Yesterday, Mozilla announced that it would delay today's planned launch of Firefox 11 for a few days in order to scrutinize a potential security issue and to avoid issues with Microsoft's Patch Tuesday updates today.
Now, however, Mozilla has canceled this delay and announced that Firefox 11 is still on track for today's release. The security vulnerability, it turns out, was already known and patched. In order to avoid the conflict with Patch Tuesday, though, this release will only be available as a manual update today. Once the Firefox team is sure that there are no issues with Microsoft's latest patches, it will push automatic updates to all users.
Since switching to its rapid-release schedule, Mozilla never missed a scheduled release date for Firefox.
What's New in Firefox 11
Once Firefox 11 is available, this is what you can expect from the update:
Firefox can now migrate your bookmarks, history, and cookies from Google Chrome
With Sync enabled, add-ons can now be synchronized across your computers
Love it or hate it, but Adobe's Flash plugin is likely one of the world's most widely distributed pieces of software. Given its popularity, it doesn't come as a surprise that Flash is also popular with hackers, who do their best to exploit flaws in it. Chrome and Internet Explorer 7+ users can already rest assured that hackers can't use Flash to compromise their browser, as the plugin runs in a sandboxed mode on Google's and Microsoft's browsers. Soon, Firefox users will get access to the same technology, as Adobe today announced the first public beta of its new Flash Player sandbox for Firefox.
With this new version of the Flash Player, Adobe is following the same playbook it used for making the Adobe Reader safer by implementing a sandbox and protected mode. Since the launch of Adobe Reader X, the company notes, there hasn't been a single successful exploit against it in the wild. According to Peleus Uhley, a senior security researcher within the Secure Software Engineering team at Adobe, Flash's "sandboxed process is restricted with the same job limits and privilege restrictions as the Adobe Reader Protected Mode implementation."
It's worth noting that it has taken Adobe and Mozilla quite a while to bring this sandboxed version of Flash to market. Internet Explorer 7, after all, has had the privilege of running Flash in Vista's and Windows 7's Protected Mode since 2006.
For now, the beta only works for Firefox 4 and later and on Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can download the beta here.
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.
It seems like most of the news coming out of Google these days is somewhat controversial, but here is a nice little piece of good news out of Mountain View: you can now easily download an archive of your documents in Google Docs with just a few clicks. Docs, Google announced today, is now part of the Google Takeout service, which allows you to download all of your data from services like Buzz, Picasa, Google Voice and others.
You could, of course, always download your documents from Google Docs already, but this new feature will make it easier for users who want to quickly create a complete backup of their data or move to a different service.
One nifty feature here is that Takeout also allows you to choose which format you want your data to be exported in (Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, PDF, plain text etc.). The downloads themselves are always compressed as ZIP files.
Mozilla just released Firefox 4, the next generation of its popular Internet browser. This new version is not just significantly faster than Firefox 3, but it also features a new, highly streamlined interface and a number of new tools that should make Firefox 4 even more popular among power users.
There are lots of new features in the new version of Mozilla’s browser (plugin isolation on all platforms, support for modern web standards like HTML5, new security and privacy features, etc.), but here are the key new features of Firefox 4:
In Firefox 4, Mozilla’s designers worked to keep distractions to a minimum and reduce the interface clutter in favor of providing more screen estate for the Web itself.
Gone, for example, is the menu bar in the Windows version. Instead, similar to Chrome and Internet Explorer, all the options are now available in one menu and the tabs have moved up to the top of the window. Bookmarking, too, has become easier and faster and just takes one click now.
This doesn’t mean that Firefox 4 was dumbed down, though. A lot of cool functionality for power users is just a bit hidden but easily available. You can use the URL bar to switch between tabs, for example.
That said, though, I ran both the SunSpider and Kraken benchmark on Firefox 4 and compared it to the latest developer version of Chrome (11.0.696.16). On average (after three test runs on a Mac) Firefox 4 easily beat Chrome. (Kraken: 4211.7ms vs. 4963.5ms; SunSpider: 189.2ms vs. 212.5ms).
Benchmarks can only convey so much about how fast the browser feels, and most users won’t notice any significant differences between most modern browsers. Firefox 4 does feel significantly faster than any earlier version, though, and I can’t help but think that it also feels faster than Chrome now.
Most of us now work on multiple computers and Internet-connected devices every day, but it’s still surprisingly hard to keep bookmarks between these machines in sync. With Firefox Sync (formerly known as Weave), you can now easily keep all these machines in sync. All you have to do is type in your password (generated by Firefox) and Mozilla will keep your bookmarks in sync. Syncing to mobile versions of Firefox is coming soon, too.
It’s worth noting that Google Chrome offers a similar feature, too.
App tabs allow you to, as Mozilla puts it, “give a permanent home to frequently visited sites like Web mail, Twitter, Pandora or Flickr.” Your apps then live in small tabs on the left side of your tab bar.
These app tabs will also alert you when something has changed in the web app (like a newly arrived email). This doesn’t work perfectly for all apps, though. Firefox watched for the site’s title to change, which most web mail providers do, but most other sites don’t.
I prefer Mozilla’s implementation of this feature over Chrome’s, because it defaults to loading all the links you click on in the app tab in a new tab.
If you become a regular user of app tabs, also consider installing the Easy App Tabs plugin, which allows you to turn a regular tab into an app tab by simply double-clicking on any tab.
Installing Plugins Without Restart
Yes, other browser developers already offer this (and didn’t spend close to two years developing their software), but for Firefox’s power users, this is a major update. Developers have to support this feature, so not every add-on will install without restarts just yet, but there are already quite a few out there that do.
As Nightingale told me, 40% of Firefox users today have installed add-ons. Today, close to 80% of these add-ons are compatible with Firefox 4 and more compatible versions are coming online every day. The new built-in add-on manager also makes finding and installing interesting extensions a lot faster and easier.
Here is another feature mainly geared towards power users that stays out of the way if you don’t want to use it. Panorama allows you to visually organize your tabs into groups. You can, for example, open up a new group for the research you are doing and another one for your web mail. The two stay separate from each other. I know many people who love this feature, which made me include it here, but it’s not ideal for how I use the browser. Give it a try, though – it might just save you a lot of trouble and enhance your browsing experience.