With Mozilla now on a six-week rapid release schedule, it might be difficult to keep track of all the changes happening with Firefox. So, here’s a brief look at what’s new in Mozilla’s latest browser.
The Mozilla developers originally created a feature called Firefox Share to make it convenient for you to share a link with social network sites. But throughout the year, they have been expanding it into an open API that could be used to provide other functionality with social networks directly within Firefox itself, such as messaging, news feeds, and notifications. Social API was introduced in Firefox 17 supporting integration with Facebook Messenger.
Click-to-play plugin blocker
This security feature added to Firefox 17 presents a more friendly way to deal with outdated plugins. Now whenever you install a new version of the browser and it recognises a plugin (like Adobe Reader, Flash or Silverlight) as old - and therefore a possible security risk - it will automatically block the plugin in question from running on a page. Click on the blocked plugin’s image to allow it to run still.
Here’s a cool thing that was added to Firefox 16 if you use Firefox to do website development: you can invoke a Developer Toolbar which appears along the bottom of the browser. Just click on Web Console, Inspector or Developer, which are set on the right side of this toolbar, to open and use these tools.
Reader Mode (Firefox for Android)
In the Android version of Firefox, Reader Mode will reformat a page to make it more readable on the smaller screen of a mobile device. If Firefox determines that it can do this upon fully loading the page, a book icon will appear by the URL bar - tapping this will extract the main text in the page you are reading, enlarging its font, and stripping away the other elements in the layout. However, with many sites that did not have mobile versions, Reader Mode would not trigger on. When it is available and you activate it, you cannot pinch-and-zoom in on a re-formatted page - instead you enlarge (or shrink) text through a settings toolbar along the bottom of the browser.
Share tabs from Firefox for Android
From the mobile version of Firefox, you can now share an open tab to your computer or other mobile devices that also have Firefox (Version 16 and above) installed on them. Select “Share” under the browser’s menu settings to send the tab through your Firefox Sync account; it will open up on your other computer or device the next time you launch Firefox on it.
VoiceOver switched on by default (Firefox for OS X)
VoiceOver is an accessibility function that comes with OS X which helps users who are blind or impaired with bad vision to use their Mac. Among its many features is that a synthesised voice can read out the contents of a web page.
Initial support for web apps
Appearing in the code base of Firefox 16, the browser now includes technology to support web apps that will eventually be available for download from the Mozilla Marketplace. This app store is currently available only to users of the Firefox for Android beta. Web apps for Firefox will be installed and launched as if they’re typical desktop applications.
Improved stability with CyanogenMod 10 (Firefox for Android)
It may be unusual for a developer to spend time improving the performance of their app when it’s used on a third-party OS that is maintained by volunteers and not officially supported by mobile device makers. But that’s what Mozilla did with Firefox for Android. They improved the browser’s stability running specifically on CyanogenMod 10. This unofficial, aftermarket Android OS is built on the official open-sourced release of Android 4.1, codenamed Jelly Bean.
Malicious URLs stopped (Firefox for Android)
Another bug that the Mozilla developers quashed: one that can wipe data from an Android phone when using prior versions of Firefox to visit an URL address purposely written to do this nefarious feat. Implemented in Version 16, Firefox for Android can now recognise such malicious URLs and won’t allow them to be opened.
URL vulnerability in Version 16 fixed
Soon after Mozilla officially released the stable of Firefox 16, a bug was discovered by some users that could allow a malicious site to determine the URLs a user has visited and gain access to them. Mozilla decided to remove Firefox 16 from distribution on their site as they worked on a fix. Upon which, Firefox was re-released with an incremental number increase to 16.01.
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