Firefox – gHacks Technology News http://www.ghacks.net The independent technology news blog Thu, 30 Mar 2017 19:06:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 Here is the first mockup screenshot of Firefox 57’s new design http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/24/here-is-the-first-mockup-screenshot-of-firefox-57s-new-design/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/24/here-is-the-first-mockup-screenshot-of-firefox-57s-new-design/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 05:45:14 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131513 Mozilla plans to make Firefox 57 a milestone release by introducing major changes to the web browser when the version is released. We talked about those in the past already; most notable probably is the focus on WebExtensions in Firefox 57. Classic add-ons will stop working at that time, as they are no longer supported […]

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Mozilla plans to make Firefox 57 a milestone release by introducing major changes to the web browser when the version is released.

We talked about those in the past already; most notable probably is the focus on WebExtensions in Firefox 57. Classic add-ons will stop working at that time, as they are no longer supported in the stable version of the web browser.

If things turn out well, Firefox 57 will also be the version of Firefox that ships with a first version of Quantum. Quantum bits will replace their equivalent in the Gecko engine. It is all about parallelism and modern hardware, and it includes components adopted from the Servo project.

What it means for users is that Firefox will get a speed boost when compared to the browser's current engine Gecko.

Note: Firefox 57 is the release target for these changes. There is still a chance that things may be delayed along the way, so that they land in a later stable version of Firefox.

Firefox 57: new Firefox theme

firefox photon design

Along with those major changes comes a design refresh that runs under the codename Photon currently.

Veteran Firefox users may remember the last time Mozilla changed the theme for Firefox. The Australis theme for Firefox 29 was controversial for a number of reasons. Some users thought that it looked too much like Google Chrome, others disliked that customization features were removed when the theme launched that were part of Firefox for years.

Users who did not like the design installed extensions like Classic Theme Restorer to restore most of the classic Firefox after the Australis launch.

The new Firefox design that Mozilla plans to make the default in Firefox 57 has not been revealed officially yet. But, it was revealed unofficially in a a Firefox Screenshot mockup that revealed the functionality.

Note: Mockup means that things may, and probably will, change before release. What you see is not the final product.

Probably the biggest change in the new theme is related to tabs in the browser. Mozilla launched curved tabs in Australis, and plans to make tabs squared in Firefox 57. These tabs are full squares, whereas pre-Australis tabs used had rounded edges.

The mockup shows no search bar, and the address bar is centered on the main toolbar. While this could mean that Mozilla will hide the search bar by default, it is too early to conclude that or anything else related to the design.

Another change that is visible on the mockup is that back, forward and reload buttons are visible on the left side of the main toolbar.

firefox current design

If you look at Firefox's current design, you will notice that the forward button is only displayed when it can be used (meaning when you can go forward in history), and that the reload button is attached to the right of the address field.

Here is how Google Chrome's design looks currently. The tab design looks different, and the placement of the address bar as well if Mozilla plans to keep the address bar centered in the interface of the browser.

chrome current design

The button placement on the left of the main toolbar is identical, with the exception of the home button that the mockup of the new Firefox 57 design shows as the home button is missing in Chrome.

Questions

Things will get clearer in the next couple of months. Right now, questions may come up that cannot be answered right now:

  1. What is the status of the search bar? Will it be visible by default, hidden for new users?
  2. What modifications are supported by default? Can icons still be moved around?
  3. Classic Theme Restorer is dead. Will there be something similarly available to modify the interface beyond what Mozilla makes available? E.g. tabs on bottom and not top.
  4. How capable is the theme API when Firefox 57 is released?

Now You: What are your wishes for a new theme in Firefox? (via Sören Hentzschel)

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TTSFox: Firefox Text to Speech add-on that works offline http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/23/ttsfox-firefox-text-to-speech-add-on-that-works-offline/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/23/ttsfox-firefox-text-to-speech-add-on-that-works-offline/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 15:23:36 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131502 TTSFox is a new add-on for the Firefox web browser that adds text to speech functionality to the browser, even when the device is offline. It can sometimes be useful to have something read aloud to you. This can be the case if you do something that is not directly in front of the monitor, […]

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TTSFox is a new add-on for the Firefox web browser that adds text to speech functionality to the browser, even when the device is offline.

It can sometimes be useful to have something read aloud to you. This can be the case if you do something that is not directly in front of the monitor, or if the Firefox window is not the active window.

Accessibility may also play a role, for instance if your eyesight is not the best anymore, or if you prefer to listen to text as it is easier for you.

One way for doing so in the Firefox web browser is to use the web browser's built-in Reader Mode.

Reader Mode works by default on blogs for the most part, and one of the latest versions of it supports voice as well.

TTSFox: Firefox Text to Speech add-on

firefox text to speech

TTSFox is a new Firefox add-on that enables you to listen to any text that you highlight. The add-on is a WebExtension, which is good as it means that it will continue to work once Firefox 57 gets released.

If you have not heard, Mozilla will block classic Firefox add-ons from working in the browser at that point in time. So, any add-on that is not a WebExtension by then, will stop working.

It works by selecting text on the web page that you are on, and clicking on the icon the extension placed in the main Firefox toolbar afterwards.

The interface that opens up looks like the one on the screenshot above. The highlighted text is displayed in the right text field automatically. The left side lists the available speech engines or variants, as well as three sliders to modify the pitch, speed and volume.

The available voices depend on the operating system that you run. On Windows, you get Microsoft David Desktop and Microsoft Zira Desktop. The first is a male voice, the second a female voice.

A click on the speech button starts the read aloud process. You can click on cancel at any time to stop it, but that is in terms of functionality right now.

The add-on is more flexible than Firefox's Reader Mode when it comes to text that can be read aloud. Virtually any text that you can highlight in a browser tab can be read aloud.

The downside is that you need to highlight text to use the extension. Reader Mode works differently, as it will automatically read all text aloud that is displayed after the page's conversion to a better readable copy.

TTSFox has an ace up its sleeve however. You can paste or type text into the field as well, to have it read out aloud to you. This means that you can use the extension directly, for instance by pasting a full Word document into the interface.

Closing Words

TTSFox is a handy add-on if you like to use or even need text to speech functionality in the web browser.

Now You: Do you use text to speech?

 

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Where are those Anonymous Firefox add-on ratings coming from? http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/19/where-are-those-anonymous-firefox-add-on-ratings-coming-from/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/19/where-are-those-anonymous-firefox-add-on-ratings-coming-from/#comments Sun, 19 Mar 2017 14:44:43 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131313 If you are a Firefox user and pay attention to user reviews and ratings on the Firefox add-ons website, you may have noticed an increase in anonymous ratings. The ratings are left by anonymous user "random six character string", and only have a rating but no review itself. This in itself is strange for veteran […]

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If you are a Firefox user and pay attention to user reviews and ratings on the Firefox add-ons website, you may have noticed an increase in anonymous ratings.

The ratings are left by anonymous user "random six character string", and only have a rating but no review itself.

This in itself is strange for veteran Firefox users, considering that one of the requirements for leaving reviews was leaving a comment up until now.

One example where you can see the new influx of reviews is the Adblock Plus reviews page on Mozilla AMO.

Anonymous Firefox add-on ratings

adblock plus review

As you can see on the screenshot above, the first three ratings have been left by anonymous users. You can click on the username to find out more about that user.

No matter how many you check, you will notice that they have all been created on the same day the rating was left.

So where are those anonymous user accounts coming from? Webmasters may have seen similar activities by anonymous and random users leaving comments on sites, and one fear that users and add-on authors may have that this is a spam campaign.

The first thing that comes to mind is spam, probably because of that.  This is not the case however. According to this discussion on Mozilla's official Add-ons forum, anonymous ratings come from users who run Firefox mobile.

This is because the new mobile site was recently launched. You can test it yourself by visiting AMO on a mobile device, or scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on "View Mobile Site". You'll notice the new rating UI lets you submit a star rating without a written review. This is intentional. We think this will encourage more people to rate add-ons, and will reduce the instances of written reviews that don't say much or end up being deleted because of the way they're worded.

This is confirmed on the Mozilla Addons Server Github page. It confirms that blank reviews will come to the desktop site as well.

We're supporting blank reviews now. The recent ones come from the mobile site, which is the first one to support this. The desktop site will support it in the future as well.

firefox mobile ratings

Firefox users on mobile devices still need a Firefox account to leave reviews, but the requirement for leaving a comment / explanation has been removed by Mozilla.

It is unclear why Mozilla's site shows these ratings as anonymous, as opposed to listing the Firefox account username. One explanation may be that you only need to set an email address and password during registration, so that there is no username for a particular user at that point in time.

As far as I see it, there are two issues with these reviews. First, that they look like spam, and second, that they don't add any value besides adding a rating.

Mozilla's main idea behind lifting the requirement to leave a comment when rating an add-on is that it does away with meaningless reviews by users who did not want to write anything but still rate an add-on.

The fact that these are now replaced by empty reviews that clutter the review listing refutes that argument.

It would be easy enough to solve part of the issue right away though, as Mozilla would only have to find a way to remove empty reviews from the reviews listing.

Now You: Do you read reviews before you install add-ons?

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Top Firefox Add-ons, and their WebExtensions Status http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/14/top-firefox-add-ons-and-their-webextensions-status/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/14/top-firefox-add-ons-and-their-webextensions-status/#comments Tue, 14 Mar 2017 07:46:55 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131214 The following article looks at a list of top Firefox add-ons, and checks whether those add-ons are available as WebExtensions already, or are planned to be released as WebExtensions. Top Firefox add-ons in this context means the following: first page of add-ons on Mozilla AMO based on user count, user rating, and featured. Mozilla plans […]

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The following article looks at a list of top Firefox add-ons, and checks whether those add-ons are available as WebExtensions already, or are planned to be released as WebExtensions.

Top Firefox add-ons in this context means the following: first page of add-ons on Mozilla AMO based on user count, user rating, and featured.

Mozilla plans to drop legacy add-on support with the release of Firefox 57. While legacy add-ons will live on for a while in Firefox ESR and development builds of the browser, these exceptions will be removed eventually as well.

Considering that Firefox 57 will be released in November 2017, it is important to look at the current state of add-on migration. Note: we did not list video downloaders.

Note: The availability as a WebExtension does not necessarily mean that you will get the same functionality or layout. Also note that a status of unknown does not mean that a WebExtension is not in the works. It simply means that I was not able to find information about it online.

firefox addons webextensions

Firefox Add-ons with the Most Users

Top-Rated Firefox Add-ons

Top Featured Firefox Add-ons

Stats

  • Working: 6
  • Being Worked On: 5
  • Unknown: 33
  • Won't be available: 6

Closing Words

We will revisit this page regularly to update the state of all listed browser add-ons for Firefox.

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Firefox 55: Geolocation requires secure origin http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/14/firefox-55-geolocation-requires-secure-origin/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/14/firefox-55-geolocation-requires-secure-origin/#comments Tue, 14 Mar 2017 04:55:56 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131206 Mozilla plans to make a change to Geolocation in Firefox 55 that would block requests automatically if they come from non-secure origins. Geolocation, broken down to its core, refers to technologies that allow sites and applications to determine a user's position in the world. This can be useful when mapping services are used among other […]

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Mozilla plans to make a change to Geolocation in Firefox 55 that would block requests automatically if they come from non-secure origins.

Geolocation, broken down to its core, refers to technologies that allow sites and applications to determine a user's position in the world.

This can be useful when mapping services are used among other things (show me where I'm, auto-filling of the current location). Many sites, not only mapping services but also shopping sites, or multi-lingual sites, use Geolocation for functionality.

It is fairly common for instance that users are redirected automatically to a local version of the site if it exists.

Firefox 55: Geolocation requires secure origin

firefox 55 geolocation insecure fail

Mozilla plans to make the change in Firefox 55. The implementation is on the heels of the Chromium team which added the requirement to Chromium 50. Firefox 55 is scheduled for an August 2017 release.

Basically, what this means for Firefox users is that Geolocation requests won't work anymore if a site or application does not use HTTPS.

To be precise, Geolocation will also work in the context of encrypted WebSocket connections (wss://), and requests from local resources such as localhost.

Mozilla notes that services that use non-secure origins for Geolocation requests will break when the change happens. Telemetry data that has been analyzed five months ago suggests that this will affect about 0.188% of page loads in the browser.

Just looking at non-secure origin Geolocation requests, Telemetry data suggested that 57% of getCurrentPosition() requests and 2.48% of watchPosition() requests use non-secure origins.

The figure will go down further in the future as more and more sites start the migration to HTTPS.

If you run Firefox Nightly currently, which is at version 55 at the time of writing, you will notice that non-secure Geolocation requests still work.

The feature is hidden behind a preference right now which you need to set to false to test right away:

  1. Type about:config in the browser's address bar and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful.
  3. Search for geo.security.allowinsecure.
  4. Double-click on the preference to toggle it.

Once you have set the preference to false, any Geolocation request from an insecure origin will fail.

Now You: do you use sites that make use of Geolocation? (via Sören)

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Firefox, Chrome, IE, Safari memory performance in 2017 http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/11/firefox-chrome-ie-safari-memory-performance-in-2017/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/11/firefox-chrome-ie-safari-memory-performance-in-2017/#comments Sat, 11 Mar 2017 13:13:29 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131085 Mozilla Firefox with its multi-process architecture enabled is still the web browser with the best memory performance according to Mozilla. Our own memory benchmarks saw Firefox lead the pack in 2012 and 2014 when we compared the browser's memory usage against Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer on Windows. Mozilla did run tests of its own […]

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Mozilla Firefox with its multi-process architecture enabled is still the web browser with the best memory performance according to Mozilla.

Our own memory benchmarks saw Firefox lead the pack in 2012 and 2014 when we compared the browser's memory usage against Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer on Windows.

Mozilla did run tests of its own last year, and ran them again this year with multi-process versions of the browser.

Multi-process architecture separates the browser from content processes in Firefox. Mozilla estimated last year that Firefox would use about 20% more memory with a single content process added, and more if more processes were used by the browser.

The new test conducted by Mozilla takes different content process configurations into account. More precisely, Mozilla ran the same test that it did last year with 2, 4 and 8 content processes.

Mozilla's loaded 30 web pages of the Alexa top 100 in their own tabs, with 10 seconds in between loads, and looked at the memory usage of the browser in the end.

Firefox, Chrome, IE, Safari memory performance in 2017

firefox chrome ie safari memory performance 2017

The result, as you can see on the graph above is that Firefox is very memory efficient. This is particularly the case on Windows and Linux, where the memory use difference is significant.

Firefox uses more memory if more content processes are added, but the difference between 2 and 8 content processes is not as problematic as Mozilla assumed last year.

On Windows 10, memory performance increased by about 300 Megabyte from 587 MB to 905 MB with eight content processes enabled. On Linux, memory usage rose by just 125 Megabyte under the same eight content processes.

The difference is not as spectacular on Mac devices. Firefox with two and four content processes uses less memory than Chrome, but the difference is just 150 Megabyte at the most. The eight content process version used even more memory than Chrome on the operating system.

Chrome used 1478 MB on Linux, 1382 MB on Windows, and 1365 MB on Mac OS X.

Mozilla's plan is to increase the number of content processes to four in the near future. This would make Firefox use less memory than Chrome on all platforms. On two, Windows and Linux, it would use considerably less than Chrome.

It needs to be noted that Google Chrome uses one content process per tab by default. Firefox's memory usage would increase more if Mozilla would enable this as well.

Tip: you can tame Chrome's memory usage by enabling processes per site, and not tab. This works for other Chromium-based browsers as well including Vivaldi and Opera. If you use Firefox, check out our guide on optimizing Firefox's memory use.

Closing Words

You can run the tests by yourself, as the tools that Mozilla used to run the benchmarks are openly available. It appears at least, that Firefox is still the most memory friendly user in 2017, and that the switch to the multi-process architecture has not changed that. While memory use increased, it is still better than Chrome, IE or Safari even with multiple content processes enabled.

Now You: Do you care about your browser's memory use?

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Firefox: Legacy add-on, or WebExtension? How to find out http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/09/firefox-legacy-add-on-or-webextension-how-to-find-out/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/09/firefox-legacy-add-on-or-webextension-how-to-find-out/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 14:46:52 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131045 So, by now you have probably heard that a major change is coming this year to the Firefox add-on ecosystem. In a nutshell, Mozilla will scrap all legacy add-ons and move the add-on system exclusively to WebExtensions. The net effect is that legacy add-ons won't work anymore when the change comes -- it is planed […]

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So, by now you have probably heard that a major change is coming this year to the Firefox add-on ecosystem.

In a nutshell, Mozilla will scrap all legacy add-ons and move the add-on system exclusively to WebExtensions.

The net effect is that legacy add-ons won't work anymore when the change comes -- it is planed for Firefox 57 which Mozilla plans to release in November 2017. Firefox 52.x ESR will support legacy add-ons until at least the next release cycle, so at least until early 2018.

One of the core issues with the move is that WebExtensions are still being worked on as we speak. Mozilla releases APIs regularly, last time in Firefox 52 Stable for instance, but some are not complete yet or even started.

For users, it means that any add-on that is not a WebExtension will stop working when Firefox 57 is installed on a device. For developers, it means that they have to turn their add-ons into a WebExtension if they want to continue its development and make it available on Mozilla AMO. That is, if all the APIs are available for that.

As a user, you are probably wondering whether the add-ons that you have installed in the browser are legacy add-ons, or WebExtensions.

There is no simple way of finding out unfortunately. The built-in add-on manager does not reveal whether the installed add-on is a legacy add-on or a WebExtension.

Legacy add-on, or WebExtension

firefox addon permissions

There is a way to find out however, and it is offered on the Mozilla website. The method is not super comfortable unfortunately, as you have to check each add-on individually.

This may not be a huge issue if you run one or two, but if you run dozens or more, you will spend some time checking add-ons.

Here is what you need to do

  1. Visit the Mozilla AMO website and find an add-on that you want to check. Use the search, browse, or maybe use the bookmarks if you saved all your add-ons.
  2. Locate the permissions link once you are on the add-on's page, e.g. the Classic Theme Restorer page. It is listed next to the download button right now.
  3. This opens an overlay screen on the page that provides you with information on the add-on, including whether it is a legacy add-on or not.

firefox addons legacy webextension

A prompt that states the following is a legacy add-on. This means that it won't be usable once Mozilla makes the switch:

Please note this add-on uses legacy technology, which gives it access to all browser functions and data without requesting your permission.

Note: This permissions link has been placed there in preparation for the add-on permissions system that Mozilla will introduce in Firefox.

This does not necessarily mean that the developer of the add-on won't release a WebExtension version of it.

So, you may want to check back in a couple of months, or before you run the update to Firefox 57, to find out a WebExtension version is available at that point in time.

You may also dig deeper, for instance by following development of add-ons more closely. Many developers have homepages, GitHub project pages, or are active in forums or on Mozilla's add-ons site.

You can find out about the plans there, or ask questions to find out whether the developer plans to migrate the add-on to a WebExtension.

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The death of Classic Theme Restorer for Firefox http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/08/the-death-of-classic-theme-restorer-for-firefox/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/08/the-death-of-classic-theme-restorer-for-firefox/#comments Wed, 08 Mar 2017 14:14:30 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=131019 The Classic Theme Restorer add-on for Firefox will stop working when Mozilla releases Firefox 57.0 Stable, and Firefox 59.0 ESR. Classic Theme Restorer was developed as a direct response to Mozilla refreshing Firefox with the Australis theme release in Firefox 29. The add-on allows Firefox users to restore many theme features that Mozilla removed and […]

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The Classic Theme Restorer add-on for Firefox will stop working when Mozilla releases Firefox 57.0 Stable, and Firefox 59.0 ESR.

Classic Theme Restorer was developed as a direct response to Mozilla refreshing Firefox with the Australis theme release in Firefox 29.

The add-on allows Firefox users to restore many theme features that Mozilla removed and changed with the Australis launch, or introduced with it.

The extension grew quickly, and features an immense set of features and tweaks nowadays that give you control over many features of the browser. Check out 10 reasons for Classic Theme Restorer to find out more about the add-on's functionality.

The death of Classic Theme Restorer for Firefox

classic theme restorer dead

Back in November 2016, we suggested that Classic Theme Restorer might be dead once Mozilla makes the full switch to WebExtensions exclusively in Firefox.

We based this on posts by Aris, the developer of the add-on who stated that the extension will be dead by the end of 2017. Reasons given at that time were that Mozilla had not come up with WebExtension APIs that would allow the add-on to be ported, and then continued as a WebExtension.

If you check out the official add-on page of Classic Theme Restorer on Mozilla's AMO site today, you will notice the following paragraph at the top:

This add-on will stop working when Firefox 57 arrives in November 2017 and Mozilla drops support for XUL / XPCOM / legacy add-ons. It should still work on Firefox 52 ESR until ESR moves to Firefox 59 ESR in 2018 (~Q2).

There is no "please port it" or "please add support for it" this time, because the entire add-on eco system changes and the technology behind this kind of add-on gets dropped without replacement.

Aris posted a request on Bugzilla to get Mozilla to introduce APIs that would allow him to port the add-on, but Mozilla marked the request as Wontfix. This means basically, that Mozilla won't create the APIs required to port Classic Theme Restorer, and many of the other add-ons that require this kind of access.

While the new theme API may introduce some features, it is too limited to create a viable WebExtension version of Classic Theme Restorer.

Classic Theme Restorer, at the time of writing, is one of the highest rated add-ons on AMO. It has a five star rating based on 1176 user reviews, and more than 413,000 users at the time of writing.

413,000 users may not be much when compared to Firefox's total population. Most of these users have -- likely -- used Firefox for years, even before the Australis days.

There is not much Firefox users can do about it if they rely on add-ons that cannot or won't be ported to WebExtensions. Sticking with the last working build may work for a time, but it means that security issues will pile up, and that support for new web technologies won't find its way into the browser either.

Switching to third-party ports may be an option, but it remains to be seen how many of those will survive the year 2017. The developer of Cyberfox stated recently for instance that the browser will reach end of life with the release of Firefox 52.x ESR.

Pale Moon will survive, but that is the only web browser based on Firefox that we know of that will do so.

Now You: If you are affected by the change, what's your plan moving forward?

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Firefox 52.0 released: find out what is new http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/07/firefox-52-0-released-find-out-what-is-new/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/07/firefox-52-0-released-find-out-what-is-new/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 09:33:41 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130984 Mozilla Firefox 52.0 Stable was released on March 7, 2017 to the public through the web browser's automatic update functionality, and on Mozilla's website. Note: Firefox 52.0 is being rolled out on March 7, 2017. The release is already on Mozilla's FTP server, but may not be yet available through automatic updating. All Firefox users […]

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Mozilla Firefox 52.0 Stable was released on March 7, 2017 to the public through the web browser's automatic update functionality, and on Mozilla's website.

Note: Firefox 52.0 is being rolled out on March 7, 2017. The release is already on Mozilla's FTP server, but may not be yet available through automatic updating. All Firefox users and interested Internet users will have access to the release at the end of the day.

The new version of Firefox is a major release for several reasons. First, it is the first release that does away with NPAPI plugin support. Second, it marks the beginning of a new Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) cycle.

Mozilla updates all Firefox channels on the same day when a new major stable version is released. This means that Firefox Beta is updated to Beta 53.0, Firefox Aurora to Aurora 54.0, and Firefox Nightly to Nightly 55.0. Additionally, Firefox ESR 52.0 is available (and so is Firefox ESR 45.8).

Executive Summary

  1. Firefox 52.0 is the new stable version of the web browser.
  2. The new version does not support NPAPI plugins anymore, apart from Adobe Flash. So, no Silverlight, Java, Google Hangouts and other plugin support anymore.
  3. Firefox ESR 52.0 is the new Extended Support Release version. You may enable NPAPI plugin support in it.
  4. Windows XP and Vista users are automatically migrated to Firefox 52.0 ESR during update. Firefox 53.0 won't run on XP or Vista machines anymore.

Firefox 52.0 download and update

firefox 52.0

Mozilla Firefox 52.0 is available on Mozilla's public FTP server. The update will be made available today through the browser's automatic update feature, and also on the Mozilla website.

You can run manual check for updates in the following way in Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox if it is not open already.
  2. Tap on the Alt-key on your computer keybard, and select Help > About Firefox.

This displays the current version and channel of the browser. An update check is performed in the background, and new versions that are found during the check are either downloaded and installed automatically, or on user request.

The latest Firefox versions can be downloaded by following the links below as well:

Firefox 52.0 Changes

Non-Secure warnings for HTTP login pages

firefox 52.0 warning insecure login

Firefox warns you with a security prompt when a page with a login form uses HTTP.  The browser displays a small notification underneath the login prompt when you activate it if HTTP is used on the page to submit the data.

Also, autofill disabled on these pages.

It reads: Logins entered here could be compromised. Learn more.

Strict Secure Cookies specification implemented

The Strict Secure Cookies specification has been implemented. It prevents insecure (read HTTP) sites from setting cookies with the secure flag. It prevents HTTP sites from overwriting cookies set by HTTPS sites with the secure flag.

You find the draft here.

Firefox 52.0 ESR

Firefox 52.0 ESR marks the beginning of a new extended support release cycle. This release is important for a number of reasons:

  1. It is the only version of Firefox going forward that supports NPAPI plugins other than Adobe Flash. To enable support for other plugins, set plugin.load_flash_only to false on about:config.
  2. It is the last version of Firefox going forward that supports Windows XP and Windows Vista. While Firefox 52.0 will install fine on machines running those operating systems, Firefox 53.0 will fail to run.
  3. You may still disable the signature enforcement for add-on installations. Set xpinstall.signatures.required to false for that.
  4. Service Workers, Push Notifications, and WebAssembly not enabled by default. To enable, set dom.serviceWorkers.enabled, dom.serviceWorkers.openWindow.enabled, dom.push.enabled and javascript.options.wasm to true.

Other Firefox 52.0 changes

  • Added support for WebAssembly.
  • Added automatic captive portal detection which should improve access to WiFi hotspots. "When accessing the Internet via a captive portal, Firefox will alert users and open the portal login page in a new tab".
  • Adobe Primetime CDM is removed.
  • A warning is displayed when when SHA-1 certificates are encountered that chain up a root certificate. Users may still override the warning.
  • Improved text input for third-party keyboards on Windows. According to Mozilla, this fixes several keyboard issues such as chained dead keys and dead key sequences.
  • Multi-process Firefox is now available on Windows systems with touch screens.
  • Option to expose only whitelisted fonts to websites and services.
  • Removed support for the Battery Status API for privacy.
  • Sync enables Firefox users to send and open tabs from one device to another.
  • When Direct2D is not used on Windows, Skia is used instead for content rendering.

Developer Changes

  • The Responsive Design Mode of the Developer Tools has been revamped completely.
  • CSS Grids highlighter in the Page Inspector module.
  • New CSS features implemented. See developer notes linked at the bottom for details.
  • New JavaScript features: async functions, trailing commas in functions, rest parameter destructuring, and more.
  • Page Inspector: easier element highlighting, and display of whitespace-only text nodes.
  • Referrer-Policy supports same-origin, strict-origin, and strict-origin-when-cross-origin directives.
  • Rel="noopener" link type has been implemented.
  • Selection API shipped.
  • Service Worker State shown on about:debugging now.
  • Several Firefox OS APIs removed.
  • WebExtensions APIs: sessions, topSites, omnibox shipped.

Firefox 52.0 for Android

Many features that landed in Firefox on the desktop landed in Firefox for Android as well. The following changes are Android specific.

  • The apk file size of the Firefox browser has been reduced by more than 5 Megabyte. This should improve download speed and installation time.
  • Media controls are displayed in the Android notification area to pause and resume media playback.

Security updates / fixes

Mozilla reveals security updates after the final release. We will update the listing with information once Mozilla publishes it.

  • CVE-2017-5400: asm.js JIT-spray bypass of ASLR and DEP
  • CVE-2017-5401: Memory Corruption when handling ErrorResult
  • CVE-2017-5402: Use-after-free working with events in FontFace objects
  • CVE-2017-5403: Use-after-free using addRange to add range to an incorrect root object
  • CVE-2017-5404: Use-after-free working with ranges in selections
  • CVE-2017-5406: Segmentation fault in Skia with canvas operations
  • CVE-2017-5407: Pixel and history stealing via floating-point timing side channel with SVG filters
  • CVE-2017-5410: Memory corruption during JavaScript garbage collection incremental sweeping
  • CVE-2017-5411: Use-after-free in Buffer Storage in libGLES
  • CVE-2017-5409: File deletion via callback parameter in Mozilla Windows Updater and Maintenance Service
  • CVE-2017-5408: Cross-origin reading of video captions in violation of CORS
  • CVE-2017-5412: Buffer overflow read in SVG filters
  • CVE-2017-5413: Segmentation fault during bidirectional operations
  • CVE-2017-5414: File picker can choose incorrect default directory
  • CVE-2017-5415: Addressbar spoofing through blob URL
  • CVE-2017-5416: Null dereference crash in HttpChannel
  • CVE-2017-5417: Addressbar spoofing by draging and dropping URLs
  • CVE-2017-5425: Overly permissive Gecko Media Plugin sandbox regular expression access
  • CVE-2017-5426: Gecko Media Plugin sandbox is not started if seccomp-bpf filter is running
  • CVE-2017-5427: Non-existent chrome.manifest file loaded during startup
  • CVE-2017-5418: Out of bounds read when parsing HTTP digest authorization responses
  • CVE-2017-5419: Repeated authentication prompts lead to DOS attack
  • CVE-2017-5420: Javascript: URLs can obfuscate addressbar location
  • CVE-2017-5405: FTP response codes can cause use of uninitialized values for ports
  • CVE-2017-5421: Print preview spoofing
  • CVE-2017-5422: DOS attack by using view-source: protocol repeatedly in one hyperlink
  • CVE-2017-5399: Memory safety bugs fixed in Firefox 52
  • CVE-2017-5398: Memory safety bugs fixed in Firefox 52 and Firefox ESR 45.8

Firefox ESR 45.8 security fixes are here.

Firefox 52.0.1

Firefox 52.0.1 was released on March 17th, 2017 to the release channel. It includes a security fix that was reported to Mozilla through the Pwn2Own contest.

Firefox 52.0.2

Firefox 52.0.2 was released on March 28, 2017. The new release fixes four issues, including a crash on startup issue on Linux, a loading tab icons on session restore issue, and another issue where new installs would not prompt users to change the default web browser on the system.

Additional information / sources

Now Read: The state of Mozilla Firefox

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Mozilla updating Firefox preferences http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/07/mozilla-updating-firefox-preferences/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/07/mozilla-updating-firefox-preferences/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 06:16:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130973 Mozilla is working on an updated version of the preferences in the Firefox web browser to remove inconsistencies and improve the user experience. The Firefox preferences page allows users to modify various important browser settings such as the homepage, update behavior, or search engines. The page has not changed all that much in the last […]

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Mozilla is working on an updated version of the preferences in the Firefox web browser to remove inconsistencies and improve the user experience.

The Firefox preferences page allows users to modify various important browser settings such as the homepage, update behavior, or search engines.

The page has not changed all that much in the last couple of years. In fact, the last two changes date back years. Mozilla did remove some options including the ability to turn off JavaScript from the preferences back in 2013, and moved the preferences page from its own window to a browser tab in 2014.

Mozilla updating Firefox preferences

The 2017 update to the preferences page of Firefox will change things around fundamentally, but won't remove any options from the preferences (not that I'm aware of).

Note: The development is still in progress. Things may change along the way, Mozilla may move preferences around, create a new category, or make other changes that are not reflected here right now. We will update the article once we become aware of these changes if they happen. If you notice them first, let us know and we update the article asap.

The design goals are simple: remove inconsistencies, and improve categories for better navigation. Mozilla did ran some tests and results indicate that the "average success score" improved by 30% over the current implementation.

Average success core in this context means whether users managed to complete tasks in the settings successfully, or not.

The current implementation of the preferences in the Firefox browser uses the eight tabs general, search, content, application, security, privacy, sync and advanced. Advanced is further divided into the tabs data choices, network, update and certificates.

The new design will reduce the number of tabs to the following five: general, downloads & links, privacy & security, Firefox account, and updates.

No sub-tabs are used either. This means that some categories, general and privacy & security in particular, will be bigger than before.

Take a look at the following mockups which highlight the new layout of the preferences:

update privacy Security firefox Account download link general

Note that Firefox Account looks like a new category, but it is just Sync renamed.

As far as inconsistencies are concerned; Mozilla plans to remove those as well. To name some: learn more links are placed on the right or next to a preference, search may be next to an item, or on top of it, and options or description fonts may be bold or normal weight.

The new preferences make the preferences more compact, as all are listed on five tabs instead of eight (plus four sub-tabs).

Mozilla plans to integrate a search option on the preferences page that enables you to find preferences quickly using it. A demo video has been published on YouTube that shows how that search works on Firefox Nightly.

Closing Words

I prefer less tabs over more tabs when it comes to preferences. Others may prefer it the other way around, especially if the new system requires scrolling to get to certain options.

Now You: What's your take on the new preferences in Firefox?

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Firefox’s new WebExtensions permission system http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/06/firefoxs-new-webextensions-permission-system/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/06/firefoxs-new-webextensions-permission-system/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:05:05 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130955 Mozilla plans to turn on a permissions system for the installation of WebExtensions in the Firefox web browser that is similar to that of Google Chrome. Whenever you install an extension in Google Chrome, all of the extra permissions that the extension requests are listed in the installation prompt. The idea is to provide users […]

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Mozilla plans to turn on a permissions system for the installation of WebExtensions in the Firefox web browser that is similar to that of Google Chrome.

Whenever you install an extension in Google Chrome, all of the extra permissions that the extension requests are listed in the installation prompt.

The idea is to provide users with information on these extra permissions, so that abusive extensions can be avoided.

The main issue with the permissions system is that most users are probably ignoring the permissions prompt. One reason for that is that it is often difficult to find out whether a permission is really needed for functionality, or if it is simply there for marketing or outright malicious purposes.

Firefox's new WebExtensions permission system

firefox installation permissions

Mozilla plans to launch similar installation permissions in Firefox 54 at the earliest, but most likely in Firefox 55.

Firefox will display the extra permissions an extension requires during installation. The current iteration lists all permissions, but no additional information about them in the interface.

The permissions come from the manifest.json file of the extension. If you open it in a plain text editor, or a special json viewer (for instance the json viewer of Firefox), you find them listed under the permissions section. This is true for Chrome and Firefox WebExtensions. Please note that you need to extract the extensions file first to get a listing of files included.

firefox webextensions permissions

Google published a page that lists all optional Chrome permissions that extensions may declare, and Mozilla published one as well. The permissions are not identical at this point in time, and it seems unlikely that they will ever be identical. Mozilla plans to support more APIs, and with that may come extra permissions that only Firefox supports.

The installation prompt listing the permissions the extension requires is triggered whenever a WebExtension is installed in Firefox. This includes installations from Mozilla AMO and third-party websites, extensions that get side-loaded, and during upgrades.

Firefox users who are interested in the feature can enable it right now. Please note that this landed in Firefox 53 Nightly, and that the permission does not exist by default (yet).

If you run at least Firefox 53, you may do the following to enable the permission prompts when installing WebExtensions in the Firefox web browser:

  1. Load about:config in the Firefox address bar and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if the warning page opens.
  3. Right-click in the main area on about:config, and select New > Boolean.
  4. Name that Boolean extensions.webextPermissionPrompts.
  5. Set it to true.

Any WebExtension installation afterwards triggers the installation prompt that highlights the requested permissions.

The main tracking bug for the feature is 1308292. Additional information is provided on Mozilla's Wiki website.

While we are at it: check out Firefox's permissions manager, and the new permissions system that Mozilla plans to launch.

Now You: Do you find the installation prompts useful?

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NoScript 5.0 add-on for Firefox released http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/06/noscript-5-0-add-on-for-firefox-released/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/06/noscript-5-0-add-on-for-firefox-released/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 12:25:11 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130949 NoScript 5.0, a popular script blocker (and more) for Firefox has just been released to the public after two release candidate build releases. NoScript is the main reason why I'm still using Firefox as my main web browser, and not another browser. The browser add-on is a script blocker first and foremost. It blocks any […]

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NoScript 5.0, a popular script blocker (and more) for Firefox has just been released to the public after two release candidate build releases.

NoScript is the main reason why I'm still using Firefox as my main web browser, and not another browser.

The browser add-on is a script blocker first and foremost. It blocks any script from running on sites you visit, unless you whitelist them.

The approach makes it one of the best add-ons from a security point of view, but means that you will have to adjust website permissions regularly as sites may fail to load completely or partially due to scripts not being loaded when the site is opened in the Firefox web browser.

NoScript supports more than just script blocking though. We talked about many of those features in our NoScript beginner's guide, how to use NoScript efficiently, top six NoScript features and our NoScript guide for instance. Other tutorials of interest include explanation of script surrogates, a tutorial on adding custom site exclusions to NoScript, or checking the whitelisted sites listing.

NoScript 5.0 for Firefox

noscript 5.0

NoScript 5.0 is the extension's first step to becoming a WebExtension. Version 5.0 has been released as an embedded WebExtension.

Embedded WebExtensions allow developers to embed WebExtensions in classic Firefox add-ons. Embedded WebExtensions are designed first and foremost to aid developers in migrating legacy add-ons to WebExtensions.

Mozilla plans to end support for all legacy add-ons for Firefox with the release of Firefox 58. The browser is scheduled for a November 2017 release. Any add-on that is not ported to WebExtensions will stop working at that point.

You can find out more about embedded WebExtensions on the Mozilla Developer site.

The new NoScript 5.0 release marks an important step for the future of the add-on. While there is still work to be done to turn NoScript into a full WebExtension, the first step is completed.

The biggest change from a user perspective in NoScript 5.0 are user interface synchronization performance improvements especially on load-intensive web pages. So, performance should be a lot better on heavy pages if you are using NoScript.

NoScript 5.0 for Firefox features two additional changes besides that. The first is a fix for multi-process Firefox if more than one content process is used. This is currently only the case if you have changed the number of content processes manually in Firefox Stable. Mozilla plans to increase the number of content processes in the future though.

The second change is a new replacement for the Google Analytics script.

Firefox users can download the latest version of NoScript from Mozilla. The browser should pick up the 5.0 update automatically unless you have modified the configuration and blocked automatic update checks.

Closing Words

It remains to be seen how well the transition to WebExtensions will be. Mozilla is working with the NoScript developer on this which means that API support should not be an issue in this case.

Now You: Do you use NoScript?

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Mozilla launches Firefox Containers TestPilot experiment http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/05/mozilla-launches-firefox-containers-testpilot-experiment/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/05/mozilla-launches-firefox-containers-testpilot-experiment/#comments Sun, 05 Mar 2017 08:07:31 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130931 Mozilla launched a new TestPilot project for the Firefox web browser yesterday that brings Containers to all versions of the web browser. We talked about the web browser's Containers functionality before in our first look of the feature back in mid 2016. Containers look a lot like Firefox profiles on first glance, but they are […]

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Mozilla launched a new TestPilot project for the Firefox web browser yesterday that brings Containers to all versions of the web browser.

We talked about the web browser's Containers functionality before in our first look of the feature back in mid 2016. Containers look a lot like Firefox profiles on first glance, but they are different in several characteristics.

One of the main differences is that containers run under the same profile. While they do separate certain kinds of data when used, other data is not separated like it is the case if you are using profiles in the Firefox web browser.

Basically, many of the bits of data that get transferred or created when you connect to websites are separated, while features such as extensions, bookmarks, or browser preferences are not.

This makes Containers less powerful than profiles, but still useful for certain use cases. You can use the to sign in to the same web service multiple times, separate browsing activities by using different containers for activities like shopping, social media, research, or entertainment.

The latter can be quite useful to limit tracking or ad retargeting among other things. You can sign in to Gmail for instance, and use Google Search in another container to avoid that the account is linked to the searches.

Firefox Containers TestPilot experiment

firefox testpilot containers

The newly launched Containers experiment of the TestPilot project brings the feature to all versions of Firefox. You do need to install the TestPilot extension first, and then the Containers experiment to make use of the feature.

If you move the mouse cursor over the plus icon in the tab bar, you will notice the new container options that you can launch from there in new tabs. Simply move the mouse over the plus, and select one of the available containers that you want to launch.

firefox containers

You find the color of the container under the tab as an indicator that the tab has been opened in a particular container. All containers use icons and colors to help you distinguish between them.

Since containers separate most site data, you will notice that you are not signed in to any account because of that for instance.

The functionality of the experiment is somewhat limited right now. You can edit the four default containers -- personal, work, finance and shopping -- and create your own custom containers as well.

A click on the container icon in the main Firefox toolbar lists all containers. You can click on any to open a tab in the selected container. The menu indicates as well if sites are currently opened in selected containers. A click on the arrow icon next to a container opens a list of all sites of that container.

firefox containers list

From there, you may move the tabs to a new window, or hide the container. Hiding hides all tabs of the selected container until you return to the menu later on to reveal the container again in the browser.

The order in which container tabs are displayed in Firefox may be change with a click on the sort button. This moves tabs of any container next to each other in the browser's tab bar.

Closing Words

Mozilla launched the Containers TestPilot experiment to gather data on usage. The data will certainly play a role when it comes to making a decision on the future of the feature. Will it land in Firefox?

I would like to see more functionality added to it prior to that, like the ability to restrict sites to containers, shortcuts to open them quickly, or control over a containers set of saved data.

Now You: What's your take on Containers in Firefox?

 

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BackTrack Tab History add-on for Firefox http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/01/backtrack-tab-history-add-on-for-firefox/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/03/01/backtrack-tab-history-add-on-for-firefox/#comments Wed, 01 Mar 2017 07:32:37 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130345 BackTrack Tab History is an add-on for the Firefox web browser that copies history from tabs when you open links in new tabs. All modern web browsers support tab-specific histories. What is meant by that is that they record a certain number of sites that were opened in a tab in the past. This provides […]

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BackTrack Tab History is an add-on for the Firefox web browser that copies history from tabs when you open links in new tabs.

All modern web browsers support tab-specific histories. What is meant by that is that they record a certain number of sites that were opened in a tab in the past.

This provides users with options to go back to a previously opened site using the back button, and also navigate ahead again using the forward button.

The history is not copied however when links are opened in a new tab. You can try it right away. Open any site in your browser of choice, and click on a couple of links. Once you have visited a few pages, middle-click on a link to open it in a new tab.

You will notice that back is not active; that's because the history is not retained across tabs.

Side note: Mozilla is working on something similar. Trails is a lossless web navigation experiment that may find its way into Firefox directly.

BackTrack Tab History

backtrack tab history

The Firefox add-on BackTrack Tab History changes that by copying the "back" entries so that they become available when you open links in new tabs.

This allows you to go back to the originating site using the back button. The history of the parent tab, and the history of child tab are accessible then when you right-click on the back button, and when you activate the button.

If you are a long-standing Firefox user, you may remember that the Firefox add-ons Tab History and Tab History Redux offered similar functionality. Tab History has last been updated in 2009 and is probably no longer compatible with recent versions of Firefox. Tab History Redux was pulled by its author, and is no longer available at all.

BackTrack Tab History has more to offer however than just copied history information from the parent tab.

backtrack tab history options

The Firefox add-on lists parent history information as a branching history. So, instead of getting things mixed up, you get a clear picture of the history without things becoming too complicated or messy. You can see how that looks like on the screenshot above.

The feature works when new tabs are created by default, but you may enable it for new windows as well. Open the add-on's settings to enable the option.

You may enable the "go back to other tab" option as well there. This activates the tab you came from when you select one of the history entries that originated from it.

Closing Words

BackTrack Tab History is a well designed add-on for the Firefox web browser that fills out the gap left by the abandonment of the two Tab History add-ons.

While Mozilla is working on a similar feature, it is currently just an experiment that may or may not be included in Firefox natively in the future.

You should give it a try if you want the Firefox web browser to retain history information from parent tabs.

Now You: How often do you use the browser's back or forward history functionality?

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SSLPersonas highlights a site’s security status in Firefox http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/28/sslpersonas-highlights-a-sites-security-status-in-firefox/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/28/sslpersonas-highlights-a-sites-security-status-in-firefox/#comments Tue, 28 Feb 2017 14:18:35 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130390 SSLPersonas is a free browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that highlights a site's security status in Firefox by changing colors of the theme. The Firefox web browser displays up to two indicators in its UI that reveal the security status of the connection. It displays a lock icon if the connection is secure, […]

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SSLPersonas is a free browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that highlights a site's security status in Firefox by changing colors of the theme.

The Firefox web browser displays up to two indicators in its UI that reveal the security status of the connection.

It displays a lock icon if the connection is secure, and reveals whether the certificate used by the site is using standard or extended validation.

Firefox users may click on the i-icon next to the lock to display additional information (the connection is secure), and look up certificate information with a couple of additional clicks.

SSLPersonas

firefox ssl personas addon

SSLPersonas is not the first extension for Firefox that improves the visuals of connections and security states in the web browser.

We reviewed the add-on Safe back in 2012 which changed the color of tabs in Firefox based on the state of the connection. Safe was removed by its author from the Firefox add-on repository however.

SSLPersonas uses Firefox's Personas lightweight theme functionality to indicate the state of a connection.

It supports five different colors right now that indicate the following states:

  • Extended Validation certificates are highlighted in green.
  • Standard Validation certificates are highlighted in blue.
  • Certificate warnings use a purple color.
  • Unencrypted connections use a white color.
  • Any window not using HTTP or HTTPS uses Firefox's default theme.

Green and blue indicate secure connections, while any other color an unencrypted connection that is not secure.

The only option provided right now by SSLPersonas is to change the theme for insecure connections from white to red. Insecure meaning all plain HTTP connections.

Closing Words

The visual element that SSLPersonas adds to Firefox may help inexperienced users when it comes to determining whether a connection is secure. It is not as easy to overlook as the smaller lock icon or that https is used as a the protocol in front of the URL.

Some users may not like the fact that it changes the theme of the browser. Since it does that, you cannot really use any other theme in Firefox while the add-on is active.

I think that Safe did a better job at finding the right balance between visualizing a connection's security and the impact that visualization has on the browser's look and feel.

SSLPersonas is a handy extension for Firefox nevertheless, especially for users who feel safer when the security status of connections in Firefox is better highlighted in the browser.

Now You: How would you go about highlighting connection security?

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Mozilla Corp acquires Pocket http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/28/mozilla-acquires-pocket/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/28/mozilla-acquires-pocket/#comments Tue, 28 Feb 2017 07:25:42 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130878 Mozilla Corporation announced the acquisition of Read it Later, Inc, the creators of the "save for later" service Pocket. Pocket will become a new product in Mozilla's product line alongside the Firefox web browser, and Pocket's core development team will join Mozilla as well. Mozilla's relationship with Pocket dates back some time. The makers of […]

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Mozilla Corporation announced the acquisition of Read it Later, Inc, the creators of the "save for later" service Pocket.

Pocket will become a new product in Mozilla's product line alongside the Firefox web browser, and Pocket's core development team will join Mozilla as well.

Mozilla's relationship with Pocket dates back some time. The makers of the Firefox web browser integrated Pocket natively in the browser some time ago. Mozilla was criticized for the move by part of the browser's user base. Some did not understand why Pocket needed to be integrated into Firefox as Pocket was available as a browser extension already.

Others did not like the integration because it would blow up the browser even more. Others questioned Mozilla's motive for the integration.

Pocket users liked the integration for the most part obviously. It is unclear up to today if the integration fueled the growth of Pocket, and by how much.

It was revealed however some time later that Mozilla did have a revenue share agreement with Pocket.

Pocket is now available as a system add-on in Firefox. System add-ons are distributed by Mozilla with the Firefox web browser. It is still possible to disable Pocket in Firefox though.

Mozilla's acquisition of Pocket

pocket mozilla

Mozilla's blog post published on the official Mozilla blog focuses on content discovery, and the Context Graph initiative.

Activity Stream is one of the products that came out of Context Graph. It is a redesign of the Firefox New Tab Page and about:home page that is scheduled to launch in Firefox 56.

According to Mozilla, Pocket's focus will be "promoting the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content".

It seems likely that Mozilla plans to use Pocket's technology to improve the content discovery features of the Firefox web browser.

One of the appeals of Pocket is that users have saved more than 3 billion pieces of content so far, a treasure trove for an organization who tries to introduce content discovery in the web browser. Pocket will join Mozilla's Open Source project.

The announcement by Nate Weiner, CEO of Pocket, confirms the deal. According to the post, Pocket benefits from the acquisition in several ways; from Mozilla's resources, global scale, and options to increase the number of Pocket users further.

What about Pocket Premium? The paid service was not mentioned by Mozilla nor Pocket, and it appears as if it will still be offered in the same way just like before.

Now You: What is your take on the deal?

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Mozilla reveals plan for themes in Firefox http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/25/mozilla-reveals-plan-for-themes-in-firefox/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/25/mozilla-reveals-plan-for-themes-in-firefox/#comments Sat, 25 Feb 2017 10:34:51 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130855 Last year, Mozilla announced major changes that it planned to implement that would change Firefox in several fundamental ways. The deprecation of Firefox's long-standing add-on system in favor of WebExtensions is probably the change that will have the largest impact on the Firefox browser and users. The main reason for this is that Mozilla plans […]

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Last year, Mozilla announced major changes that it planned to implement that would change Firefox in several fundamental ways.

The deprecation of Firefox's long-standing add-on system in favor of WebExtensions is probably the change that will have the largest impact on the Firefox browser and users.

The main reason for this is that Mozilla plans to remove support for classic add-ons in Firefox by the end of 2017. Any add-on that is not recreated using WebExtensions APIs won't work in Firefox anymore when the change hits the browser.

Legacy add-ons are on their way out, and this includes full or complete themes as well as any add-on created using development technologies other than WebExtensions.

Some developers announced already that they will quit developing add-ons for Firefox, others criticized Mozilla for making the cut early as some APIs are still in development, and others might never make the cut.

Firefox users will gain access to the majority of Chrome extensions in return however.

Mozilla's plan for themes in Firefox

firefox lightweight theme

In, Improving Themes in Firefox, Mozilla's Justin Dolske, reveals Mozilla's plan to go forward with themes in the Firefox web browser.

It should not come as a surprise that full themes are still on their way out. Mozilla's main idea is to improve lightweight themes so that theme creators have more options in regards to capabilities and changes that these themes can make to the Firefox interface.

This won't reach full theme levels, but it will be more powerful than the light changes that lightweight themes may make right now.

Dolske reiterates that complete themes have to go because of compatibility issues. He notes that only 60 complete themes are currently compatible with the current Firefox release, while the remaining 440 complete themes are not. Another point that he makes is that complete themes are not as popular as lightweight themes.

While compatibility or sheer numbers is certainly one reason for that, one should note that Mozilla put the focus on lightweight themes on AMO and when it talked about themes. This meant that lightweight themes got the bulk of exposure which in turn meant more installs by users.

Mozilla's plan is to extend the capabilities of lightweight themes in the browser. Mozilla plans to implement popular full theme capabilities so that they become available to lightweight theme designers.

At its core is a JSON manifest, mapping defined property names to the underlying UI elements. Theme developers will be able to control a variety of styles on these properties (such as colors, icons, and background images), and Firefox will ensure the manifests are supported in a stable and well-documented way across future releases and UI updates. These themes will be layered on top of the default Firefox appearance, so you can create a trivial theme that just changes one property, or a complex theme that changes all of them.

Mozilla set a number of goals besides that. It wants feature parity with google Chrome themes, make sure that lightweight themes don't regress startup and browser window opening times, and that themes may also manipulate Firefox about pages.

You can check out the engineering plan for the future of Firefox theming here.

Now You: What's your take on the development?

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Firefox Test Pilot: Snooze Tabs and Pulse experiments http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/23/firefox-test-pilot-snooze-tabs-and-pulse-experiments/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/23/firefox-test-pilot-snooze-tabs-and-pulse-experiments/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:07:36 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130730 Mozilla launched the two new Firefox Test Pilot experiments Snooze Tabs and Pulse recently for all recent versions of the Firefox web browser. Firefox Test Pilot is a relatively new system that Mozilla uses to gather information about ideas and features that may one day be integrated in the Firefox web browser. The main idea […]

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Mozilla launched the two new Firefox Test Pilot experiments Snooze Tabs and Pulse recently for all recent versions of the Firefox web browser.

Firefox Test Pilot is a relatively new system that Mozilla uses to gather information about ideas and features that may one day be integrated in the Firefox web browser.

The main idea behind each experiment is feedback and demand gathering. Firefox users may install any public experiment to try new features before they may land in Firefox.

Not all experiments may make it in the browser however. While those who liked the experiment may dislike that a particular feature is not added to Firefox, it is a better approach than pushing out new features without gathering user feedback at all.

Snooze Tabs

firefox snooze tabs

Snooze Tabs is the first of the new experiments. It enables you to put tabs to sleep so that it is removed from the Firefox tab bar until it is scheduled to come back.

The feature is really simply. Click on the snooze tabs icon when a tab is active that you want to hide for a time period.

This opens the scheduler which offers several preset time periods that include "later today", "tomorrow", and "next month". While you may pick one of the periods and be done with the configuration, you may also select to load the tab on the next browser start, or a custom period by selecting a date and time manually.

firefox snooze tabs confirmation

Snooze Tabs displays a confirmation prompt in the Firefox UI that you need to interact with before the tab is removed from the tab bar. You may also cancel the operation at this stage to keep it listed in the tab bar of the browser.

What if you want to restore a tab earlier? The manage snoozed tabs button provides you with that functionality. It opens a list of all tabs that are hidden currently, giving you options to restore them right away, or to send them to the trash instead.

If you click on a tab there it is opened again, but the snoozed tab remains as well. That's probably what the trash icon is for, as it will remove that site from the managed tabs again.

Snooze Tabs offers several interesting options. You may snooze articles that you encounter during a work day until the evening, may snooze a tab like the perfect anniversary gift until shortly before the anniversary, or simply get tabs out of the way that you don't work with all the time while Firefox is open.

Snoozed Tabs are restored automatically at the selected date and time. Firefox displays a notification about that, and indicates this as well by changing the icon of the tab for a short period of time.

Pulse

firefox pulse

Firefox Pulse gives users of the browser options to report how well -- or not -- a site works in the web browser.

Simply click on the Pulse icon -- you find it in the address bar, not next to the other extension icons in the main toolbar -- rate the experience on the site and hit submit. You may leave a comment, and pick one entry from the "this page is" menu which lets you report the page as fast or broken for instance.

firefox pulse survey

The core idea behind Pulse is to make Firefox better. Users may report broken sites, sites that don't display correctly in Firefox, or sites that are not fast,  and Mozilla may take the data to improve the user experience on these sites by making changes to Firefox.

Closing Words

Snooze Tabs and Pulse add useful features to the browser. While I like Snooze Tabs better, the main reason for that is that I barely encounter sites that work badly or not at all in Firefox. The option to report broken pages or services to Mozilla is great, as it may provide Mozilla with a list of sites that don't work well in Firefox that the organization might not be aware of at all otherwise.

It remains to be seen whether these two features will find their way into Firefox in this form or another.

Now You: What is your initial opinion on these two experiments?

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Firefox Fingerprinting using intermediate CA caching http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/22/firefox-fingerprinting-using-intermediate-ca-caching/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/22/firefox-fingerprinting-using-intermediate-ca-caching/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2017 04:47:44 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130704 New browser capabilities and features are designed to improve the user experience or compatibility with technologies. Sometimes, these features may also be used for shady activities such as user tracking. One of the latest of these activities can be used to fingerprint Firefox users using intermediate CA caching. To break it down into a single […]

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New browser capabilities and features are designed to improve the user experience or compatibility with technologies.

Sometimes, these features may also be used for shady activities such as user tracking.

One of the latest of these activities can be used to fingerprint Firefox users using intermediate CA caching.

To break it down into a single paragraph: Firefox caches intermediate CAs to speed up the loading of sites. These cache entries can be retrieved by sites, and it may also reveal information about the connecting user. Lastly, sites may use the caching to have Firefox users visit a unique set of intermediate CAs for tracking purposes.

Firefox Fingerprinting using intermediate CA caching

firefox intermediate ca caching fingerprinting

Alexander Klink, who notified Mozilla about the issue, created a proof of concept site that tests the browser's intermediate CA cache against 326 different intermediate CAs.

You can run the test by visiting this site. Basically, what it does is try to load images from servers that are misconfigured. If the image loads, Firefox cached the intermediate CA. If it does not load, no caching occurred.

The technique lists the intermedia CAs the user visited in the past. While the information is not linked to a specific site all the time, there are situations where this is the case.

Klink notes for instance that a cached Deutsche Bundestag CA (German Parliament CA) indicates strongly that the user is probably located in Germany, or at least in a German speaking country, and interested or involved in politics.

While the information that an attacker may gather from checking intermediate CA caching is limited, it may be used in conjunction with other fingerprinting techniques.

Also, as mentioned earlier, it may be possible to plant a set of cached intermediate CAs in the Firefox cache for identification purposes. Firefox uses the same cache for regular and private browsing sessions.

Mozilla is aware of the issue but has not made a decision yet as to what to do about it. The organization plans to gather telemetry data on intermediate CA caching, especially how often it is useful to users.

Our Firefox privacy and security preferences listing offers a way out, but it may impact your browsing experience. Check out entry 1220 on the page. Basically, what you need to do is create the Boolean preference security.nocertdb and set it to true.

security nocertdb

  1. Type about:config in the Firefox address bar and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if a warning prompt appears.
  3. Right-click in the main area, and select New > Boolean.
  4. Name the Boolean security.nocertdb.
  5. Set it to true.

Note that you need to restart the Firefox web browser after adding the preference. You will notice that the test will no longer identify the majority of intermediate CAs. The count dropped from more than 50 to 2 after I made the change on a test system.

You can undo the change at any time by setting the preference to false (double-click it), or by right-clicking on the preference and selecting reset.

Additional details are provided by Alexander Klink at the Shift or Die blog.

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Firefox Add-ons Roadmap for 2017 http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/17/firefox-add-ons-roadmap-for-2017/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/17/firefox-add-ons-roadmap-for-2017/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 04:36:51 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130535 The year 2017 is an important one for Mozilla and Firefox. Multi-process will be enabled for all users of the web browser, sandboxing is introduced, the first bits of Project Quantum are integrated into the web browser, and the add-on system will be switched exclusively to WebExtensions. Mozilla revealed an updated add-ons roadmap yesterday that […]

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The year 2017 is an important one for Mozilla and Firefox. Multi-process will be enabled for all users of the web browser, sandboxing is introduced, the first bits of Project Quantum are integrated into the web browser, and the add-on system will be switched exclusively to WebExtensions.

Mozilla revealed an updated add-ons roadmap yesterday that highlights major milestones on the way to making Firefox WebExtensions exclusive.

We talked about Mozilla's plans for Firefox in this regard before. WebExtensions is a set of APIs that developers can utilize to create add-ons for browsers. Firefox is not the only browser to use WebExtensions, as others, Chrome, Opera and Edge, use the system as well.

That's good for cross-browser development, better for Mozilla's add-ons review process, better for add-on compatibility with future Firefox versions, and probably also better for browser stability.

Firefox Add-ons Roadmap for 2017

firefox addons 2017

WebExtensions is a good addition to Firefox, and most Firefox users who criticize Mozilla are not doing it because of the integration, but because of Mozilla's plans for the browser's legacy add-on systems.

Mozilla plans to cut all ties to those add-on systems. This means that legacy add-ons won't run in Firefox anymore when the plug is pulled.

Legacy add-ons, as defined by Mozilla, are all extensions that are not WebExtensions. This includes anything with XUL, bootstrapped extensions, SDK extensions, embedded WebExtensions, and complete themes.

Language packs, dictionary files, OpenSearch providers, lightweight themes, and add-ons that are exclusively available for Thunderbird or SeaMonkey are not considered legacy by Mozilla.

Any legacy add-on that is not ported by its author to WebExtensions -- if that is possible -- will no longer work in Firefox 57.

A big issue that developers face right now is that WebExtensions is a work in progress. Not all APIs are available yet, and some APIs that are required for certain legacy add-on features may never make it into Firefox.

This has caused some developers to quit development, or paint a grim picture in regards to the future of their add-ons.

The Roadmap

See Firefox release schedule for release dates.

Firefox 53: April 18, 2017

  • New legacy add-ons won't be accepted anymore on AMO (addons.mozilla.org). Updates to existing add-ons are still accepted.
  • Add-ons may only load binaries if they use the Native Messaging API.
  • Multi-process is on by default for all users. Only exception for systems with add-ons that state explicitly that they are not compatible with multi-process.

Firefox 54 to 56: June 13, 2017 to October 3, 2017

  • Mozilla launches multiple content process for E10s in Firefox 55 and security sandboxing in Firefox 54. This may impact some legacy add-ons.

Firefox 57: November 28, 2017

  • Legacy add-ons are no longer supported. Firefox won't load legacy add-ons anymore. Firefox 57 is WebExtensions exclusive-
  • Multi-process compatibility shims are removed from Firefox.
  • Legacy add-ons remain on AMO for the time being. Mozilla has yet to announce a deadline for end of support for these listings (the listings may still be updated for instance)

Closing Words

It is too early to conclude how the move will affect Firefox's add-ons ecosystem. Some developers announced that they won't migrate to WebExtensions already, and the same is certainly true for add-ons that are no longer in development but still working right now.

Some of these may be ported by other authors, and there will certainly be an increase of Chrome extension ports to Firefox. Also, most Chrome extensions will work in Firefox eventually when Firefox reaches parity with Chrome in regards to WebExtensions APIs.

WebExtensions will limit Firefox add-ons in regards to what they can do to the browser.

Now You: How do you see this pan out in the long run?

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Ghacks.net Firefox privacy and security user.js 0.11 is out http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/12/ghacks-net-firefox-user-js-config-0-11-is-out/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/12/ghacks-net-firefox-user-js-config-0-11-is-out/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:28:17 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130322 The most comprehensive Firefox privacy and security settings collection has been updated to version 0.11 to take into account changes in newer versions of Firefox. Ghacks champion Pants created the initial list in 2015, and has been on it ever since that day with help of others including earthling and Tom Hawack. The new user.js […]

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The most comprehensive Firefox privacy and security settings collection has been updated to version 0.11 to take into account changes in newer versions of Firefox.

Ghacks champion Pants created the initial list in 2015, and has been on it ever since that day with help of others including earthling and Tom Hawack.

The new user.js file replaces the old one. The download includes the user.js file, the changelog, and two HTML documents that lists all preferences, information and comments.

ghacks user js 011

You are probably wondering what is new in version 0.11 of the file. First of all, the preferences have been updated to take into account changes in Firefox.

Mozilla has added, changed or removed preferences since the last release of the Ghacks user.js file.

Apart from that, there are new sections that you may find interesting.

There are new sections for Service Workers, First Party Isolation, Fingerprint resisting and Tor uplift. The add-ons section has been filled with links to recommended add-ons on top of that.

Some fun stats about the latest privacy and security user.js file:

  1. The list features a total of 464 preferences of which 48 are commented out.
  2. 33 items contain warnings.
  3. The file links to 71 http and 243 https resources for research

Click here to open the original article that has been updated with the new information, or download the new user.js file directly with a click on the following link: user.js-ghacks-0.11.zip

Here is the change log:

Added

2300: NEW SECTION for Service Workers (items renumbered from other sections)
2698: NEW SECTION for FPI (First Party Isolation) - commented out, it's not ready yet to go prime time
2699: NEW SECTION for privacy.resistFingerprinting (was 2630)
9998: NEW SECTION for To Investigate - Tor Uplift
: APPENDIX B for Add-ons

Renumbered sections

9996: PALE MOON, section renumbered and no longer maintained
9997: DEPRECATED

Moved

2302: was 1012 dom.caches.enabled .. ALL the stuff in the 2300s were moved there, some are new
2301+2303+2304: were 2432+2430+2431 respectively, also new prefs
1216: was 2609 insecure active content
1217: was 2610 insecure passive content
2024: was 3014 media.mediasource.webm.enabled
: some other numbers may have been reused, moved

Deprecated

Loads of them, just look in the deprecated section, its in order of version dropped, then number.

Added

0101: browser.laterrun.enabled
0301: app.update.silent and app.update.staging.enabled
0336: browser.selfsupport.enabled (also merged 0371 with this)
0374: social.enabled
0376: FlyWeb
0380: Sync
0402: Kinto
0410: the entire section: many prefs deprecated, replaced with others, new section 0410g
0421: privacy.trackingprotection.ui.enabled
0440: mozilla flash blocklisting
0608: network.predictor.enable-prefetch
0818: taskbar preview
0819: browser.urlbar.oneOffSearches
0820: disable search reset
0907: force warnings for logins on non-secure sites
0908: browser.fixup.hide_user_pass
0909: signon.formlessCapture.enabled
1012: browser.sessionstore.resume_from_crash (note: old number was moved to 2300s)
1209: TLS extra prefs to control min and max and fallback versions
1213: cyphers disable 3DES
1214: cyphers disable 128 bit ecdhe
1215: disable MS Family Safety cert
1218: HSTS Priming
1219: HSTS preload
1220: disable intermediate CA caching
1408: gfx.font_rendering.graphite.enabled
1602: returned DNT (do not track) from deprecated
1808: disable audio auto-play in non-active tabs
1820+1825+1830+1840+1850: revamp, additions etc to GMP, DRM, OpenH264, Widevine, EME
2001: media.navigator.video.enabled
2001a: media.peerconnection.ice.no_host
2011: webgl.enable-debug-renderer-info
2012: webgl.dxgl.enabled + webgl.enable-webgl2
2022: extra prefs for screensharing
2024: MSE (Media Source Extensions)
2025: enable/disable media types
2026: disable canvas capture stream
2027: disable camera image capture
2028: disable offscreen canvas
2403: dom.allow_cut_copy
2415b: limit events that can cause a popup
2425: disable Archive API
2450: offline data storage
2504: new vr prefs
2510: Web Audio API
2511: media.ondevicechange.enabled
2627: revamped section from a single pref about build ID into all your UA/Navigator objects
2628: browser.uitour.url
2650: e10s stuff, never used by me, may be obsolete as e10s rollout changes with each release
2651: control e10s number of container processes
2652: enable console e10s shim warnings
2660: browser.tabs.remote.separateFileUriProcess
2662: browser.download.forbid_open_with
2663: MathML
2664: DeviceStorage API
2665: sanitize webchannel whitelist
2666: HTTP Alternative Services
2667: devtools.chrome.enabled
2668: extension directory lockdown
2669: strip paths when sending URLs to PAC scripts
2670: security.block_script_with_wrong_mime
2671: svg.disabled (FF53+)
2706: Storage API
2707: clear localStorage when a WebExtension is uninstalled
2803a: privacy.clearOnShutdown.openWindows
2804a: privacy.cpd.openWindows
2805: privacy.sanitize.timeSpan
3022: hide recently bookmarked items
3023: browser.migrate.automigrate.enabled
Appendix A: new test sites: Browserprint, HTML Security, Symantec, AudioContext, HTML5, Keyboard Events, rel=noopener
Appendix A: new section:; 5 Safe Browsing, Tracking Protection tests

Changed

: custom pref renamed and configured as the Monty Python parrot
: custom pref expanded to each section with euphemisms for the parrot's demise
1211: SHA-1 variables/definitions have been changed by mozilla, recommeneded value has changed
2201: dom.event.contextmenu.enabled is now active
2404: dom.indexedDB.enabled - i turned this on and use an extension to toggle it on and off for sites
2421: two javascript.options now commented out, the performance loss isn't worth it
: some other prefs may have been turned on/off

Deleted

3019: network.proxy.type - it is not my place to control end users connections/proxies/vpns etc

 

 

 

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Firefox Focus privacy scandal http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/12/firefox-focus-privacy-scandal/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/12/firefox-focus-privacy-scandal/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:09:49 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130323 Firefox Focus: the privacy browser, is a free mobile browser for iOS devices by Mozilla designed to protect user privacy while browsing the web. The app "improves the privacy and performance" of a user's mobile browsing experience by "blocking analytics, social, and advertising trackers" according to the product description on Apple's iTunes website. It furthermore […]

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Firefox Focus: the privacy browser, is a free mobile browser for iOS devices by Mozilla designed to protect user privacy while browsing the web.

The app "improves the privacy and performance" of a user's mobile browsing experience by "blocking analytics, social, and advertising trackers" according to the product description on Apple's iTunes website. It furthermore enables you to erase the browsing history, passwords and cookies easily.

A content blocker by Mozilla, makers of Firefox and known proponents of user rights and privacy? That's got to be good, right?

What you may not expect from the app, especially since it is designed to block analytic trackers, is that it is collecting data itself, and transfers the data it collects to third-party company Adjust.

Update: We were contacted by Mozilla PR Germany. The linked article has several factual errors according to the statement. Relevant for our article is:

  1. Firefox Focus does not track the browsing history, and does not process telemetry data that is not anonymized.

Mozilla asked the authors of the original article to correct it.

Firefox Focus: The privacy browser

firefox focus

Mozilla unveiled Firefox Focus back in November 2016. The organization introduced the mobile browser in the following way:

Today, we’re pleased to announce the launch of Firefox Focus – a free, fast and easy to use private browser for iOS.

Firefox Focus is set by default to block many of the trackers that follow you around the Web. You don’t need to change privacy or cookie settings. You can browse with peace of mind, feeling confident in the knowledge that you can instantly erase your sessions with a single tap – no menus needed.

If you open the settings of the application, you may stumble upon the opt-out preference "send anonymous usage data". Telemetry collecting is not uncommon, even for organizations like Mozilla.

Mozilla's Support website reveals information on the anonymous usage data collecting of Firefox and Firefox Focus on mobile devices.

What you learn there is the following:

  • Mozilla uses a third-party software development kit by German company adjust GMBH that it built into Firefox Focus that is connected to a data collecting Internet service backend run by adjust GMBH.
  • Data is sent to the adjust backend, not to Mozilla.
  • For new installs, an "anonymous 'attribution' request is sent to adjust servers containing information on how the app was downloaded. Data includes an advertising ID, IP address, timestamp, country, language and locale, operating system, and app version.
  • Firefox Focus furthermore sends anonymous summaries "occasionally" that reveal "how often the application has been used". The summaries include information on "whether the app has been in active use recently and when". Additionally, the data will reveal features of the application that have been used.

Adjust GMBH is a big data specialist known for tracking and analytics services.

Journalist Peter Welchering and Manfred Kloiber, and Comidio director Herrman Sauer decided to investigate the telemetry tracking of Firefox Focus (known as Firefox Klar in Germany).

According to the report, telemetry is not limited to what is listed above. The German newspaper article reveals that Firefox Focus collects browsing information, for instance server connections, and that data is sent to the third-party adjust, and not Mozilla.

Mozilla or adjust did not respond to inquiries according to Welchering. The journalists state that they did speak to Mozilla developers about the data tracking in Firefox Focus. These developers told the journalists that Mozilla is collecting the data to optimize the product.

Welchering notes in the article that anonymous and personally identifiable data is collected by Firefox Focus, and that adjust receives these identifiable bits of information.

Firefox Focus: turn of data collecting

You can turn off the anonymous data collecting of Firefox Focus by tapping on the settings icon, and flipping the switch next to "send anonymous usage data" to off.

Closing Words

The privacy focused browser and content blocker Firefox Focus is collecting and submitting telemetry data to adjust, a company that is big in the data collecting and analytics business.

This is something that you'd probably not expect from an organization like Mozilla, and something that Mozilla needs to address. (via Born)

Now You: What's your take on this?

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Crowdfunding for Firefox EPUBReader add-on http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/07/crowdfunding-for-firefox-epubreader-add-on/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/07/crowdfunding-for-firefox-epubreader-add-on/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2017 08:58:36 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130179 The author of EPUBReader launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign recently to finance the migration of the add-on to WebExtensions. Mozilla plans to discontinue Firefox's add-on system in 2017 to replace it with the up and coming WebExtensions standard. The organization wants to accomplish a series of goals with the move including making add-ons less dependent […]

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The author of EPUBReader launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign recently to finance the migration of the add-on to WebExtensions.

Mozilla plans to discontinue Firefox's add-on system in 2017 to replace it with the up and coming WebExtensions standard.

The organization wants to accomplish a series of goals with the move including making add-ons less dependent on Firefox code (less breaking caused by changes), easier review processes, easier porting from and to other browsers, and full multi-process compatibility.

The downside is that all legacy add-ons will stop working once Mozilla cuts of support for these add-ons in a future Firefox version.

Add-on developers have only two options to move forward at this point in time: spend a considerable amount of time porting their add-ons so that it is provided as a WebExtension, or abandon the add-on.

Some add-on authors, like Quicksilver, have stated already that they will quit add-on development for Firefox. Others have noted that Mozilla's timing is off, and that the fact WebExtensions is pretty much a technology that is still in development, does not help either.

Crowdfunding for Firefox EPUBReader add-on

The author of the EPUBReader add-on for Firefox hopes to keep the add-on alive through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

EPUBReader is a popular ePub document viewer for Firefox that has roughly 400,000 users at this point in time. The add-on is rated highly, and according to the author in the top 30 of most popular Firefox add-ons.

The add-on needs almost a complete rewrite according to the developer who works as a freelance software developer. The requested sum, €25,000, allows him to work on porting EPUBReader so that it will remain available for Firefox users once Mozilla turns off the legacy add-on system in the web browser.

Firefox announced massive changes to the Firefox Add-on interface. The result will be, that EPUBReader won't work any longer in a few months. To avoid this, it's necessary to rewrite EPUBReader almost completely. As EPUBReader is a very complex Add-on, the effort to do this is high.

I'm working as a freelance software developer. So the fundraiser is run to allow me the full-time work on the needed development.

The crowdfunding campaign is at €15,295 at the time of writing of the goal of €25,000 with 26 more days to go.

Most features that EPUBReader supports right now will also be supported by the WebExtension version. There are some differences though. On the good side, the 250 Megabyte limit for ebooks is lifted, and ebooks are opened in memory which should make them open faster.

The downside is that the new version won't support private libraries. The reason given is that the WebExtensions API does not support the functions needed for that.

The developer hopes to have a release version ready by mid 2017 if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.

Now You: Do you think crowdfunding could become an option for porting Firefox add-ons that would not be ported otherwise?

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404 Bookmarks lists all dead Firefox bookmarks http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/06/404-bookmarks-lists-all-expired-firefox-bookmarks/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/06/404-bookmarks-lists-all-expired-firefox-bookmarks/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 14:33:15 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130164 404 Bookmarks is a brand new browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that helps you identify and remove dead bookmarks from the browser. Most modern browsers support bookmarks, and it is easy enough to add them to the browser. In Firefox, all you do is click on the star icon to add it to […]

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404 Bookmarks is a brand new browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that helps you identify and remove dead bookmarks from the browser.

Most modern browsers support bookmarks, and it is easy enough to add them to the browser. In Firefox, all you do is click on the star icon to add it to the browser.

If you do that regularly, you end up with a growing list of bookmarks in the browser. Not really a size problem, as Firefox handles large bookmarks lists well.

The main issue however is that sites or pages may be removed from the Internet. Bookmarks that point to these sites are dead, or in worst case point to a new site that has nothing to do with the old.

Firefox, like any other browser, offers no tools to check bookmarks regularly to make sure they point to active sites.

I used to use AM-Deadlink for the checking, but the program is just a shadow of its former self now.

404 Bookmarks

404 bookmarks

404 Bookmarks is an excellent add-on for Firefox that adds the functionality to the browser. The add-on adds an icon to Firefox's main toolbar. A click on the icon checks all bookmark locations, and returns any with problematic return codes.

While 404 not found is probably the most common error, other errors such as HTTP error 410 (gone) are also recognized by the browser extension.

Each expired bookmark is listed with its name, link, return code, and a remove action. It is recommended to check the bookmarks manually before you remove them, unless you are certain that you don't require it anymore anyway.

This is done with a click on the link to open it in a new tab in Firefox. Remove does exactly what it says, it removes the bookmark from Firefox so that it is not available anymore afterwards.

The scanning of bookmarks is quite fast. The extension scanned the thousand or so bookmarks of Firefox in record time, and displayed first results right from the get go. This allows you to start checking and removing bookmarks while the scan is still ongoing in the background.

The actual verification process is bit of a nuisance, as the 404 Bookmarks interface is an overlay that sits on top whichever sites you open in Firefox. This is probably less of a problem if you use a wide screen monitor and Firefox in full screen, but if you don't, you may notice that sites load behind the overlay which makes checking less intuitive than it could be.

The second issue with the overlay is that it goes away when you click somewhere else. An option to make it sticky for a period of time, or display the information in a tab instead would make the operation a lot smoother.

The removal on the other hand is excellent, and works instantly and just as expected.

Closing Words

404 Bookmarks is a promising new add-on for the Firefox browser that helps you verify bookmarks, and remove dead bookmarks in Firefox. I think a tabbed display would work better for this kind of application though. (via Techdows)

Chrome users can check out Bookmark Sentry or Bookmark Checker instead.

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Firefox 52: how to keep on using plugins http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/03/firefox-52-how-to-keep-on-plugins/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/03/firefox-52-how-to-keep-on-plugins/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2017 16:36:31 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130091 Firefox 52 will be the first release version of the Mozilla Firefox web browser that will ship without support for NPAPI plugins. The only exception to the rule is that Firefox 52 will support Adobe Flash. All other plugins, Silverlight, Java, and all the others, won't be supported anymore in the Firefox version. While plugin […]

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Firefox 52 will be the first release version of the Mozilla Firefox web browser that will ship without support for NPAPI plugins.

The only exception to the rule is that Firefox 52 will support Adobe Flash. All other plugins, Silverlight, Java, and all the others, won't be supported anymore in the Firefox version.

While plugin use is on the decline, scenarios exist where plugins are still required to use sites or services on the Internet.

Firefox is the last major browser for the desktop that ends support for plugins. Google ended support for NPAPI plugins in Chrome 45 for instance which it released on September 1, 2015.

Mozilla announced the end of support for NPAPI in 2015 for the end of 2016, but postponed the deadline to Firefox 52.

Firefox 52: how to keep on using plugins

firefox plugins ask to activate

Firefox users who require these plugins may already have a plan in place to make sure that they can access sites and services that require plugins after the Firefox 52 release.

Some Firefox users may be inclined to block updates of Firefox 51.x to avoid being upgraded to Firefox 52 or later. This is not really advised though, as it means that security updates won't become available for that version of Firefox anymore. The risk of successful attacks increases because of this.

Provided that you want to stay with Firefox, the best course of action at the time is to switch from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR before the update to Firefox 52.

Firefox 52.0 ESR will be released alongside Firefox 52.0. This is good news for anyone requiring plugins, as Firefox 52.0 ESR will continue to support plugins whereas Firefox 52.0 won't.

A full Extended Support Release cycle lasts seven full releases. This means that you will be able to use plugins in Firefox ESR until March 2018.

Another option that you have is to install a Firefox ESR release next to Firefox Stable, and use it exclusively for sites and services that require plugins.

How to move from Firefox Stable to ESR

Mike Kaply published a guide recently that explains how to switch the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

Step 1: Update channel-prefs.js

firefox stable to esr

First thing you do is update the file channel-prefs.js. You find the file in the Firefox installation directory on your system.

The default installation directories are

  • 32-bit Firefox Windows -- C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\
  • 64-bit Firefox Windows -- C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\
  • Linux -- /usr/lib/firefox-version
  • Mac Os X -- /Applications/Firefox.app

You find the file under defaults\prefs\, e.g. C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\defaults\prefs\channel-prefs.js

Open the file in a plain text editor, and replace the line

pref("app.update.channel", "release");

with

pref("app.update.channel", "esr");

Step 2: Modify update-settings.ini

firefox without plugins solution

The second file that you need to modify is update-settings.ini. It is located in the root folder of the Firefox installation, e.g. C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox.

Change the line

ACCEPTED_MAR_CHANNEL_IDS=firefox-mozilla-release

to

ACCEPTED_MAR_CHANNEL_IDS=firefox-mozilla-esr

and save the file.

Closing Words

firefox esr

Mike notes that you should make the change as close to the release of Firefox 52 ESR as possible. The release is on March 7, 2017.

Another option that you have is to install Firefox ESR directly on your system, and start using it. The new installation will pick up the profile that you used up until now.

Please note though that Firefox 45.x ESR may not support certain features yet that Mozilla implemented in Firefox 46 to 51. Some add-ons or features may not be yet available because of the nature of ESR releases.

Now You: Are you still using plugins?

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Firefox 56: Activity Stream target http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/01/firefox-56-activity-stream-target/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/01/firefox-56-activity-stream-target/#comments Wed, 01 Feb 2017 08:01:18 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130022 Mozilla targets Firefox 56, out in the second half of 2017, as the first version to feature the organization's new Activity Stream new tab page. We talked about Activity Stream before here on Ghacks. First, when it was released as a mockup showcasing the feature, and then later on when it was released as a […]

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Mozilla targets Firefox 56, out in the second half of 2017, as the first version to feature the organization's new Activity Stream new tab page.

We talked about Activity Stream before here on Ghacks. First, when it was released as a mockup showcasing the feature, and then later on when it was released as a Test Pilot add-on.

So what is Activity Stream, and what is the plan to integrate the feature into Firefox 56?

Activity Stream has been designed to replace the current new tab page (about:newtab) and home page (about:home) of the Firefox web browser.

Firefox displays a search field and pinned or popular sites on the new tab page by default currently.

The about:home page displays a search field as well, but also links to various Firefox features such as downloads, add-ons, sync or options. This page is only displayed until the user changes the homepage, or selects to open the previous browsing session.

firefox activity stream

Activity Stream changes what is displayed on these pages. The page features a search at the top which Firefox users can utilize to search using the default search engine.

Below that is a selection of six popular sites called top sites. While it is not possible currently to edit these sites or pin others to the top sites listing, it is Mozilla's plan to introduce the feature before the final version lands in Firefox 56.

You find highlights below the top sites listing. Activity Stream uses an algorithm to determine important sites that you visited in the past, to list them in the highlight section.

These are displayed with large thumbnails, page titles, URLs, a short description, and the last time the page was visited.

The recent activity is displayed in chronological order below the highlights section.

You can right-click on items listed there to perform regular link actions such as opening links in a new window or copying link locations.

When you hover over an item on the Activity Stream page, and click on the menu icon that appears, additional options are revealed.

activty stream

That menu is not final, but it enables you to delete an item from Firefox's history, to bookmark a page, or share it using various sharing options.

Mozilla's development team wants to reach feature parity with all core New Tab Page features that are currently available before it releases Activity Stream.

Firefox 56 will be released on October 3rd, 2017. The Activity Stream team targets Firefox 56 for the first initial integration of the feature in Firefox, but depending on how development progresses, it may be delayed after all.

Now You: What's your taken on Activity Stream?

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Greasemonkey Dev posts WebExtensions Design Doc: paints grim picture http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/01/greasemonkey-dev-posts-webextensions-design-doc-paints-grim-picture/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/02/01/greasemonkey-dev-posts-webextensions-design-doc-paints-grim-picture/#comments Wed, 01 Feb 2017 05:10:02 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=130018 Greasemonkey is a popular add-on for the Firefox web browser that enables you to load and create userscripts to interact with web content. The add-on, like any other legacy extension for Firefox, will not work anymore in its current form when Mozilla makes the switch to WebExtensions exclusivity in the end of 2017. While it […]

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Greasemonkey is a popular add-on for the Firefox web browser that enables you to load and create userscripts to interact with web content.

The add-on, like any other legacy extension for Firefox, will not work anymore in its current form when Mozilla makes the switch to WebExtensions exclusivity in the end of 2017.

While it remains to be seen if Mozilla will indeed flip the switch with the release of Firefox 57, or postpone, it is clear that the organization decided to go all-in on the idea.

The developer of Greasemonkey, Anthony Lieuallen, has published a design document for the migration of Greasemonkey from Firefox's current add-on system to WebExtensions.

greasemonkey-2.0

The document looks at features that are currently implemented, and prioritizes them based on importance.

Essential features, those that need to make the cut no matter what, and major features, those that should make the cut, are listed at the top of the document.

Essential features are for instance the ability to install and manage scripts, and a major feature is the option to migrate userscripts from the legacy version of Greasemonkey to the WebExtensions version of the add-on.

The document is useful, not only for Greasemonkey developers and users, but also to other Firefox add-on authors as it reveals how one could create a migration document for extensions.

If you read the whole document, you will notice that there are quite a few uncertainties and dead ends that the Greasemonkey developer ran into.

This highlights one of the main issues that Mozilla's end of year enforcement of WebExtensions has to developers. WebExtensions are not ready yet for complex, and many semi-complex add-ons as they are a work in progress.

Mozilla adds new APIs with every release, but there seems to be a lack of documentation and information on what will be available when the switch to WebExtensions is being made.

He summed up the experience in the following way:

Overall, the process of writing this doc has been demoralizing. It took a lot of work to just scratch the surface of our feature set. At every step, I seemed to find things that range from difficult to impossible, given the APIs that WebExtensions have access to. A significant amount of UI and features will change by the necessity of no longer having the power to do so many things.

He mentions Tampermonkey, a userscript extension for Chrome which should work in Firefox already. He did look at Tampermonkey more closely, as it based on WebExtensions already, and noticed that most of what he dislikes about the extension is because of the limitations of WebExtensions.

Good news for Firefox users is that Anthony seems to be willed to go forward with the implementation, or at least explore the possibilities of turning Greasemonkey into a WebExtension.

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Limit Firefox audio playback to one tab http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/31/limit-firefox-audio-playback-to-one-tab/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/31/limit-firefox-audio-playback-to-one-tab/#comments Tue, 31 Jan 2017 11:40:13 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129999 Smart Tab Mute is a browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that limits audio playback in the browser to a single tab at a time. If you open five tabs with videos, games and other content that plays audio in your browser of choice, you may notice that audio starts to play out of […]

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Smart Tab Mute is a browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that limits audio playback in the browser to a single tab at a time.

If you open five tabs with videos, games and other content that plays audio in your browser of choice, you may notice that audio starts to play out of all five tabs regardless of active tab.

While that may not be such an issue, the fact that audio playback is enabled for all five tabs as well is one.

There are manual ways around this, for instance by never opening more than one tab that plays audio at a time, or by pausing any secondary video or audio stream.

Note: Smart Tab Mute is based on a Google Chrome extension. If you use Chrome, you can download and install the extension to get the same functionality.

Smart Tab Mute

smart tab mute

Smart Tab Mute is one of those browser extensions that you don't interact directly with. It sits silently in the background, and becomes active automatically when a second or more tabs are opened that play video.

It uses a straightforward algorithm to determine what to do then. Any audio playing tab that is in the background gets muted automatically, while the foreground tab continues to play audio.

If the foreground tab does not play audio, the last tab that gets opened is allowed to play audio, while all other tabs are muted automatically.

The audio playing tab that was opened second last is allowed to play audio automatically when you close that last tab, and so on.

This means that audio playback is started automatically in this situation, so that you don't even have to click on the mute icon or even switch to the tab to start playback.

Smart Tab Mute won't interfere with audio elements that you have stopped or paused manually however. It won't start those videos or media streams on its own again if that is the case.

The add-on ships with two options that let you control the behavior somewhat. The first blocks the unmuting of the last tab automatically when the currently playing tab is closed.

smart tab mute blacklist

The second option provides you with a blacklist of sites that you want to exclude from the add-on's functionality. This can be useful if you want to ensure that a service may always play audio, for instance when it uses audio for its notification system.

Closing Words

Smart Tab Mute is a useful Firefox add-on for users of the browser who run sometimes or often into situations where multiple sites start to play audio at the same time.

Now You: Did you ever run into audio playback issues in your browser of choice?

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Trails: Lossless Web Navigation experiment by Mozilla http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/29/trails-lossless-web-navigation-experiment-by-mozilla/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/29/trails-lossless-web-navigation-experiment-by-mozilla/#comments Sun, 29 Jan 2017 07:41:06 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129929 Trails is a new lossless web navigation experiment by Mozilla with the aim to fix the tabbed browsing issue of losing information during navigation. The traditional tabbed browsing model has not changed all that much in the past 15 or so years. The majority of modern browsers supports tabs, and browsers keep track of the […]

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Trails is a new lossless web navigation experiment by Mozilla with the aim to fix the tabbed browsing issue of losing information during navigation.

The traditional tabbed browsing model has not changed all that much in the past 15 or so years. The majority of modern browsers supports tabs, and browsers keep track of the browsing history of each tab individually.

Mozilla visualizes the current -- flawed when it comes to the preservation of information -- tabbed browsing procedure in the following way:

  1. Imagine a search for a restaurant that makes the perfect pizza. You fire up your web browser, and start the search on your favorite search engine.
  2. Results are displayed, and you click on a result (Yelp in this case).
  3. You browse Yelp, find a restaurant that interests you, and open its link. This link is opened in a new tab.
  4. Problem 1: The new tab has no connection whatsoever to the restaurant search history.
  5. Imagine going back to the first tab to browse Yelp a bit more to find another restaurant.
  6. Problem 2: Loading content in tab 1 will lose navigation history information.

tabbed web navigation issues

What Mozilla means by that is that the actual navigational trail does not include all user actions, not that the actual information is lost (as you may load opened sites using the browsing history for instance).

A look at Trails

trails

Trails is part of Browser.html, a Mozilla research project.

The goal of trails is to construct not only a window into web content but a narrative of user activity. Our hope is that our work might help advance the state of browsing closer to the ideal of a tool that enhances our cognitive process, rather than increasing our cognitive load.

Mozilla tries to preserve the whole browsing of a user using Trails, not just what is preserved right now by tabbed browsers.

So, Trails preserve information that would otherwise get lost due to navigation but won't change what users see when they use the browser.

Mozilla hints that Trails might enhance the user experience in other ways, such as providing options to share entire trails and not just URLs, allowing annotation of trails, collaboration, or persisting trails.

It is not clear right now how Mozilla would implement Trails in a browser like Firefox. A short demo has been uploaded to YouTube, but it shows Trails not in an actual browser interface, but on its own.

Closing Words

It needs to be noted that Trails is an experiment right now that may or may not find its way into Firefox at one point in time.

While it is certainly true that some information is lost, I'm not sure if there is a really a need for something like Trails as it may add complexity to the browser depending on its implementation.

While the actual trail "how did I get there" may be lost at times, tabs are usually opened in relation to one another, and users may open pages in new tabs when they don't want to lose information displayed on the current tab.  (via Sören Hentzschel)

Now You: What do you think of Trails?

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Firefox loses yet another high profile add-on author: Quicksaver quits http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/28/firefox-add-on-quicksaver-quits/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/28/firefox-add-on-quicksaver-quits/#comments Sat, 28 Jan 2017 06:41:54 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129910 The respected Firefox add-on developer Quicksaver announced yesterday that he won't update any of his extensions anymore because of Mozilla's decision to move to WebExtensions exclusively. Quicksaver, responsible for add-ons such as Tab Groups, OmniSidebar, FindBar Tweak, Beyond Australis and Puzzle Bars, had four of his five add-ons for Firefox featured by Mozilla in the […]

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The respected Firefox add-on developer Quicksaver announced yesterday that he won't update any of his extensions anymore because of Mozilla's decision to move to WebExtensions exclusively.

Quicksaver, responsible for add-ons such as Tab Groups, OmniSidebar, FindBar Tweak, Beyond Australis and Puzzle Bars, had four of his five add-ons for Firefox featured by Mozilla in the past.

If you open any of the author's add-on pages on the Mozilla Add-ons repository, you will notice an important announcement on the page.

It reads: IMPORTANT: The add-on will not receive any more updates and will stop working by next November with Firefox 57.

The add-ons won't work anymore when Firefox 57 comes along (the first version of the browser said to be WebExtensions exlusive).

Firefox add-on author Quicksaver quits because of WebExtensions

quicksaver firefox

The author's add-ons are:

  • Beyond Australis -- The add-on added tweaks and new features to Firefox's then new browser UI theme Australis. Has more than 40,000 users, 330 user reviews, and a five star rating.
  • FindBar Tweak -- Improves Firefox's on-page find functionality, for instance by making it search on all open tabs, or moving the results to a different location. Has more than 31,000 users, 302 user reviews, and a five star rating. Our FindBar Tweak review.
  • OmniSidebar -- Makes the sidebar of Firefox more accessible and powerful. More than 109,000 users, 111 user reviews, a five star rating. Our Omnibar review.
  • Puzzle Bars -- Enables you to place add-on buttons and other icons in the browser window exactly like you want them to. More than 4000 users, 66 user reviews, a five star rating. Our Puzzle Bars Review
  • Tab Groups -- This brought back the Firefox Panorama / Tab Groups functionality that Mozilla removed from the browser some time ago. Has more than 111,000 users, 548 user reviews and a five star rating. Our Tab Groups review.

Quicksaver posted an explanation on his website that reveals why he made the decision to stop add-on development.

There are several reasons, but the core reason given is that at least four of his five add-ons rely heavily on functionality that will either not be provided by WebExtensions, or would require him to rewrite the extension almost completely.

However, manipulation of the browser window's interface and functionality will be extremely limited by definition, and even if it wasn't, the implementation of such abilities is nearly impossible to achieve in WebExtensions.

According to the explanation, Quicksaver was in contact with Mozilla to find a way to keep his extensions alive, but failed ultimately.

I have fought for keeping the current system working together with WebExtensions, not only to keep all of my add-ons alive, but also because I believe a can-do-whatever-you-want extension system like exists today is the best quality Firefox has over other browsers. Unfortunately I've failed to convince them of this, as have they failed to convince me of the benefits they expect to achieve with a WebExtensions-only system.

Another point that the author makes is that he went through the ordeal of rewritting his extensions not too long ago. When Mozilla announced multi-process Firefox, he rewrote the extensions to make them compatible with it.

To sum it up:

  • WebExtensions won't support the functionality required for porting at least three of the five extensions over.
  • The other extensions would require huge effort on the author's part as code needs to be rewritten to a large extent.
  • Mozilla is dead on track to throw Firefox's old add-on system out of the window, and seems inclined to accept any fallout this may cause.

Closing Words

It was clear from the beginning that the move to WebExtensions will leave add-ons and authors behind. While Mozilla plans to make WebExtensions in Firefox more powerful than in Chrome, they will never be as powerful as Firefox's current add-on system.

Quicksaver is not the only author who announced that he will stop working on add-ons for Firefox. Add-ons like New Tab Tools, Classic Theme Restorer, Tree Style Tabs, Open With, DownThem All, KeeFox and many others are likely also not going to make the cut.

Firefox will lose good functionality because of this, something that probably won't ever come back once the move to WebExtensions is finalized.

Mozilla Firefox will gain support for the bulk of Chrome extensions, and while that is a good thing, they cannot fill the gap that the move to WebExtensions will cause.

Mozilla's timing on this one is off in my opinion. The organization could keep the old add-on system alive, at least for a bit longer, until WebExtensions are more capable. The whole ordeal feels rushed to me.

Now You: What's your take on the development?

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Time to make the switch to 64-bit Firefox on Windows http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/27/time-to-make-the-switch-to-64-bit-firefox-on-windows/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/27/time-to-make-the-switch-to-64-bit-firefox-on-windows/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 06:27:00 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129882 The story of 64-bit Firefox on Windows is a long and complex one, and it is just about to end with Mozilla moving from offering 32-bit Firefox as the default download option to offering 64-bit Firefox on Windows by default. Mozilla Firefox is offered as a 32-bit and 64-bit version on Windows, with 32-bit still […]

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The story of 64-bit Firefox on Windows is a long and complex one, and it is just about to end with Mozilla moving from offering 32-bit Firefox as the default download option to offering 64-bit Firefox on Windows by default.

Mozilla Firefox is offered as a 32-bit and 64-bit version on Windows, with 32-bit still the default right now when it comes to downloads.

While the 32-bit version works well, and it is the only option for systems without a 64-bit processor, it is the 64-bit version that users should consider using if their device is equipped with a 64-bit cpu.

The reason is simple: more RAM becomes available per process that Firefox uses, and 64-bit applications benefit from security features that 32-bit applications don't.

firefox 64-bit

The one downside that may have kept Firefox users from switching to 64-bit was limited plugin support in the 64-bit version of the browser. It only supports Flash and Silverlight. That restriction is still there, but with Mozilla throwing out NPAPI plugin support soon -- with the exception of Flash -- that is no longer an argument if you want to stay with a recent build of the browser.

Chance is, that you are still running a 32-bit version of Firefox as you'd have to get out of your way to grab the 64-bit installer from the Mozilla website.

Back in July 2016, only 1.7% of Firefox users on Windows used a 64-bit version of the browser. That's not much. The number has probably gone up til then, but it is likely still low due to Mozilla prioritizing the 32-bit installer over the 64-bit currently.

I explained how to upgrade from Firefox 32-bit to Firefox 64-bit here, and suggest you check out the guide for a full rundown on how to do that.

Good news is that it is super easy to upgrade Firefox from 32-bit to 64-bit. All that is usually required is to download the dedicated 64-bit installer from Mozilla, and run it. All your shortcuts, profiles, bookmarks, modifications and so on will continue to work.

Note: The 32-bit version is not uninstalled automatically. I suggest you keep it around until you have worked with the 64-bit version for a while. Once you are confident that there are not any issues, you may remove the 32-bit installation of Firefox from your system.

Check the CPU

operating system 64-bit

First thing you do, is check if you can update Firefox to 64-bit. USe Windows-Pause to open the System Control Panel applet. Find the "system type" listing on the page, and check whether it says 32-bit or 64-bit.

You need a 64-bit processor. If your system does not have one, you are stuck with 32-bit Firefox. Don't worry though, Mozilla won't end support for 32-bit, but will just focus on distributing 64-bit Firefox over 32-bit in 2017 and later.

Backup

firefox profiles

Second thing that you do is back up the Firefox profile folder. Type about:support, click on the show folder link to open it on your system.

Note that this opens the profile that is in use at the moment. Go up two directories, so that you are in the main Firefox directory under the user folder.

Select profiles, press Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard. Now browse to another folder on your computer, and use Ctrl-V to place a copy of it in it.

The 64-bit upgrade

firefox 64bit download

This is without doubt the easiest part. Download Firefox Stable, Firefox ESR, Beta, Developer or Nightly from Mozilla.

Make sure you pick the 64-bit version for Windows. It is indicated by a 64-bit icon on the download icon.

Make sure you close Firefox before you continue.

Run the installer afterwards, and follow it through to the end. Firefox will be upgraded to 64-bit.  You can verify that using the method mentioned above.

Now You: Do you run a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Firefox?

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Firefox 54: multi-process gets another content process http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/26/firefox-54-multi-process-gets-another-content-process/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/26/firefox-54-multi-process-gets-another-content-process/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2017 06:43:10 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129847 The most recent Nightly version of the Firefox browser, Firefox Nightly 54, ships with two content processes instead of just one. Firefox's multi-process architecture still rolls out to Firefox stable versions. That process will still take a couple of release cycles to reach all users of the stable version of the Firefox web browser. Firefox […]

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The most recent Nightly version of the Firefox browser, Firefox Nightly 54, ships with two content processes instead of just one.

Firefox's multi-process architecture still rolls out to Firefox stable versions. That process will still take a couple of release cycles to reach all users of the stable version of the Firefox web browser.

Firefox uses a content process for all tabs open in the browser, and a separate process for the browser core.  Separating the core browser from the rest improves stability, and also responsiveness and other metrics of the browser.

If a tab crashes, there is less chance that it will take the whole browser with it doing so.

firefox multi process processes

Mozilla's implementation is different from how Google handles the multi-process architecture in Chrome. Chrome runs any open tab in its own content-process. The upside of this is that it improves stability and also security further. There is a downside to this however as well, as doing so requires more RAM.

Tip: Chrome users can save a bit of memory by configuring Chrome to use one process per site, opposed to one process per tab.

Back in 2016 I explained how Firefox Nightly users can increase the number of content processes that Firefox uses for its multi-process architecture. I enabled eight content processes on the machine back then and have not changed the value since.

I noticed a couple of issues, but nothing too major.

Mozilla has done the same now for the new Firefox 54 Nightly version. It pushed the content processes to two. This marks an important step in the whole multi-process architecture system of the browser.

Two content processes is the next big step, as it paves the way for enabling more than two content processes in the future. The number of content processes that Firefox will eventually ship with by default has not been decided on yet.

While that is done for testing primarily right now, it does mean that Mozilla thinks the implementation is stable enough as it enabled it for all Nightly users who upgrade or install Firefox 54.

The new multi-process setting will trickle down to Firefox Stable eventually, but a schedule for that has not been posted yet.

Mozilla will probably never mimic Chrome's one process per tab behavior. It would increase memory use by a lot. This is not a problem on modern systems with 8, 16 or even more Gigabytes of RAM, but the largest part of Firefox's user base uses machines with 4 Gigabytes of RAM or less.

Last metrics show more than 18% with 2 Gigabyte, more than 15% with 3 Gigabyte, and more than 5% with 1 Gigabyte of RAM. (via Sören Hentzschel)

Now You: if you use Firefox, is it multi-process already?

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Firefox 51: Find out what is new http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/24/firefox-51-find-out-what-is-new/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/24/firefox-51-find-out-what-is-new/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:57:11 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129763 Mozilla Firefox 51.0 Stable was released on January 24, 2017 to the public by Mozilla via automatic updates and on Mozilla's website. Note: If you are reading this article on January 24, 2017, you may not be able to upgrade Firefox  to version 51 yet as Mozilla may not have enabled the new version through […]

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Mozilla Firefox 51.0 Stable was released on January 24, 2017 to the public by Mozilla via automatic updates and on Mozilla's website.

Note: If you are reading this article on January 24, 2017, you may not be able to upgrade Firefox  to version 51 yet as Mozilla may not have enabled the new version through automatic updates. Releases are always available on Mozilla's FTP before they are made available via Firefox's built-in update mechanism.

Mozilla Firefox 51 is the latest stable version of the browser. The new version replaces previous stable versions, including Firefox 50.1, the last version Mozilla released prior to the Firefox 51 release.

All Firefox channels follow the same release schedule. This means that Firefox Beta, Aurora, Nightly and Firefox ESR are updated as well. Mozilla released Firefox Beta 52, Firefox Aurora 53, Firefox Nightly 54, and Firefox ESR 45.7 today as well.

Executive Summary

  1. Firefox 51 is the new stable version of Firefox.
  2. Firefox 52 Beta, 53 Aurora, 54 Nightly, and ESR 45.7 are also available.
  3. The new Firefox version adds native support for FLAC audio and WebGL2, and displays a warning when login pages don't use a secure connection.
  4. It features other interesting new features including new privacy and security options.

Firefox 51 download and update

firefox 51

You may download the latest version of Firefox directly from the Mozilla website, or use the browser's automatic update capabilities to upgrade to the latest version.

To check for updates in Firefox, do the following:

  1. Tap on the Alt-key while the Firefox window is active.
  2. Select Help > About Firefox from the menu bar that is displayed.

Firefox will display the current version, and run a check for updates. Depending on how Firefox is configured, any updates found may be downloaded and installed automatically, or on user command.

You may download all editions of Firefox using the links below instead.

Firefox 51 Changes

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) support

firefox flac support

Mozilla Firefox 51 supports FLAC audio playback natively (in both FLAC and OGG containers). FLAC is also supported in MP4 with and without Media Source Extensions.

This means among other things that you can play any FLAC file directly in Firefox without issues, and that streaming services may stream FLAC audio streams to Firefox.

See bug 1195723 FLAC support / Create FLAC MediaDataDemuxer for additional information.

Google added FLAC support in Chrome 56 as well.

Firefox 51 highlights insecure login pages

insecure login page

Mozilla Firefox 51 displays an insecure notification in the browser's address bar when you visit a login page in the browser that is not using https.

The notification shows the red "connection is not secure" strike-through icon when that happens. Firefox did not display any notification previously when sites used http for login pages.

Google Chrome will do the same starting with Chrome 56.

Battery Time precision limited for privacy

Privacy improvement: BatteryManager.chargingTime and BatteryManager.dischargingTime precision limited to avoid fingerprinting.

This means that services cannot use the data that these two functions provide anymore for fingerprinting, as it returns a rounded value to the closest 15 minutes now.

Password Manager Improvements

firefox 51 show password

Firefox's built-in password manager received two improvements in this release. The first adds a new "show password" option to the save dialog. This provides you with an option to reveal the password that Firefox is about to save in its database.

The second allows you to save passwords for forms without "submit" events.

Other Firefox 51 changes

firefox zoom level

  1. Added Georgian (ka) and Kabyle (kab) locales, removed Belarusian (be) locale.
  2. Added support for Spatial Audio for 360 Videos on Facebook with Opus 255 Channel Mapping.
  3. Firefox 51 blocks automatic audio playback in non-active tabs.
  4. Firefox 51 has a new search reset feature.
  5. Firefox 51 shows the memory use of processes on about:performance.
  6. Improved reliability of browser data sync.
  7. JavaScript served with wrong MIME type will be blocked.
  8. New WoSign and StartCom certificates will no longer be accepted.
  9. SHA-1 certificates issued by public CA will no longer be accepted.
  10. The Firefox address bar shows an indicator if the zoom level is not the default on a page open in the web browser.
  11. The SocialAPI is deprecated.
  12. Updated to NSS 3.28.1.
  13. Use 2D graphics library (Skia) for content rendering

Developer Changes

Firefox for Android

Coming soon. Release notes list no major changes. At least some of the changes of the desktop versions of Firefox are also part of the Android version of the browser.

Security updates / fixes

Security information is released by Mozilla after the official release of Firefox. We will update the information once Mozilla makes it available.

Firefox 51.0.1

firefox 51.0.1

Firefox 51.0.1 was released on January 26, 2017. It is a bug fix release that fixes Geolocation not working on Windows, and another issue with add-ons that stated that they are not compatible with Firefox's new multi-process architecture but still marked as compatible by Mozilla.

Not released for Android devices.

Firefox 51.0.2 for Android

Mozilla released an update for Firefox for Android that brings the version to 51.0.2. Please note that this update was not released for the desktop versions of Firefox. The patch fixes a crash issue on x86 Android devices.

Firefox 51.0.3 for Android

Firefox 51.0.3 is only available for Android. Mozilla released the update on February 9, 2017. It includes security fixes, and fixes a build issue that caused crashes on some x86 architectures.

Additional information / sources

Now Read: The state of Mozilla Firefox

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How to change Firefox’s Sandbox security level http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/23/how-to-change-firefoxs-sandbox-security-level/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/23/how-to-change-firefoxs-sandbox-security-level/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:03:43 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129757 One of the major improvements that comes along with Firefox's new multi-process architecture is sandboxing to improve the browser's security. The multi-process rollout is chugging along nicely, but it will still take at least months before it is enabled by default for all, or at least the majority, of Firefox Stable users. Electrolysis, Firefox's multi-process […]

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One of the major improvements that comes along with Firefox's new multi-process architecture is sandboxing to improve the browser's security.

The multi-process rollout is chugging along nicely, but it will still take at least months before it is enabled by default for all, or at least the majority, of Firefox Stable users.

Electrolysis, Firefox's multi-process architecture, is the prerequisite for Firefox's sandboxing feature as it makes use of child processes to establish security boundaries.

Instead of executing all code in the parent process, code is executed in a content process instead limiting what it can do.

Firefox's sandboxing model supports different levels which determine what code executed in the sandbox is allowed to do.

Mozilla implemented three levels currently, and plans to add additional levels with higher security restrictions later on.

The operating system and the Firefox channel depend what is implemented currently. Here is a brief overview of the current status:

  • All: Gecko Media Plugin enabled.
  • Windows: NPAPI plugin enabled, content at level 2 in Nightly, at level 1 for other channels, compositor at level 0.
  • OSX: content at level 2 in Nightly, at level 1 in Aurora, rest nothing.
  • Linux: content at level 2 in Nightly, rest nothing

The next target for Windows is level 3 sandboxing, for OSX level 2 sandboxing, and for Linux level 1 sandboxing.

Sandbox levels

Note: There is usually little need to change the sandbox level, and it is best kept at the default level. While reducing the level should not have any ill-effects on the browser -- besides less security obviously -- increasing the level may cause all kinds of issues.

Sandbox levels get more restrictive the higher they are. Level 0 is the least restrictive level, level 2 the most restrictive currently. Once level 3 is introduced, it will become the most restrictive level available.

Level 3 will be implemented in Firefox for Windows first, and later on in Firefox for OSX and Linux.

You can check the restrictions of each sandbox level on the Mozilla Wiki site. Please note that sandboxing in Firefox is a work in progress. Things may change along the way, but the wiki will get updated when that happens.

Check Firefox's sandbox level

firefox sandbox level

Mozilla Firefox lists the sandbox level that is used by the browser in two locations in the interface. You can load about:support and scroll all the way done until you reach the sandbox listing on the page.

Check the "content process sandbox level" value to find out.

The second option that you have is to load about:config, and search for the parameter security.sandbox.content.level. The value that is returned is the current content level of the Firefox sandbox.

Change the Firefox sandbox content level

firefox content sandbox level

The parameter security.sandbox.content.level determines the level of the sandbox. You may use it to change the level, but only to a value that is supported.

If you pick a lower value, some sandbox restrictions may be lifted, if you pick a higher value -- provided that it is supported -- the sandbox may be more restrictive than it was.

To change the sandbox level of NPAPI plugins, search for the preference dom.ipc.plugins.sandbox-level.flash or dom.ipc.plugins.sandbox-level.default instead.

Closing Words

The next big milestones for Firefox's sandbox feature land in Firefox 53 for Linux, and Firefox 54 for Windows and Mac versions of the browser if the schedule holds.

Now You: What are your expectations for the feature?

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Firefox 53: search in large select fields http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/21/firefox-53-search-in-large-select-fields/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/21/firefox-53-search-in-large-select-fields/#comments Sat, 21 Jan 2017 07:23:14 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129701 Mozilla plans to roll out a new feature in Firefox 53 that makes finding the right item in large select fields more comfortable by adding a search to the field. Select fields provide you with a set list of items that you select one from. This works well if there are not too many items, […]

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Mozilla plans to roll out a new feature in Firefox 53 that makes finding the right item in large select fields more comfortable by adding a search to the field.

Select fields provide you with a set list of items that you select one from. This works well if there are not too many items, but once scrolling is involved, it can become a nuisance.

While you can usually type the first two or three characters of the item you want to select rapidly, if you know its name, this only works if they are the beginning characters.

Having to scroll through a list of hundreds of items is not very comfortable. This happens for instance when a site's registration form asks you to pick a country.

Firefox 53: search in large select fields

firefox select search

Mozilla plans to integrate a search field for large select fields in Firefox 53 stable. Large select fields are any with 41 items or more.

This allows you to filter the selection based on the text or characters that you enter.

The search displays only matching items once you start typing. The main difference to typing the first couple of characters fast directly in the field, is that the search finds those characters no matter where they are, and not only in the beginning of items.

The feature landed in Firefox Nightly already, but it is not enabled by default.

  1. Type about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful.
  3. Search for dom.forms.selectSearch.
  4. Double-click the preference name.

A value of true enables the feature. The change is active immediately on any new page that you open, and on any page you reload after making it.

Note that the search is attached to to the top of the selection list. It does not scroll with the list, which means that it will not be visible anymore once you start scrolling the list of items manually.

To use it, simply activate it with a click and start typing. Results are filtered as you type, and you can select any item from the results to make it your selection.

The preference value will be flipped eventually to enable the feature by default. Current projections see that happen with the Firefox 53 Stable release, out April 18th, 2017 if the schedule holds. (via Sören Hentzschel)

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This is Firefox’s upcoming Permissions System http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/19/firefox-permission-system/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/19/firefox-permission-system/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 10:58:17 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129653 Back in mid-2016 we gave you a glimpse of the new permissions system that Mozilla was working on at the time for its Firefox web browser. Mozilla worked on it a bit more in the meantime, and plans to launch an updated version of it soon that improves the user interaction with permissions in several […]

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Back in mid-2016 we gave you a glimpse of the new permissions system that Mozilla was working on at the time for its Firefox web browser.

Mozilla worked on it a bit more in the meantime, and plans to launch an updated version of it soon that improves the user interaction with permissions in several ways.

While there has always been permissions in web browsers, think of allowing or disallowing cookies or JavaScript for instance, recent advanced in web technologies brought along with them new ways for sites and services to interact with the browser.

Non-default permissions, those that require access to a system's web cam, microphone or other sensors for instance, require elevation in Firefox. This means that Firefox will prompt the user when a site requests access to these features, and it is up to the user to grant or deny the request.

Firefox Permissions

The old system that Firefox uses right now in the stable version of the browser has its usability flaws. It is for instance easy enough to dismiss prompts by clicking elsewhere, and users appear to have troubles bringing the prompt back up when that happens.

It is also difficult to manage individual permissions for sites according to surveys and tests that Mozilla conducted in the past to analyze the current system.

The new permissions system, which is activate in Nightly versions of Firefox already, improves user interactions with site permissions significantly.

We talked about the new sticky permissions prompt already that is displayed when a site requests a permission. Options are clearer in the prompt, and it is not possible anymore to accidentally dismiss it without making a selection.

The icon the prompt uses indicates the permission request. A new feature that makes things even easier is that Firefox highlights permissions that you declined in the address bar next to the "information" icon.

The icon indicates if special permissions have been granted, and opens the permissions dialog. Blocked permission requests are highlighted in the address bar to indicate that to the user, and give users a chance to activate them quickly if the need arises.

Furthermore, disallowed permission requests are now displayed as strikethrough icons in the Awesome Bar to hint at the potential cause of site breakage. For example a video conferencing site will probably not be functioning very well if you reject its camera permission request.

A click on the icon, or the information icon, opens the new permissions dialog of Firefox.

firefox permissions

This dialog shows permissions directly, allowing you to remove them with a click, or allow or block permissions directly from there without having to go anywhere else in Firefox for that.

If you see a small dot in the top right corner of the i-icon, it means that the site has been granted elevated privileges.

You can still open Page Info from that dialog though to open the full permissions listing for the site, and make changes to it.

WebRTC

firefox webrtc screen share

Audio, video and screen sharing permissions are improved as well. Screen sharing for one does not require sites to be added to a whitelist anymore. All sites may use WebRTC screen sharing in Firefox when the change lands.

Firefox users have to select the window they want to share from a list -- the default is no window -- and a preview of that window is displayed for verification purposes.

Firefox will ask the user if the entire screen or other important screens are to be shared.

Mozilla introduced a permissions manager back in 2011 in Firefox that gave you control over site permissions, but removed it later on.

Additional information on the permission system changes are available here.

Now You: What's your opinion on the new permissions system?

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Pick & Save Images for Firefox: excellent image downloader http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/18/pick-save-images-for-firefox-excellent-image-downloader/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/18/pick-save-images-for-firefox-excellent-image-downloader/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:04:15 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129641 Pick & Save Images is a free browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that improves the browser's image downloading functionality significantly. All web browsers ship with built-in options to save images, or to browse the local Internet cache to pick them from there instead. While that is sufficient most of the time, you may […]

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Pick & Save Images is a free browser add-on for the Firefox web browser that improves the browser's image downloading functionality significantly.

All web browsers ship with built-in options to save images, or to browse the local Internet cache to pick them from there instead.

While that is sufficient most of the time, you may sometimes need a tool that is a bit more powerful. Say, you want to download ten, twenty or even more than one hundred images posted on a page.

While you can do that manually using built-in options, you may prefer to speed things up a bit using browser extensions or programs.

The best program for the job is Bulk Image Downloader if you ask me, but it is not free.

Pick & Save Images

pick save images

Pick & Save Images may not offer the same functionality as Bulk Image Downloader, but it is still an excellent add-on. Here is why:

The add-on walks you through the main functions upon installation. This does not take longer than a minute, and ensures that you know all the core functionality the extension provides.

Basically, what you can do is click on the extension icon when you are on a web page, to have it grab all images on that page for you.

Pick & Save Images displays all images as thumbnails in a new window afterwards. This resembles how Bulk Image Downloader displays images that it picked up on URLs.

While you can click on save and be done with it, you can also customize the selection in various ways.

The filter options at the top enable you to filter by image resolution or by file size. You may also filter out all images but original ones, ignore duplicates, or filter by file extension, transparency, or animated content.

Only want to download high resolution images, png images, or the original files and not thumbnail files? All options are but a click away.

Another interesting option displayed right at the top of the window is auto-save. You can use it to save images directly using the filter options that you have specified.

The extension supports profiles which you can create and configure. It ships with only one profile, but you may add more with a click on the arrow icon next to the extension's icon in the Firefox interface.

This way, you can create profiles for various tasks or sites. Maybe you want to download images automatically on one site, but prefer to select pictures manually on another. Profiles let you do that. Remember though that you need to switch between profiles, as there is no option to link profiles to specific sites.

You may link profiles to URLs, and even use wildcards for that. You could create profiles for individual sites, or add wildcards as well to match multiple URLs or types of services.

pick and save

There is more to Pick & Save Images than that. Additional options are displayed at the bottom of the selection window.

You find options there to sort and view images in a variety of ways, an option to set a default save folder that images may get saved to automatically and without further user interaction, and even more download related preferences when you click on "settings".

download images

There you find options to create sub folders automatically, file rename options, and other options like opening the folder the images were saved to after the operation completed.

Closing Words

Pick & Save Images is a handy Firefox add-on designed specifically for downloading images in bulk from websites. It is like the little specialized brother of the excellent Down Them All add-on for Firefox.

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Mozilla considers making Firefox DevTools a System Add-on http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/17/mozilla-considers-making-firefox-devtools-a-system-add-on/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/17/mozilla-considers-making-firefox-devtools-a-system-add-on/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 07:16:01 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129544 Mozilla is investigating options currently to turn the built-in Developer Tools of the Firefox web browser into a system add-on. So-called system add-ons are browser add-ons that ship with core Firefox. Basically, add-ons that are not installed by the user but by Mozilla. Firefox users have less control over these system add-ons, even though it […]

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Mozilla is investigating options currently to turn the built-in Developer Tools of the Firefox web browser into a system add-on.

So-called system add-ons are browser add-ons that ship with core Firefox. Basically, add-ons that are not installed by the user but by Mozilla.

Firefox users have less control over these system add-ons, even though it is possible to remove them from the system Firefox is run on.

The main idea behind making the Developer Tools of the web browser a system add-on is that it allows Mozilla to deliver updates faster to users as the release of updates would not be tied to Firefox releases anymore.

firefox developer tools system addon

This is especially beneficial to users of Firefox's release channel who have to wait several release cycles currently to get updates (starting with Nightly, then Developer Tools, then Beta before they land in Stable). Mozilla notes that the majority of Developer Tools users use the release version of Firefox.

The DevTools team investigates scenarios currently in regards to turning the built-in Developer Tools into a system add-ons. One idea that is being discussed is to change the state of the Developer Tools when it is offered as a system add-on. The two main ideas are to either only install the system add-on on demand, or to ship it in disabled state instead, but both options are not supported right now by Firefox.

Move DevTools, DevEdition Prefs + Theme into a system add-on. This would allow us to achieve our goal of shipping to our users more quickly and set us to more easily transition all of our users later.

While Developer Tools are certainly appreciated by users who make use of them, the team notes that less than 1% of users interact with DevTools at all. A Microsoft study suggests on top of that, that the majority of users interact with the Developer Tools by mistake instead of intentionally.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but the team wants to move forward with the plan. There are also talks underway to transition the system later on to a mix of WebExtensions and system add-on.

(this is still up in the air) is likely that we transition from system add-on to WebExtension + System add-on. Where the system add-on becomes smaller and smaller, only remaining to support the WebExtension APIs we need and the rest of the tools to live as pure WebExtensions.

Closing Words

Turning the Developer Tools into a system add-on makes a whole lot of sense. First, it enables the team to push updates faster to all users as updates don't have to ride the train anymore to end up in the release version of the web browser.

Second, it may prevent users from interacting with the Developer Tools by mistake. As long as Mozilla gets the activation process right, it should not take more than one or two clicks to enable the Developer Tools in Firefox, doing so should be beneficial to all parties involved. (via Sören Hentzschel)

Now You: What's your opinion on the idea?

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Firefox: new default theme, theme API makes an appearance http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/16/firefox-new-default-theme-theme-api-makes-an-appearance/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/16/firefox-new-default-theme-theme-api-makes-an-appearance/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 07:47:47 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129423 2017 will be quite the interesting year for the Firefox web browser. Mozilla plans to make the switch to WebExtensions in that year, launch a new themes API that is based on that, and will introduce a new default Firefox theme on top of all that. The first changes have been pushed to the Nightly […]

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2017 will be quite the interesting year for the Firefox web browser. Mozilla plans to make the switch to WebExtensions in that year, launch a new themes API that is based on that, and will introduce a new default Firefox theme on top of all that.

The first changes have been pushed to the Nightly version of the Firefox web browser already. The most visible change is the addition of two new themes that Firefox will ship with from that version on.

What this means is that Firefox users can choose one of the three themes to run Firefox with, all without having to head over to the themes repository to download themes first.

Firefox: new default compact themes

Users of Firefox's Developer Edition may know the themes already: Compact Dark and Compact Light are more or less copies of the Developer Themes.

The core difference is that you may enable the themes using the Add-on Manager, and don't have to open the Developer Tools to switch between themes. Their main advantage over the default theme is that they save you a couple of extra pixels vertically when enabled.

firefox standard firefox compact dark firefox compact light

The new themes are already available for selection in Firefox Nightly. They will be made available in other Firefox versions in the coming months.

To enable them, load about:addons in the browser's address bar, and switch to appearance in the menu. There you find the two new themes listed next to the default theme, and any other theme you may have installed in Firefox manually.

Simply click on the enable link to activate the selected theme. A restart is not required.

Another option that you have to enable the themes is to open the browser's customize mode. Click on Menu > Customize.

firefox add themes

Select Themes to display the list of themes. Firefox displayed the default theme there, and five recommended themes. The new themes listing there displays the two compact themes for selection, and only two recommended themes instead of five.

Theme WebExtensions API has landed

webextensions themes

Mozilla is working on WebExtensions support currently. Some APIs are already available, and many are still being worked on.

One API that was a no-show up until now was the new theme API that will provide theme developers with capabilities to create themes for the Firefox web browser.

This is important, as Mozilla wants to turn off all other add-on and theme related creation options, and focus solely on WebExtensions starting in late 2017.

All themes and add-ons for Firefox that are not created using WebExtensions won't be compatible with Firefox anymore at that point. While it is possible that Mozilla will extend the deadline to give developers more time to make the switch, nothing has been said in this regard up to now. Specifics are not known yet and it remains to be seen how this will end up.

The new themes API will sit somewhere between today's lightweight themes and full themes. It will be more powerful than lightweight themes, but not as powerful as full themes.

The new theme WebExtensions API has landed in Firefox Nightly. It is locked behind a configuration switch right now though:

  1. Type about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if the warning prompt appears.
  3. Search for extensions.webextensions.themes.enabled.
  4. Double-click the preference.

This sets the preference to true, and enables support for the WebExtensions themes API in Firefox. You can follow development of the themes API -- it is far from complete -- here.

The following demo shows some of the API's capabilities:

New Firefox Default Theme

Mozilla plans to refresh the current default theme of the Firefox web browser in 2017. The project is called photon, and it is part of Quantum, but that is the extent of what we know about the plans right now.

It could be a simple visual refresh, or something of epic proportions like Australis.

Closing Words

Much of what is theme-related and coming in 2017 is unknown territory at this point in time. We don't know anything about the default theme refresh, nor how powerful the themes API will be once version 1.0 is made available. (thanks Sören Hentzschel)

Now You: What are your expectations for the new default theme, and themes API?

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Firefox 53: JSON Viewer on by default http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/12/firefox-53-json-viewer-on-by-default/ http://www.ghacks.net/2017/01/12/firefox-53-json-viewer-on-by-default/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 16:28:00 +0000 http://www.ghacks.net/?p=129211 Mozilla plans to enable the built-in JSON Viewer of the Firefox web browser for all browser channels including Firefox Stable in Firefox 53. The organization integrated the viewer in version 44 of the web browser, but did not enable it by default for all channels but the Developer Channel. Firefox's JSON Viewer displays structured JSON […]

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Mozilla plans to enable the built-in JSON Viewer of the Firefox web browser for all browser channels including Firefox Stable in Firefox 53.

The organization integrated the viewer in version 44 of the web browser, but did not enable it by default for all channels but the Developer Channel.

Firefox's JSON Viewer displays structured JSON data instead of the RAW data dump that one gets when the viewer or a third-party extension is not enabled.

Take a look at the following two screenshots to see the difference between unstructured JSON data, barely readable by humans, and the data presented by the JSON Viewer in Firefox.

firefox json data

firefox json viewer

As you can see, the data is displayed in a tree hierarchy with JSON Viewer enabled. It is still possible to switch to the raw data view with the viewer enabled. Other options that you may find interesting are to show or hide certain bits of data, to use a filter, and to save or copy data.

This is mostly useful for developers, as it provides them with a better representation of JSON data directly in the Firefox web browser. Useful for instance to understand how to retrieve information from the data.

JSON Viewer is part of all versions of Firefox already, but it is not enabled in all versions. While it is enabled in Firefox Developer Edition and Nightly for instance, it is not enabled in Firefox Stable. This will happen with the release of Firefox 53 which will come out on April 18th, 2017 if the Firefox release schedule is not changed.

You can enable JSON Viewer in all versions of Firefox right now if you don't want to wait for that to happen:

  1. Type about:config in the Firefox address bar and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if the warning prompt appears.
  3. Search for devtools.jsonview.enabled.
  4. Double-click on the preference name.

Setting the value of the preference to true enables the feature, while a value of false disables it. This means that you can disable the viewer in case you don't require it, or prefer to use a different extension or program for that instead.

You can follow the progress on Bugzilla. (via Sören Hentzschel)

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