This Week's Sponsor:


Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.

Posts tagged with "firefox"

Firefox Receives Speed Bump and Design Refresh

I was an original supporter of Firefox in 2004. At the time, the Internet was in desperate need of change. The web browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which was clunky and becoming an increasingly closed, proprietary system. Firefox found immediate success because it was fast and had an extension system for extending its functionality. Over time though, Firefox lost its speed advantage and fell out of favor.

Now, Firefox is back with a new and improved version called Firefox Quantum that focuses on speed and a fresh design. According to the Mozilla Foundation:

Firefox Quantum is over twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago, built on a completely overhauled core engine with brand new technology stolen from our advanced research group, and graced with a beautiful new look designed to get out of the way and let you do what you do best: surf a ton of pages, open a zillion tabs, all guilt free because Firefox Quantum uses less memory than the competition.

I haven’t had an opportunity to thoroughly test Firefox on my Mac, but even after opening 50 tabs on a fresh install of the browser, many of which were notoriously heavy sites, Firefox remained responsive. In addition to being twice as fast as the previous version of the app, Mozilla says Firefox Quantum uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome.

The under-the-hood improvements are coupled with a refreshed user interface that’s designed to scale from mobile devices to large screens. The redesign includes the incorporation of Pocket article recommendations. When you open a new tab, you get three article recommendations from Pocket, which was acquired by Mozilla earlier this year, along with links to popular Pocket article categories.

The update to Firefox for macOS is coupled with a similar design refresh on iOS. Version 10.1 of Firefox brings Firefox’s new design to iOS, including Pocket recommendations. The iOS version of the browser also has a ‘no image’ mode that uses less data and loads faster.

Firefox for macOS is available directly from the Mozilla Foundation. The iOS version of the browser is available on the App Store.

Mozilla Previews New Firefox Design

Something I’ve been following very closely is the development of Firefox, which has become my browser of choice, replacing Safari on OS X and Chrome on Windows. What it lacks in the latest and greatest features it makes up for with privacy controls and a robust library of add-ons. Opera’s interesting since it dropped the Presto rendering engine in favor of WebKit, but despite being a near carbon copy of Chrome it’s currently without expected features such as tearaway tabs. Chrome is a privacy concern, and Apple dropped Safari on Windows. Firefox it is.

There’s a lot to talk about with Firefox, namely Mozilla’s proactive efforts in the mobile space. Firefox has seen rapid development for Android phones and tablets, and Mozilla has made Firefox OS for use in developing countries. In a very Apple “back to the Mac” sorta way, Mozilla is taking what they’ve learned and bringing it back to the desktop.

The result is Australis (not to be confused with Aurora).

It’s been a long time coming. Firefox’s latest design beginnings stem all the way back to 2011, when Mozilla’s Product Visual Designer showed off early designs in a detailed blog post. You might also recognize Australis from the Mozilla Wiki; last year potential mockups were published that demonstrated new Firefox features such as a new options panel and customization mode. TechCrunch highlighted the latest design earlier this year, and Mozilla even hinted at the updated interface in their celebratory ninth birthday post.

Mozilla is talking about the surface changes in their UX blog update, focusing on the organic design of their tabs, how customizable Firefox is, and how streamlined the interface has become. Having used Firefox throughout the years, it’s refreshing but I’m interested to see where it ends up. I’m currently using the Nightly build for my day to day browsing to get an idea of where the browser is headed, and for the most part they’re all good changes. The entire interface has been simplified, right down to the menus. There’s little things, however, that I’m concerned about for the time being.

All the major browsers have combined address and search bars, but Firefox remains in the past unless you install an extension such as Omnibar. Maybe it’s in the works since it’s not omitted from the mobile designs, but I’d really like to hear Mozilla’s reasoning if they decide to keep the search bar separate for Australis’ stable build.

The same goes for the currently missing-in-action Add-on Bar. There are certain add-ons (like the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere) that don’t need to be in the same space as add-ons like Evernote’s Clearly, and could be kept neatly out of the way at the bottom of the browser window. With the Add-on Bar gone, however, status indicators like HTTPS Everywhere are left heaped in with actionable tools or are hidden in the menu panel.

Firefox was known for being a memory hog in the past, but this has gotten much better in recent versions. While not design related, Mozilla’s main goal for Firefox should be focusing on things like sandboxed tabs for safer browsing. If a Flash plug-in chugs or halts, it affects the entire browser, which usually isn’t the case in multi-process browsers like Chrome that simply stop offending tab. Projects like Electrolysis aimed to solve this, which was put on hold for a while, but has since been put back on the table and is currently in continued development.

As for Australis, I think the new visual theme is largely beneficial for garnering interest from new users or recapturing those who left for Chrome after sensing stagnation. I don’t know if this alone will be enough to keep them if Mozilla doesn’t have key performance improvements under the hood, but I personally welcome the changes (especially on OS X where a visual refresh was much needed).

Read more about the changes on Mozilla’s UX Blog, and download the Nightly here if you’d like to help contribute feedback and bug fixes.

Mozilla Working On Web Push Notifications for Firefox

Mozilla Working On Web Push Notifications for Firefox

Ryan Paul at Ars Technica reports about Mozilla’s “web push notification” project, which, in theory, would allow Firefox users to stay on top of websites like Twitter, Facebook, or Gmail using a push notification system similar to iOS:

Mozilla is developing a push notification system for the Firefox Web browser. It will allow users to receive notifications from websites without having to keep those sites open in their browser. The system will also be able to relay push notifications to mobile devices.

It’s important to note that this push notification system is distinct from the existing desktop notification mechanisms that are already defined in pending standards. The desktop notifications that websites like GMail and Seesmic Web display to Chrome users, for example, will only work when the website is left open in a tab. Mozilla’s push notification system moves beyond that limitation.

Jeff Balogh has written more about the project here, describing how notifications could be sent to any “Firefox device” including iPhones running Firefox Home:

Once the notification is in the system, we’ll deliver it to the recipient on all the devices they have Firefox installed, but we’ll try not to show duplicate notifications on different devices.

There’s a lot at stake here. On the one hand, desktop browsers have largely failed at delivering the kind of real-time connections and up-to-the-minute social/news updates you can expect from mobile apps on iOS and Android. Sure, there are extensions and add-ons, but they’re not nearly as integrated and “part” of the system. Push notifications almost seem “meant” for mobile devices. Furthermore, notifications are an area of mobile development both Google and Apple have been focusing on during the past years; on the desktop, apps have to rely on their own notification system or third-party apps, but browsers like Firefox sport no built-in push notification technology whatsoever. As far as “web notifications” go, Boxcar has been up to some interesting stuff including the desktop.

On the other hand, one could argue that we have enough notifications on our mobile devices, and having to see the red badge in our desktop browsers would be a terrible idea. I believe Mozilla’s project is worth of attention nevertheless, especially on the iOS side considering the existing Firefox Home app, and I look forward to seeing a first implementation, which hopefully will be available before Firefox 25 ships.


Lion Full-Screen, New Tab Page Sneak Into Early Firefox 12 Build

One of the next versions of Firefox, Firefox 12, may feature a series of new interface elements and functionalities that should both appeal to OS X Lion users and introduce new navigation options for those who dont’ want to save their-most accessed websites in a bookmarks bar anymore. As first noted by ExtremeTech, an early version of a proposed new tab page design snuck into a nightly version of Firefox; per Mozilla’s multiple channel releases, users of Firefox can test different versions of the browser, which range from Nightly to Aurora, Beta, Stable, and those uploaded directly to Mozilla’s FTP servers.

ExtremeTech wrote about the new tab page:

The Firefox home tab is a lot more exciting. Basically there are two phases: The first phase will add “launchers” at the bottom — one-click links to your downloads, settings, apps, and so on (pictured right). Phase two is a complete reworking of the home page paradigm, weaving in favorite apps, recent websites, and even instant messaging (pictured below). Phase one is expected to roll out with Firefox 12, but at the time of writing the code still hasn’t been committed.

However, as also noted in an update to the original post, it appears Mozilla has pulled the functionality from the Nightly release of Firefox, leaving it in the “UX version” available for download on Mozilla’s servers. Upon comparing the standard Nightly build to the UX one, I noticed the latter already contains the grid design for top websites pictured above, and full-screen support for Lion.

I wasn’t able to activate ExtremeTech’s home tab page design with search, Top Apps, Top Sites and Chat in a single window; the current Firefox UX Nightly build features shortcuts along the bottom of the window to open History, Settings, Add-ons, Apps, and Downloads. A new “Restore Previous Session” button is also provided in case you haven’t set Firefox to automatically re-open previously open tabs on launch.

Changes that appear in Firefox Nightly builds typically carry over to the other stages of development and are further tweaked with refinements and bug fixes, but there could be changes in the features that Mozilla decides to implement once version 12 hits the beta channel. As for Lion support, Mozilla failed to deliver any significant optimization since the OS’ release back in July, unlike competitor Chrome which added new scrolling, full-screen support and gesture navigation (among other things) fairly quickly. A designer at Mozilla mocked up some ideas that the company could deliver in a future version of Firefox for Lion, but as of version 12 nightly (Firefox stable is currently at version 9) it seems those ideas haven’t been taken into consideration yet.

Firefox 9 Beta Released with “New Look” To Match OS X Lion

Two days after the release of Firefox 8, Mozilla has made available a first public beta of the next major Firefox update, Firefox 9. As expected due to the company’s fast release cycle, Firefox 9 will follow Firefox 8 in a few weeks, with Firefox 10 likely entering initial alpha testing soon.

For the first time since the release of OS X Lion in July, Mozilla says they have included “a new look that matches the Mac OS X Lion application toolbar and icon styles”. In the release notes, Mozilla refers to these changes as “improved theme integration for Mac OS X Lion”. For comparison, we have grabbed a series of screenshots to show the differences the “new look” brings between Firefox 8 and Firefox 9 beta. It is, however, possible that haven’t spotted all the differences between the two versions yet – MacStories readers are welcome to leave us a comment if they find more visual cues to the “new look” in Firefox 9 for Lion.

Mozilla mocked up some big Lion changes a few months back, and notably Firefox still hasn’t implemented several native Lion functionalities, like natural scrolling and full-screen mode.

Firefox 9 comes with other improvements for developers:

  • Type Inference: Firefox Beta adds Type Inference to make JavaScript significantly faster. To learn more about how rich websites and Web apps with lots of pictures, videos and 3D graphics will load faster in Firefox, check out this blog post.
  • Do Not Track JavaScript Detection: Firefox Beta enables JavaScript to show developers when users choose to opt-out of behavioral tracking with the Do Not Track privacy feature.
  • Chunked XHR Support: Firefox Beta supports chunking for XHR requests so websites can receive data that’s part of a large XHR download in progress. This helps developers make websites and Web apps faster, especially those that download large sets of data or via AJAX.

You can download Firefox 9 beta over at Mozilla’s website.

Firefox 8 Officially Released

In late September Mozilla released version 7 of its Firefox browser, and as part of the company’s new fast release cycle we noted a few days after the release that a beta of Firefox 8 had already been seeded to developers. In the article, we noted Mozilla promised Firefox 8 would deliver better tab management, deeper Twitter integration, and new features for web developers.

Uploaded to the company’s FTP servers a few days ago, Firefox 8 has been officially released today, with a blog post from Mozilla outlining the differences from the previous version. As with the Firefox 8 beta, Firefox 8 final comes with an option in the Preferences to load existing tabs (the pages you left open the last time you quit the browser) only when they’re selected. This should improve the browser’s startup times, as it’s no longer forced to reload all tabs upon launch.

Another minor new feature is the addition of a Twitter icon in the app’s search box. Mozilla says “Twitter search is currently available in English, Portuguese, Slovenian and Japanese versions of Firefox”, and the new options basically just loads a new Twitter search page for anything you type in the search field – don’t expect Firefox to smartly recognize @usernames or #hashtags, and open Twitter profiles or hashtag pages instead of plain search.

Alongside better handling of third-party add-ons, security and stability fixes, Firefox 8 introduces a series of improvements for web developers:

Improved performance and memory handling when using <audio> and <video> elements

  • Added CORS support for cross-domain textures in WebGL
  • Added support for HTML5 context menus
  • Added support for insertAdjacentHTML
  • Improved CSS hyphen support for many languages
  • Improved WebSocket support

As far as Lion support goes, whereas Google updated Chrome to take advantage of the OS’ new native scrolling and full-screen mode, Mozilla’s browser still lacks any sort of Lion integration and support for new functionalities.

To read more about Firefox 8’s new features, head over Mozilla’s blog post on the update. Expect a beta of Firefox 9 to become publicly available soon; you can download Firefox 8 from Mozilla’s website here.

Firefox 8 Enters Beta with Twitter Search, New Tab Features

As Firefox 7 hit the public channel earlier this week, Mozilla has published a new blog post detailing some of the features of the new Firefox 8, now available in beta. Keeping true to their renewed schedule for Firefox updates, Mozilla aims to release a new version of their browser every six weeks, which has lead to some confusion among users as to whether it’s really necessary to call every update a major release when there are only minor differences to test.

Firefox 8 will deliver some improvements to tab management, allowing users to choose whether tabs should load at start-up, or only when they’re selected. This should allow for faster start-up times when windows with many tabs are restored; from a first test, it indeed appears Firefox 8 will restore the last opened tab, display other tabs’ titles and favicons, but load their contents only when the user clicks on them. Mac users can find this new option under Preferences -> General. Also, a new tab animation should make it easier to re-order tabs.

Another new feature of Firefox 8 is Twitter integration in the search box. By clicking on the search provider’s icon (by default it’s Google), users will have the option to choose Twitter and enter terms to look up on the social network’s Search page.

Firefox 8 also includes:

  • Enhanced control of add-ons: Users will receive a one-time notification to review and confirm third party add-ons they want to keep, disable or delete. When Firefox starts and finds that a third-party program has installed an add-on, Firefox will disable the add-on until the user has explicitly opted in, giving users better control over their Web experience.
  • CORS for WebGL textures: Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) enables Web developers to load textures from other domains for WebGL in a secure way.
  • WebSockets updates: Firefox now prevents the use of plaintext WebSockets when created from an SSL page, which improves security for users.
  • HTML5 Native Right Click Menu: Web developers can now add items directly to the Firefox right click menu using simple HTML5 markup.
  • HTML5 media elements: Developers can add a lot of video and audio elements to a website without impacting performance

Firefox 8 is expected to be available later this year. The first beta can be download from Mozilla’s website here.

Firefox 7 Officially Released

Last month Mozilla officially introduced a new version of its browser, Firefox 6, but we noted that work on Firefox 7 was already underway as part of Mozilla’s new six-weeks fast release cycle. Firefox 7 has been officially released today, adding a number of memory and engine improvements to make the app speedier, and more reliable. Mozilla says they have “drastically improved” memory handling – this is something that Mozilla announced back in August when they claimed that Firefox 7 would use 50% less memory to address memory leaks, crashes, and general instability with lots of different open tabs. On Windows machines, a new rendering backend is said to be increasing performances of Canvas operations, whilst all platforms are getting better password and bookmark sync with Mozilla’s built-in sync tool.

The most visible change in Firefox 7 is the lack of the http:// prefix in the address bar:

The new Firefox also brings some changes for developers:

New tools in Firefox make it easier for developers to build snappy Web experiences for users. A new version of hardware-accelerated Canvas speeds up HTML5 animations and games in Firefox. This allows developers to build more compelling and interactive Web experiences like Angry Birds or Runfield.

Firefox now supports the W3C navigation timing spec API so developers can measure page load time and website navigation against bandwidth speed, website traffic and other factors. This API allows developers to test user experiences remotely and easily and quickly optimize websites and Web apps for different types of users.

From the release notes:

  • Added support for text-overflow: ellipsis
  • Added support for the Web Timing specification
  • Enhanced support for MathML
  • The WebSocket protocol has been updated from version 7 to version 8
  • Added an opt-in system for users to send performance data back to Mozilla to improve future versions of Firefox
  • Fixed several stability issues
  • Fixed several security issues

With version 7, Mozilla has also implemented a new usage statistic functionality called Telemetry that will help the company collect usage information (memory, CPU, startup speed) to improve future versions of Firefox.

Beginning with version 7, Firefox includes functionality that is turned off by default to send to Mozilla non-personal usage, performance, and responsiveness statistics about user interface features, memory, and hardware configuration. The only Potentially Personal Information sent to Mozilla when this functionality has been enabled is IP addresses. Usage statistics are transmitted using SSL (a method of protecting data in transit) and help us improve future versions of Firefox. Once sent to Mozilla, usage statistics are stored in an aggregate form and made available to a broad range of developers, including both Mozilla employees and public contributors. Once this functionality is enabled, users can disable it in Firefox’s Options/Preferences. Simply deselect the “Submit performance data” item.

Telemetry is off by default and needs to be manually enabled. The feature can also be deactivated from the Preferences.

Firefox 7 can be downloaded here. The latest version of the browser still doesn’t come with Lion-specific fixes and features, but mockups posted recently by Mozilla’s Product Visual Designer Stephen Horlander suggested the Firefox team is experimenting with new interface elements and navigation options for Firefox on OS X. Read more

Firefox 6 Officially Released

Firefox 5 was released less than two months ago and work on Firefox 7 is already underway, and to keep up with their “fast release cycle” promise Mozilla has officially released Firefox 6 today, making the browser 20% faster than Firefox 5 and improving the behavior of tab groups in Panorama, the functionality that allows users to get a quick glance at open tabs from an elegant bird’s eye view. With Firefox 6, released nearly five months after Firefox 4, Panorama comes with faster start-up times as tab groups are only loaded when selected; another noticeable improvement – bug fixes and speed optimizations aside – can be seen in the address bar, which now highlights domain names to give you a better idea of the website you’re on.

The new Firefox also brings important changes for developers:

The new “Web Developer” menu in Firefox provides easy access to tools that help developers build and debug websites directly in the browser. Developers will enjoy the new Scratchpad tool, which makes it simple to quickly enter, execute, test and refine JavaScript snippets in Firefox without needing to work in a one-line console. The Web Console is improved with an auto-complete feature and the ability to customize the console’s location to save developers time.

Whilst Mozilla is busy keeping up with three major releases in testing in their Aurora, Beta and Stable channels, recently posted mockups have shown that the company is interested in updating the browser’s interface in the future to fully take advantage of OS X Lion. The current versions of Firefox (in all the three channels available) don’t come with native Lion features such as full-screen or popover menus, though Mozilla’s Product Visual Designer Stephen Horlander suggested the Firefox team is experimenting with (or at least discussing) new interaction methods and graphical elements for Firefox on the Mac.

You can read more about changes in Firefox 6 here, and download the latest update from Mozilla’s website. Check out more screenshots after the break. Read more