The latest accelerated release for Firefox, version 6.0, arrives this week but what can users expect in advance of the more significant changes promised for version 7.0 later this year? The answer for now is better security.
The short answer is that almost everything noteworthy is underneath the surface, such as the new permissions feature (accessed by typing about:permissions into the address bar), which allows cookie, password and pop-up settings to be specified on a site-by-site basis instead or globally.
An interesting but very subtle security feature is the addition of a checking mechanism for plug-ins, accessed by clicking on the link at the top of the plug-ins tab of the Add-ons Manager.
Previously, Firefox users have had to rely on third-party tools such as the BrowserCheck tool from Qualys to find out whether their add-ons were the latest versions. The worry about plug-ins is well-founded; by most measures security flaws in browser plug-ins for common software such as Adobe Flash, Reader and Java now represent the biggest danger for exploits.
Another easy-to-miss security tweak is the highlighting of domain names in the address bar (eg google.com) to draw users’ attention when visiting or being pushed to unfamiliar sites.
Firefox 7.0 (‘Aurora’), due in September, has promised to rid the browser of its unpleasant reputation for hogging memory, something developers now accept probably got worse between the nimble Firefox 3.5 and the less nimble 4.0.
The latest version of Firefox can be downloaded without the ‘beta’ moniker from 16 August; betas of Aurora are also now available.