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Firefox 10 Launches: Promises Fewer Add-On Compatibility Issues, Enables Fullscreen API

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Now that Mozilla has fully embraced its rapid-release cycle, an update from version 9 to 10 of its popular Firefox browser isn't really an event anymore. Nevertheless, version 10, which launched today, brings a number of welcome new features with it, as well as the usual bug fixes and performance enhancements.

Virtually all of the changes in this new version are under the hood. The interface has not really changed – with one small exception. The forward button is now hidden until you actually navigate back from a page. This is definitely just a small change, though, and we will still have to wait until Firefox 12 to see the new "new tab" page appear in the Firefox release channel release.

If you are already a Firefox user, your browser will soon prompt you to update automatically. Version 10 is now also available for download here.

Fewer Add-On Compatibility Issues

What has changed, though, is the way Firefox 10 handles add-on compatibility issues when you upgrade the browser. Until now, users had to hope that the developers of their favorite add-ons ensured that they were compatible and marked as such. Now that Mozilla is releasing a new version of its browser every six weeks, though, that was becoming an issue for developers and users.

Mozilla's own add-on repository can automatically check the compatibility of most of the add-ons hosted on its servers. The problem, however, is that about 75% of add-ons are not hosted by Mozilla. Firefox 10 now assumes that most of these are actually compatible when you upgrade your browser. Thanks to this, users won't have to hope that a plugin's developer will constantly ensure that a plugin is up to date.

You can find more details about how Mozilla does this here.

Also New: Full Screen API

In addition, the new version also now offers developers a full screen API that allows them to build web apps that can run full screen. Game developers will likely be among the first to embrace this ability, though Mozilla also expects online video experiences and presentation software to make extensive use of this feature as well.

 



8:47 am


It’s Time for Apple to Allow Real Browser Competition on iOS

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Yesterday, Google launched its redesigned search app for the iPad. It features a smart, innovative design and could, with just a few extra features like bookmarks, easily become the best browser alternative to Safari on iOS. The reality, though, is that while Apple allows browser apps like the Dolphin Browser that use iOS’s built-in WebKit framework or Opera, which renders all the content on its own servers to get around Apple’s rules, none of these can be used as the default browsers on iOS. Whenever you click on a link in an email, for example, you can’t set iOS to open Opera instead of Safari. Because of this, there is almost no incentive for users to even try a third-party browser on iOS, as the system will constantly route them to Safari anyway.

Apple’s Own Browser: Adequate but not Innovative

Apple’s own browser is perfectly adequate, but as the Google app shows, users are missing out on innovations on all levels, including interface design and faster access to modern web standards on their mobile devices.

Safari on the iPad, for example, uses the same way to handle tabs as on the desktop instead of using a design that really makes use of the iPad’s touch features.

Third-Party Browsers Can’t Compete Unless Users Can Make them the Default Choice

The Google search app shows that interesting, touch-centric browser interfaces are possible. For Google, of course, search is the central metaphor for browsing the web, but you could just replace the current search screen at the center of the app with bookmarks and links to web apps and have a great browser app.

Mozilla was late to the mobile browser game, but now it’s doing a few creative things with Firefox on Android (and lets you use plugins, for example). Opera, too, is constantly pushing the envelope with its mobile browsers. iOS users, however, are more or less cut off from all of this innovation. Sure, you can install interesting apps like Dual Browser or Atomic Browser, but chances are, you will never use them because unlike Android, you can’t switch the default browser away from Safari on iOS.

Will Apple Ever Relinquish Total Control over the OS?

Apple, of course, wants to keep total control over your iOS experience. For most apps that are alternatives to built-in iOS apps (email, streaming music, to-do lists etc.), it doesn’t really matter that other apps can’t be set as the default. For browsers, though, it’s really the only way they will ever get widespread use.

Locking the browser down made sense for Apple in the early days of iOS, when apps weren’t even on the roadmap yet. Now, however, this policy feels more like it stifles innovation than that it protects users.



4:57 pm


Firefox 7 Has Arrived: Faster and Leaner

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Mozilla today launched the latest stable version of Firefox. While some enterprise users are not very happy with the new, faster release schedule for Firefox (this is the fourth stable release this year), every new version has brought worthwhile advantages and Firefox 7 is no exception. This new version doesn’t just include many developer-centric enhancements, but if you are a regular Firefox user, you will be happy to hear that the new Firefox now uses significantly less memory. It’s also faster, especially if you tend to keep many tabs open at the same time.

Other speed enhancements include support for hardware-accelerating some HTML5 functions that will make games and other interactive graphics run faster and smoother.

Calling Home

In addition to all of this, Firefox 7 is also the first stable release to support Mozilla’s new telemetry feature. With this, users can opt in to report their anonymized usage data back to the developers. This, says Mozilla, will allow its developers to measure Firefox performance in the real world better and help them optimize future releases. Before you worry about this, though, it’s important to note that Mozilla will only collect some very basic information about your system: memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, Firefox startup speed.

Getting the Update

If you are already using Firefox, your browser will update itself soon (or take a look at the About menu and see if the update is already ready to be applied there). If you want to download the latest version manually, just head over here.

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5:42 pm


Mozilla Officially Launches Firefox 6

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Mozilla today officially launched Firefox 6, the latest stable version of its popular browser. Since its switch to a more frequent release schedule, Mozilla has already pushed out a number of releases, so version numbers themselves are becoming significantly less useful at this point and most of the updates are rather small. Indeed, users who expect this to be a major update will be sorely disappointed as Mozilla only made minor tweaks to the user interface and didn’t add any major new features in this new version besides a new permissions tool for site-specific permissions.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a plethora of bug fixes and new features for developers in Firefox 6. Regular users, however, won’t notice much of a difference if they were already using Firefox 5 before. Most of your addons should also continue to work just fine. While earlier updates often broke many of the most popular updates, this has become less and less of an issue over the last few releases.

What’s New

Here is Mozilla’s official list of what’s new in Firefox 6: [list]

  • The address bar now highlights the domain of the website you’re visiting
  • Streamlined the look of the site identity block
  • Added support for the latest draft version of WebSockets with a prefixed API
  • Added support for EventSource / server-sent events
  • Added support for window.matchMedia
  • Added Scratchpad, an interactive JavaScript prototyping environment
  • Added a new Web Developer menu item and moved development-related items into it
  • Improved usability of the Web Console
  • Improved the discoverability of Firefox Sync
  • Reduced browser startup time when using Panorama
  • Fixed several stability issues
  • Fixed several security issues [/list]

Firefox 6 for Mobile

In addition to the desktop version, Mozilla also launched a new version of Firefox for Android. This new version features a slightly updated user interface and was tweaked to work better on tablets.

Get New Versions Earlier with the Beta and Aurora Channel

Intrepid users who want an early look at new Firefox builds can also switch to the Beta and Aurora channel (or even the Nightly channel if you feel really adventurous). This way, you can get new features even earlier and help Mozilla by reporting issues with these test builds.



3:51 pm


Opera Mini for iOS: Brilliant on the iPhone, Frustrating on the iPad

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Opera today released the latest version of its Opera Mini mobile browser for iOS. This is Opera’s debut on the iPad. On the iPhone, this new version marks a huge step up from Opera 5, which was virtually unusable due to they way it displayed the rendered text. This new version has none of these issues and feels incredibly fast and smooth. On the iPad, however, it’s generally unusable, though this is not necessarily Opera’s fault: most websites automatically switch to a stripped-down mobile view when they see a request from Opera Mini, no matter the size of the screen the site is rendered on. This means lots of screen estate simply goes wasted and usability suffers.

The ‘Mini’ versions of Opera, which are also available for a wide variety of other operating systems, doesn’t actually render the sites on the mobile device. Instead, every website you request passes through Opera’s servers, is compressed and then sent to your phone or tablet. This makes it very fast, but in the first iPhone version, Opera was a bit too aggressive about how it compressed text and images.

With regards to features, Opera can hold its own with other third-part iOS browsers like Atomic Web and Perfect Browser. The browser does, for example, feature Facebook and Twitter sharing, full-screen view and support for bookmark syncing with Opera Link.

What’s missing, though, is the ability to switch the user agent so Opera Mini can identify itself as a desktop browser on the iPad.

As all other third-party iOS browsers, Opera also suffers from the fact that users can’t set it as the default browser. Even if you love Opera, the iPad will still open Safari when you click on a link in an email.



7:02 pm


Next: Opera Browser Gets a Dev Channel, Too

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Blame Chrome. Ever since Google started releasing self-updating developer versions of its browser, other browser developers have been following suit. Mozilla now uses the same concept for releasing early (and potentially unstable) versions of Firefox. Starting today, Opera will use the same concept to give early adopters a sneak peek at upcoming versions of its browser, too. Dubbed Opera Next, users can install this self-updating version in parallel to the stable version of Opera to check out new features before they become widely available (the Next and stable versions will remain two completely separate installs).

Unlike Chrome and Firefox, though, Opera will not develop multiple versions at the same time, instead, the Next channel will keep users updated from early snapshots to alpha, beta, release candidates and stable versions as Opera releases these. Once a stable version is released, the process will start over with the snapshots of the next version.

Also New: Live Speed Dial

The latest preview version of Opera also features the company’s new “Live Speed Dial extensions.” Just like in Chrome (though it’s worth noting that Opera pioneered this), whenever you open an empty tab, a number of icons appear in the browser that represent the sites you visit most often. Now, developers and publishers who want to make use of this new feature can also show small live previews of a site or other interactive experiences.

By default, the speed dial only shows the top left corner of a site (where the site’s logo can typically be found), but once it’s set up correctly, publishers can use Opera’s new Speed Dial extension to easily create small interactive widgets. Opera is currently featuring a few of these on its extension page here.



9:51 am


Afraid the Government is Spying on You Online? You're Not Alone [Infographic]

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Today is Data Privacy Day and the good folks at Opera used this as a chance to commission a survey of 1,000 web users each in the U.S., Japan and Russia and ask them about how worried they are about online privacy.

In the U.S. – far more so than in Russia and Japan – Internet users tend to think that the government has too much insight into their online behavior (35%). Surprisingly, only 9% are worried about what search engines know about them (guess most people never check their Web History page on Google) and 5% think shopping sites are the worst offenders here. When it comes to social networking sites, 15% of U.S. Internet users and a whopping 38% of Russians think these sites know too much about them.

In the U.S., the majority of users (54%) also feel that they themselves are responsible for their online safety and privacy. About a quarter of U.S. Internet users thinks the ISPs and other companies operating on the web should ensure their privacy and 10% think the government should be in charge.

To protect themselves, most use antivirus software (80%) and safe passwords. Interestingly, 47% say that they regularly delete their surfing history to ensure their online privacy, which generally doesn’t do much good when it comes to being tracked online.

Around 15% of U.S. Internet users also claims to just use sites and software that does not collect information. We can only assume that these users just use DuckDuckGo as their search engine and have never encountered a cookie online…



11:26 am


5 Reasons Why You Should Give Opera 11 a Try

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Opera just released the 11th version of its desktop browser for Mac, Windows, FreeBSD and Linux. For a while, Opera was just an also-ran as Firefox and Chrome battled for the speed crown and additional market share in the browser business. Over the last year or so, however, Opera staged quite a comeback in the desktop arena and version 11 is the current culmination of this work. Here are the top 5 new features that make Opera 11 worth another look.

Tab Stacking This feature is huge. With Tab Candy/Panorama, Firefox was the first to test new ways for organizing tabs visually, but for me, this feature never quite felt right and was too much of a hassle to use. Tab Stacking is Opera’s attempt to rein in tab overload, but while Mozilla tries to do this with a very visual interface that can quickly get confusing, Opera simply allows you to drag multiple tabs on top of each other and then see their content and select different tabs in a pop-up window that appears as you hover over the combined tabs. If you use a lot of tabs at the same time, using this feature is quickly going to become second nature.

Extensions With this latest version, Opera finally fully embraces extensions. There are currently about 200 add-ons for Opera 11 in the company’s gallery, ranging from ad blockers to password managers, with all the usual suspects in between.

Mouse Gestures This takes some getting used to, but with mouse gestures, you can control your browser with “small, fast movements of your mouse” that quickly become second nature and allow you to speed up your browsing session. To see which gestures are available, just hold down your right mouse button and follow the on-screen guide.

Speed Opera used to be able to claim that it was the fastest desktop browser. Over the last few years, other browsers sped past Opera, but with this latest version, Opera is back on track. Indeed, in most tests it is right up there with Chrome at the top of the list. In our own benchmarks, it was only a little but slower than Chrome, though in daily usage, this difference wasn’t noticeable and pages generally rendered just as fast as in Chrome.

Opera Turbo This has been in Opera for quite a while but never gets the credit it deserves. If you are regularly stuck on slow WiFi connections in hotels or airports (or even on planes – though some WiFi providers block the proxy mechanism that makes Turbo work), Opera Turbo can turn your browsing experience from miserable to perfectly acceptable by compressing your data (especially large images) and thereby reducing the amount of data you have to transfer.

Other noteworthy features: This, of course, isn’t all. Opera also features cloud-based syncing between machines, a built-in mail and RSS client, as well as some surprisingly useful developer tools with Opera Dragonfly. You can download Opera 11 here.



11:21 am


Chrome Gets a “Canary Build” – Because Weekly Updates are Just too Slow

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Since its launch 2 years ago, Google Chrome always offered three different builds of its increasingly popular browser: stable, beta and developer. While regular users could always stay with the stable build, early adopters could opt for the beta and developer channel. The developer channel features weekly updates, while beta channel users only see and update or two per month. Starting today, however, Google will also offer more frequent updates through the Google Chrome Canary Build channel.

It’s worth noting that this channel will run separately from your regular Chrome install (and you can install and use both in parallel). As Google notes, these new builds are “highly unstable browser that will often break entirely.”[ref]these updates should come close to daily[/ref]

A few more interesting things to note:

  • for the time being, the Canary Build is available for Windows only
  • the Canary Build can’t be set as the default browser
  • upon installing, the installer will ask you if you want to set Google, Bing or Yahoo as your default search engine

Overall, this looks like a smart extension of Google’s “launch early and often” strategy. It gives those who want to live on the cutting edge a chance to try out features before they become available to other users and gives Google’s engineers a way to gather even more feedback.

chrome canary build



11:16 am