SiliconFilter

What to Expect from Firefox in 2012: SPDY, Quiet Updates, Better Web Apps

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Last year, Mozilla managed to get Firefox back on track. While the long delay of Firefox 4 gave competitors like the up-and-coming Google Chrome a chance to gain quite a bit of market share, Mozilla adapted to the changing environment and switched to a Chrome-like rapid-release schedule that is focused on releasing a new version every six weeks. Given these short release cycles, it's good to keep the larger picture in view sometimes and, thankfully, Mozilla today provided us with a nice overview of what we can expect from Firefox for the rest of the year.

The organization has discussed most of these plans before, but it's good to take another look at what's in store for the popular browser.

A SPDYer Browser

Among the highlights Firefox's users can look forward to is default support for Google's SPDY protocol that speeds up the communication between your browser and web servers. In the current version (11), SPDY is not enable by default, but you can turn it on by browsing to about:config and doing a search for spdy.enabled.

In addition, Mozilla also plans to turn on HTTP pipelining by default. This allows the browser to download different elements of a site in parallel, which should speed things up, especially for sites that don't yet support the SPDY protocol.

Silent Updates

Mozilla also plans to bring silent updates to Firefox. This means, you will never have to see another update dialog again. Instead, Firefox will just update itself automatically, just like Chrome currently does. The development team plans to launch this feature in version 13.

Better Web Apps

As for web apps, Mozilla wants to integrate them more deeply into the browser. This means support for Mozilla's online app store, which is scheduled to launch later this year, but also a lot of work on the backend, including support for Mozilla's identity solution, an install process for web apps and the ability for apps to run in the background.

This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. You can find a full list of the features Mozilla has planned for this year here.



9:34 am


Not Delayed: Firefox 11 Still Coming Later Today

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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:

What’s New

  • NEW
    Firefox can now migrate your bookmarks, history, and cookies from Google Chrome
  • NEW
    With Sync enabled, add-ons can now be synchronized across your computers
  • NEW
    The CSS text-size-adjust property is now supported
  • CHANGED
    Redesigned media controls for HTML5 video
  • HTML5
    The outerHTML property is now supported on HTML elements
  • HTML5
    View source syntax highlighting now uses the HTML5 parser (see bug 482921)
  • DEVELOPER
    The Style Editor for CSS editing is now available to web developers
  • DEVELOPER
    Web developers can now visualize a web page in 3D using the Page Inspector 3D View
  • DEVELOPER
    SPDY protocol support for faster page loads is now testable
  • DEVELOPER
    XMLHttpRequest now supports HTML parsing
  • DEVELOPER
    Files can now be stored in IndexedDB (see bug 661877)
  • DEVELOPER
    Websockets has now been unprefixed
  • FIXED
    Firefox notifications may not work properly with Growl 1.3 or later (691662)

 

 

 

 

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10:37 am


Google Wants to Make Chrome’s Spell Checker Smarter

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Google makes extensive use of auto-correction in its search engine and often automatically displays results for the auto-corrected words when its algorithm is reasonably sure that it understands what your really meant to write. In Chrome, however, the built-in spell checker is not very smart and often displays non-sensical suggestions (or provides no suggestions at all). The latest developer version of Chrome, however, can now make use of Google's server-based spell checker, which greatly improves Chrome's default spelling suggestions.

Given that Google has to send data from your browser to its servers, this is an opt-in service.

If you are using the developer channel of Chrome, you will now see the option to "ask Google for suggestions" when you right-click on a misspelled word. Once this feature is turned on, Chrome will automatically go out and retrieve suggestions from Google's servers. This means that you sometimes have to wait a second before the right word appears.

In our tests, though, the suggestions coming from Google's online spelling service were generally better than those from Chrome's built-in spell checker. In many cases, for example, Chrome now actually showed suggestions for words that stumped the built-in spell checker.

Sending All Your Misspelled Words to Google

Depending on how worried you are about your privacy, this may obviously not be a feature for you. All your misspelled words, after all, will be send to Google's servers. Google's privacy page for Chrome doesn't currently explain how Google handles this data (likely because it's only in the developer version right now).

To install the developer version of Chrome, head over here and look for the right version for your operating system.



4:35 pm


Coming Soon to Chrome: Faster 3D Graphics for Slower Computers

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Chrome 17 just launched yesterday, but today, the development team announced the next beta of Chrome. This new beta includes improved support for hardware-accelerated 2D graphics using Canvas, as well as the promise of better 3D performance for users on older operating systems like Windows XP.

Better 3D for Slower Machines

To enable better 3D performance on older machines and graphics card that can't make user of modern technologies like WebGL, Google has licensed TransGaming's SwiftShader software rasterizer. This is basically a piece of software that emulates a graphics card to render 3D images. TransGaming advertises SwiftShader as being "100 times faster than traditional software renderers such as Microsoft's Direct3D® Reference Rasterizer." Google will automatically enable SwiftShader for beta users whose computers can't run content on their graphics cards.

Tweaking Chrome's 2D GPU Hardware Acceleration

By using hardware acceleration for 2D Canvas elements on a page, Google can bring some significant speed improvements to users with more capable machines as well. Chrome has long featured some forms of hardware acceleration, but mostly in experimental form. Whether they know it or not, most Chrome users at this point already use their graphics card to draw 2D Canvas elements, but in this latest beta, the Chrome team has tweaked the code to the point where it apparently felt it needed to announce this change as it could actually break things.

Here is a nice little demo that uses 2D Canvas if you want to see it in action.

If you are currently using the stable release channel and feel like you could use a bit more adventure in your life, you can join the Chrome beta channel here. As always, keep in mind that this is beta software and could crash at any time (though Chrome's beta releases are generally very stable).



12:33 pm


Chrome 17 has Arrived: Features Safer Downloads and Smarter Prerendering

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Google just released version 17 of its popular Chrome browser. Given its rapid release schedule and its various beta and developer channels, there are no major surprises in this release. The new features in this update, however, are well worth the update. Besides the usual bug and security fixes, Chrome 17 introduces Google's download scanner to ensure the executable files you download aren't known malware or viruses.  In addition, Google's browser now features smarter pre rendering when you are typing a URL into the omnibox. This update comes just one day after Google also launched Chrome for Android.

Prerendering

The prerendering works by trying to divine whether the URL you started to type is likely to be the one you will visit as well. Whenever Chrome is pretty sure that this is the case, it will start rendering the page before you even get to hit enter. Often, it will almost appear as if the page rendered instantly when you finally hit enter.

Safer Downloads

Appears malicious

As Google noted when it introduced its download scanner to the beta channel in January, "malicious downloads are especially tricky to detect since they’re often posted on rapidly changing URLs and are even “re-packed” to fool anti-virus programs." To safeguard its users, Chrome checks every download against a known database of safe files and publishers. If a file isn't from a known source, it will try to figure out if the host is trustworthy or if the file is likely to be malware.



9:33 am


Google’s Gospel of Speed: “We Don’t Plan on Stopping Until the Web is Instant”

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Google loves speed. From Instant Search to SPDY, its nascent replacement for the ubiquitous TCP protocol, quite a bit of what the company does these days has to do with speed. Google does this for good reasons. As Urs Hoelzle, the senior VP for infrastructure at Google notes in the latest edition of the company's decidedly slow quarterly magazine "Think Quarterly," just a 400ms delay in delivering search results leads to a 0.44% drop in search volume. The average web page today takes 4.9 seconds to load according to Hoelzle – that's a lot of time for people to move on before the page has ever loaded. For Google's engineers, then, the "Gospel of Speed" is supported by one simple rule: never to launch a feature that slows things down.

The latest beta version of Chrome now features pre-rendering of some web pages while you type the URL, for example. As Hoelzle rightly notes, all of Google's efforts won't matter much, after all, if you are taken right back into the "slow lane" when you click on a link on a search results page.

Google's final goal, according to Hoelzle: "We don’t plan on stopping until the web is instant, so that when you click on a link the site loads immediately, and when you play a video it starts without delay."

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1:26 pm


“This Post is Sponsored by Google Chrome”

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If there is one kind of blog post that makes my stomach turn, it's pay-per-post content that is just meant to deliver cheap SEO links for the "advertisers." Google, too, has generally looked down upon this kind of content. Now, however, it looks like the company is running its own pay-per-post campaign for Chrome, its increasingly popular browser. SEO Book's Aaron Wall was the first to discover the large number of posts that say "this post is sponsored by Google Chrome" today, but the news is quickly spreading across the web.

While there is every indication that these posts were indeed sponsored by Google, it's worth noting that I've asked Google for comment and will update this post when I hear back from them. It is, after all possible, that somebody else paid for this campaign to paint Google in a negative light.

Update: The Verge has learned that a marketing company called Unruly Media was hired by Google to run ads for Chrome, but Google denies that it ever "agreed to anything more than online ads" and that it "consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products."

"Google Chrome helped this small business in Vermont go global."

As of now, there are about 400 blog posts that feature this text, generally at the bottom of the story. Most of them were published within the last week or so, though some are also a bit older. The sites that were apparently chosen to run these stories tend to be of the mommy-blog persuasion.

As Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan points out, Google's own Matt Cutts has said, "paid posts should not pass PageRank" and the company generally looks down upon these "sponsored conversations." These sponsored posts, though, are obviously little else but attempts to buy links. Why Google needs this, is hard to say, though.

With its Panda Update, Google has also worked hard to ban low-quality content from its index, but if you look at the results of this campaign, it's clear that it's not exactly buying high-quality posts either (though it's worth noting that some of these posts don't even feature links to Chrome). Some even reference a YouTube video about how Chrome helped a small business in Vermont go global without even linking to the video.

It's not clear, how Google approached these bloggers. While most of them have run paid posts before, they don't all seem to be affiliated with the same pay-per-post organization, but it's possible that some of them aren't disclosing their affiliation either.

You can find a more detailed analysis of this situation over on Search Engine Land, too.

Google Chrome Benefits Small Business ~ Telecommuting Moms

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12:33 am


Chrome Gets Prettier With Redesigned App Store and New Tab Page

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Google today updated the stable version of Chrome and introduced its redesigned New Tab page to those mainstream users who are not using the more cutting-edge release channels Google offers for its browser. In addition, Google also launched a redesigned app store for Chrome, which now features large images instead of the small icons that previously dominated the homepage.

New New Tab Page

The new New Tab page doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been using Google’s Beta, Dev or Canary builds over the last few weeks. Whenever you open a new tab now, Google will show you thumbnails of your most often visited sites. You can also navigate to your apps from there as well. It’s worth noting that the early release channels of Chrome also feature a bookmark tab on the New Tab pages (though it isn’t functional right now). The New Tab page also allows you to reopen tabs you recently closed.

Redesigned Chrome Web Store

As for the Chrome Web Store, the changes are quite dramatic. The earlier version was a jumble of icons, ratings and different categories (you can still see it if you visit the site with Internet Explorer, Opera or Firefox). This new version is basically one large wall of images. As you scroll over the images, the thumnails flip over and a description of the app appears.

Discoverability in app stores has long been a major problem for developers and it remains to be seen if this new version of the Chrome Web Store will make things easier for developers. At first glance, it would seem the new layout will reward those apps that have flashy logos and screenshots, as the homepages for the various categories look like they are curated by Google.

Chrome Web Store

Chrome Web Store new feedly



5:19 pm


Google Docs Presentations Get Real-Time Collaboration, Transitions and Animations

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Just about a year and a half ago, most of Google’s productivity apps in the Google Docs suite received major overhauls that brought real-time collaboration and a number of other new features to Google’s online document, spreadsheet and drawing tools. One tools that was left out of that refresh at the time was Google’s online PowerPoint rival Google Docs presentations. Today, Google is changing this by bringing real-time collaboration, animations, rich tables and about 50 more new features to the presentations application.

While the apps feature set obviously can’t quite compete with Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, making easy collaboration the focal point of the product gives it a competitive edge. As Google notes, “the best presentations are made together, collaborating with others to build a compelling story that captivates your audience.” Now, with Google Wave-like character-by-character real-time collaboration, that should get a bit easier for Google Docs users.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft, with its Office Web Apps is also now making online collaboration a focal point of its web initiatives and that the online PowerPoint app does offer a number of features (and great document fidelity) than Google.

image

Here are some of the other new features that Google highlights: [list]

  • Transitions: to move between slides with simple fades or spicier 3D effects
  • Animations: to add emphasis or to make your slides more playful
  • New themes: to create beautiful presentations with distinct visual styles
  • Drawings: to build new designs, layouts, and flowcharts within a presentation
  • Rich tables with merged cells and more options for adding style to your data

[/list]

Getting Started

Google notes that these new features were designed for modern browsers. Anything newer than Firefox 4, Safari 4 and Internet Explorer, as well as Google’s own Chrome browser should work fine, though.

To get started, head to the “Document settings” from your document list and check the box next to “Create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor.”

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3:52 pm


About Time: Gmail, Google Calendar and Docs Get Offline Access

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Google just announced that it is finally launching offline access to Gmail, Google Calendar and Docs. Once upon a time, Google allowed users to access their data offline through Gears, but the company shelved this effort in 2010 and never replaced it. Now, Chrome users can install a new pluginfrom Google that will give them offline access to Gmail offline. Docs and Calendar users will be able to download the respective plugins over the next few weeks.

Gmailoffline

One caveat, though, is that you can’t edit documents in the offline mode. That’s probably a deal-breaker for some, but it’s definitely better than having no access to your documents on that non-WiFi equipped plane. Google hopes to offer offline editing in the future, though.

Gmail and Calendar, on the other hand, will allow you to perform virtually all your regular activities offline as well.

Getting Started with Offline Gmail

To access Gmail offline, you can’t just unplug your computer and keep using Gmail. Instead, you have to open a new tab and launch the Gmail offline app from there. Interestingly, the offline interface is pretty much the same as the Gmail tablet interface.

Chrome-Only For Now

For the time being, of course, this new functionality is only available in Chrome and ChromeOS. Google says that it hopes to bring this functionality to other browsers in the future. In a slight jab against its competitors in the browser arena, Google notes that those will get these features once they “support advanced functionality.”

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4:24 pm


Google Launches New Extension to Highlight Related Sites

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Google just launched Google Related, a new Chrome extension and Google Toolbar feature that aims to make it easier for you to “discover useful stuff while you browse.” Once installed, the extension pops up a new toolbar at the bottom of your browser window with links to related sites. When you are reading a new article, for example, will show you relevant articles from other sources about this topic. On local business sites, on the other hand, Related will show reviews and a map, as well as links to similar restaurants. There is also a built-in +1 button on the toolbar.

The extension actually works surprisingly well. Virtually all of the articles and videos it highlights are indeed related to the original story and often offer a more in-depth view of a story or a counterpoint to an opinion piece.

Privacy

To do this, Google obviously has to track where you are going online. Every time you visit a site while the plugin is active, Related will send “the URL of the web site, your machine’s IP address, and one or more Google cookies” to Google’s servers. Once you disable the extension, this data won’t be send to Google anymore (though it will probably remain on its servers for a while afterwards).

 



4:25 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


ChromeOS Just Got a Bit Faster and More Secure

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The latest version of Google’s ChromeOS now allows Chromebooks to resume faster and offers support for 802.1x secure WiFi and VPN networks.

When Google first announced the idea of Chromebooks, a series of small, Internet (and Chrome)-centric laptops made by manufacturers like Samsung and Acer, its engineers touted the fact that – unlike other laptops – Chromebooks would actually get faster over time. Chromebooks, Google said, would see the same kind of performance gains that users of its Chrome browser have gotten used to. Now, with the release of the latest stable version of the ChromeOS operating system that powers these devices, Google is starting to fulfill this promise.

The Chrome browser, of course, continues to get faster with almost every release, but according to Google, the company also managed to get ChromeOS to resume from sleep about 30% faster than before. Starting up a Chromebook generally doesn’t take more than 6 or 7 seconds these days and a resume from sleep is virtually instant, so these speed differences won’t make much of a difference in the real world. It is still nice to see that Google is still working on shaving off a few seconds from the startup and resume procedure here and there.

Besides this speed increase, the latest edition of ChromeOS also brings support for virtual private networks (VPN) (an essential feature for many business users) and support for secure 802.1x WiFi networks.

In addition, Google also notes that a number of new services that are compatible with ChromeOS, including Netflix, Amazon’s HTML5-based Cloud Reader and a tech preview of the Citrix Receiver (for running virtual versions of high-end desktop software) are now available.



3:23 pm



GClient Brings Google+ to Your Desktop

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Google+ doesn’t yet offer an API, so creating Twitter-like desktop clients isn’t an option at this point. That isn’t stopping enterprising developers from trying to work around these limitations, though. Indeed, the first Google+ desktop client – GClient – just made its debut. In the end, though, this is really just a wrapper around the mobile Google+ site.

gclient_clientGiven that it is just a window into the mobile site, it has the same limitation as that version of Google+. You can’t really share links well and while you can +1 posts, you can’t +1 comments or easily post + replies. As the mobile site expects to run in a window with a fixed width and length, you also can’t resize the GClient window on the desktop. While testing the app, we also had some issues with crashes.

Just Use Fluid for Now

GClient is an interesting way to keep tabs on what is happening on Google+ without having to have a tab open for it at all times. For now, though, I would rather use an application-specific browser like Fluid on the Mac or Chrome’s application shortcut feature (or Mozilla’s Prism) to let Google+ run in its own window. This solution gives you the full functionality of Google+ without having to make any compromises. Once Google+ gets an API, we will likely see more interesting, Tweetdeck-like re-imaginations of its interface that make more sense on the desktop.

[Source: The Next Web]

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4:18 pm