronger protection.

The good news is that almost no one noticed. According to Mozilla, the database was accessed by only one person outside of the company. That person is the security researcher who alerted Mozilla about the issue under the Web bounty program, which offers $500 to $3,000 in cash rewards for valid security related bug reports. Nevertheless, Mozilla has deleted the password of all the affected accounts as a precautionary measure.

The State of Mozilla: No Armageddon for Firefox

Mozilla has published its annual report for the year 2009, which takes a look at how Firefox is doing competitively and financially, along with what is planned for the future, and frankly, things are looking quite rosy for the open source browser maker.

Firefox-State

Firefox has more than 140 million active daily users and in excess of 400 million total users. The much delayed Firefox 4 will introduce significant performance improvements along with a host of other promising changes. Mozilla is also working on broadening its scope by making inroads into the mobile sector with Firefox (Fennec) for Meego and Android, and Firefox Home for the iPhone.

Financially also Mozilla is doing quite well. In 2009, it generated consolidated reported revenues of $104 million, up 34 percent from 2008 reported revenues of $78 million. This includes a $104,000 loss from long term investments, which is again a considerable improvement from previous years figure of $7.8 million. As before, a significant portion of the revenue comes from Google and other partners like Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon, eBay and a handful of others.

Mozilla has had a partnership with Google since 2004, and has renewed their contract three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Their current contract is up for renewal next year. Some publications like Silicon Alley Insider have already begun dubbing 2011 as the Armageddon year for Firefox based on the apprehension that Google might choose not to renew their contract with Firefox, which is one of the biggest competitors of Google Chrome. However, what they are forgetting is that the search itself is a competitive segment, and Firefox’s large user base will provide Mozilla with plenty of bargaining chips. It’s unlikely that Google will be too keen to let Bing become the default search engine in Firefox without a fight.

Firefox Turns 6, Now Has 36% Market Share

Mozilla’s baby is turning 6 today, with a 36% market share to brag about. Six years ago Internet Explorer one of the most used browsers, that is when Firefox was launched and quickly became popular among tech enthusiasts and developers. Now, the browser boasts of more than 1/3rd of the market share.

browser_market_share_oct_2010

In the past few years though, Firefox has also had to fend competition from and who have been rising on the popularity charts. With being delayed till 2011, Mozilla definitely has to buck up its game to extend their stay for several more years to come.

Firefox 4 is a definitely game changer for Mozilla, and hopefully this 6th birthday will give them a boost to get it out of the door as quickly they can. Here is wishing one of the best browsers I have ever used a very Happy 6th birthday. To get some goodies, visit the official Mozilla birthday page.

Firefox 4 Won’t Be Ready Until 2011

Last week, we pointed out that the development of Firefox 4 was taking a lot longer than anticipated, as a result of which, the final version might not be released by the end of this year. A short while back, Firefox’s director Mike Beltzner, confirmed our fears in an update posted on Mozilla’s Dev Planning group. He wrote:

As those who have been tracking our nightly builds know, great things are happening with Firefox 4. The user interface changes are converging, the graphics and layout features are wrapping up, and recently the JavaScript engine was dramatically improved. The result is a fast, capable Firefox that provides better speed and responsiveness for web applications and users. Completing this work is taking longer than initial estimates indicated as we track down regressions and sources of instability. As part of our commitment to beta users, we will not ship software before it is ready.

Firefox-4-Beta

Firefox 4 Beta 7, which was originally expected to arrive on Sept 17, will ship in early November. Similarly, the release date of Beta 8 has been pushed back from October 1 to Nov 12. The RC build (Release Candidate) should arrive in early 2011, which will be followed shortly thereafter by the final build.

Firefox 4 Continues to Fall Behind Schedule: Major Delays Expected

Last month, I reported that Mozilla had axed some of the features from Firefox 4, in order to meet its release deadline. The first feature to be dropped was the new Account Manager that had received rave reviews from most users. However, it now appears that, even cutting down on features might not be enough to get Firefox 4 back on schedule.

Firefox-4

According to this publicly available schedule, Firefox 4 Beta 7 was supposed to arrive on Sept 17, and Beta 8 was supposed to land on October 1. However, both of these dates have come and gone, without any new Firefox 4 builds being released. Quite obviously, Mozilla also missed its target of achieving code freeze by Oct 15 in preparation of the RC (Release Candidate) release.

Firefox-4-Schedule

There’s still plenty of work left to be done. Just a couple of weeks back, Mozilla reported that it had 17 blockers (bugs that are major enough to prevent the release of a build) to deal with before the next beta release, and as many as 510 blockers to fix before they can move on to the RC stage. This has prompted Softpedia to speculate that Mozilla might not even manage to pull off the release by the end of this year.

Firefox 3.6.11 and 3.5.14 Released

With Firefox 4.0 hogging all the limelight, it’s easy to forget that most of the users are still using stable builds of Firefox 3.5 and 3.6. Earlier today, Mozilla pushed through a recommended security and stability update for both the trunks.

Firefox

As many as nine vulnerabilities have been fixed in this release, including five critical ones. This update also fixes numerous stability and performance issues – 40 in Firefox 3.6.11 and 23 in Firefox 3.5.14 to be exact. For more information about the fixed vulnerabilities refer to the bugzilla thread for Fx 3.6.11 and 3.5.14.

[ Download Firefox 3.6.11 | Download Firefox 3.5.14 ]

Opera Mobile For Android Coming Within A Month

In an official blog post, Opera has confirmed that they are working on Opera Mobile for Android. Opera Mobile will bring with it pinch-to-zoom support and hardware acceleration. Hardware acceleration will allow Opera Mobile to run at lightning speed and make panning and zooming smoother by making optimum use of the GPU power.

Opera_Mobile_Android

Opera has promised to deliver the first public beta of Opera Mobile within the next month’ and it will be available via Android Market or m.opera.com. The Norwegian browser company will also be releasing an updated version of Opera Mini for the iPhone with hardware acceleration and pinch to zoom support.

With Mozilla also working hard on Firefox for Android, the Android browser competition is sure going to heat up.

Firefox 4 Beta for Android and Maemo Now Available

Mozilla has released the mobile version of their browser Beta 1 for mobile. The mobile version of uses the same technology as the desktop version and is optimized for mobile phones.

Firefox 4 Mobile

Firefox 4 beta mobile makes use of two new technologies in their architecture. The first one is called Electrolysis and allows the browser to run in a separate process. The second technology is known as Layers and improves overall performance of the browser in graphics areas such as scrolling, zooming and animations.

Firefox 4 Beta also includes Firefox Sync which allows users to sync between their mobile and desktop making their bookmarks, browsing history, tabs, passwords and form fill data available on multiple devices.

Firefox 4 Beta also makes use of the latest technologies such as and also supports add-ons. If you have a or based device, you can read more about Firefox 4 Beta mobile or download it from the official Mozilla blog.