- Internet & the Web
Firefox Review 2017
What's New in the Latest Firefox Update
Mozilla Firefox released Firefox 54 on June 13, 2017. Firefox was once the top web browser as far as popularity in terms of global usage when compared to the leading web browser like Internet Explorer (IE) and Google Chrome, since its launch in November 2004.
However, Google Chrome has climbed to the top spot catching up with Internet Explorer and overtaken Firefox, in terms of its global usage share. I've used all three browsers and currently Firefox still remains my preferred browser because of its overall versatility.
However, one of the main reasons, I decided to try Google Chrome was because Firefox had slowed down considerably, in terms of speed. In 2016 and 2017, Mozilla made significant efforts to get Firefox back on track and I believe, overall they've managed to do so, but there is still a lot of ground to catch up.
Since early 2011, Firefox has been releasing regular updates, what they call, Rapid Releases. These updates are released approximately once every six weeks. Therefore, we can expect to see several new browser versions in a year.
I've beta tested many and used most of the Firefox rapid release versions. On this web page, I will review key features, improvements and changes in the latest browser updates. Also, you will find links to download the latest version of Firefox and release notes , as well as Firefox Help.
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Firefox 54 Review 2017
Firefox Changes & New Features in 2017
Mozilla updates its Firefox Browser approximately once every 6 weeks. In 2017, we’ve had three major updates so far. The latest browser update is Firefox 53 which was released on April 19, 2017 and you can check the review in the video above.
Let me start off with some of the major changes that were implemented in Firefox 51 which was released on January 24, 2017. Mozilla introduced support for FLAC playback, which is an audio format similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed in FLAC, without any loss in quality. This means that you can now play, any FLAC file directly in Firefox.
In terms of security enhancements, you will now see a new warning displayed when a login page does not have a secure connection. It will be in the form of a grey-lock icon, with a red strike-through on the address bar. And you can click on it, to get more information. This security feature was further enhanced in FF52.
Mozilla has made more improvements with their Multi-Process (e10s) project which they introduced earlier in 2016. This was the first time it was enabled in my browser and I saw a significant difference in performance based on the Browsermark benchmark test results.
In Firefox 52, NPAPI support has been removed, for Firefox plugins except for Adobe Flash. NPAPI or “Netscape Plugins API” is a plugins infrastructure, that was developed way back in 1995, for the Netscape browser, on which Mozilla built Firefox.
Due to the age of the API and security issues, as well as, the adoption of plugin-free web technologies such as HTML5 major web browser vendors, began to phase out NPAPI support, back in 2013. In September 2015, Google permanently dropped NPAPI support in Google Chrome 45.
Mozilla had announced that this change was coming via their blog in October 2015. If you still need to use NPAPI plugins, you can download the ESR (Extended Support Release) version of Firefox. The Firefox Sync feature has also been enhanced. You can now send and open tabs from one device to another. In order to use the Sync feature, you will need to have a Firefox account and be logged in.
Firefox 53 was released by Mozilla on April 19, 2017. Mozilla has been working on implementing some major changes in Firefox. In 2016, they introduced Project e10s or multi-process architecture to help improve the stability, performance and security of the browser.
This project is still on-going, but starting in Firefox 53, they have now introduced Project Quantum. The first component of Project Quantum, which is Quantum Compositor, made its way in this new browser update. Project Quantum is Mozilla's ambitious plan to create a next-generation web engine that leverages from modern hardware.
Quantum Compositor speeds up Firefox and prevents graphics crashes on Windows. Quantum Compositor will be enabled for about 70% of Firefox users. Those on Windows 7 SP1, and above; and on computers equipped with, Intel, Nvidia or AMD, graphics cards.
Based on tests conducted by Mozilla, this resulted in: 17% fewer driver related crashes; 22% fewer Direct3D related crashes; and 11% fewer Direct3D accelerated video crashes.
There were other changes that Mozilla implemented in Firefox 53 including: changes to Permission Notifications; two new compact themes; an enhancement to Reader Mode; and a few others.
In Firefox 54 which was released on June 13, 2017, there were no major changes implemented. The only notable change was addition of multiple content processes as part of the overall Project Electrolysis (e10s) that began in 2016.
For a full list of changes and improvements and you can check the Release Notes for a full list.
Firefox 50 Video Review 2016
Firefox Changes & New Features in 2016
Mozilla has been updating their Firefox internet browser on a regular basis since early 2011. These updates come in the form of stable Rapid Release versions approximately once every six weeks.
The latest stable Rapid Release version, Firefox 50 was released on November 15, 2016. This is the seventh and last major rapid release for the year 2016. Mozilla has undertaken their biggest project so far and started rolling it out in FF48. This project called Electrolysis (e10s), which will split the browser into multi-process, is designed to improve the responsiveness, stability and security of the browser.
In Firefox 50, a bigger user base will have multi-process enabled. The project will be implemented in phases and I explain in more detail in the video above. In total, there have been over 15,000 bug fixes and fixes to security vulnerabilities in the 2016 updates thus far.
Also, Extension Signing was enforced by Mozilla as a security measure to counter malicious spyware, malware and adware making their way to your computer via Firefox add-ons. This means that if you are using Firefox add-ons that are not signed in, they will be disabled by default. Starting in Firefox 48, the Firefox Preference to override this mandatory requirement as a temporary measure has been disabled.
The Login Manager in Firefox will now allow HTTPS pages to use saved HTTP logins. So if you saved a password on an HTTP site, it will now work on an HTTPS site.
In FF49, Mozilla has retired Firefox Hello which was a text, voice, and video communication tool that ran on WebRTC. It was first introduced in beta in December 2014. They have provided some third-party alternatives like Talky, Appear.in, Jitsi Meet, and Cisco Spark.
Firefox Changes Implemented in 2015
With so many updates being released each year, Mozilla has released a total of nine updates in 2015 with thousands of bug fixes, several improvements and a few new features. In 2014, Firefox has made over 20,000 bug fixes and fixes to security vulnerabilities.
In 2015, there have been over 29,000 bug fixes so far. Overall, Mozilla has been doing a good job with the rapid release updates that were released in 2015, based on my experience. In fact, based on the results of the browser benchmark test that I ran, Firefox has outperformed Google Chrome in terms of overall performance.
However, with the Firefox 37 release, the overall performance dropped. This of course, is based on my personal experience with using the browser. I experienced several browser crashes and could not run the Peacekeeper browser benchmark test after updating my browser, until the updated version 37.0.1.
Having said so, Firefox 38 was a welcome change and did much better than the earlier release based on the results of the browser benchmark test I ran. Until, the new version 39 came out, I still experienced browser crashes, though not as many as compared to version 38. There was not much in terms of new features in FF38 apart from the tab-based preferences. FF38 also included Ruby support which is geared towards the Asian users, specifically Japanese and Chinese.
In Firefox 39, there were over 3,200 bug fixes, including fixes to security vulnerabilities. But in terms of new features, again there was not much. The only notable new feature was the ability to share Firefox Hello URLs on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and others. If you are not aware of Firefox Hello, check the section below. Having updated to the latest version 39, I've not had any browser crashes so far.
In Firefox 40, Mozilla introduced an upgraded version specifically to work with the Windows 10 operating system. The enhancement were mainly geared towards working better with the touch-screen feature in Windows 10.
With cyber attacks on the rise, Mozilla is making serious efforts to monitor and counter malicious downloads via add-ons and extensions. Users will start receiving warning messages for add-ons that are not approved by Mozilla. These were two of the main changes, but there were several other smaller changes and improvements that made their way into FF40.
In Firefox 41, there were no new features, mostly bug fixes (over 3,500) and improvements to existing features like instant messaging added to Firefox Hello. There were some changes made by Mozilla regarding the timeline of signing/approval of extensions or add-ons. They have pushed back some of the changes to FF43 and FF44. Also, users can now add an avatar or picture to their Firefox account. There were several HTML5 improvements too.
One change I was not too happy about was the removal of the New Tab URL preference namely "browser.newtab.url" which allowed users to customize the New Tab to open any web page. Now users will have to use an add-on like the "New Tab Override" to do so.
In Firefox 42 and 43, Mozilla enhanced "Tracking Protection" in Private Browsing mode and a better control center in order to block certain web elements that may be recording your browsing behavior. One-click muting was also introduced. This feature allows users to click the speaker icon on the tab to mute all audio related to that particular tab. And finally, Mozilla has introduced a 64-bit Firefox version for Windows.
In the 2015 rapid releases, Mozilla has continued to expand support for HTML5 standards. You can check the Firefox 44 Video Review below to see some of the key features Firefox implemented in 2015, as well as the results of the browser benchmark test in the section above:
New Firefox Features & Improvements in 2014
I use multiple internet browsers, but mostly stick with Firefox and Google Chrome. Overall, I think I use Firefox browser more than Google Chrome and keep close track of the rapid release updates that Mozilla releases once every six weeks.
Discussed below, are some of the major changes, improvements, and new features that Mozilla has implemented in Firefox in 2014 starting with Firefox 27 which was released on February 4, 2014. I’ve broken down these upgrades into three main categories: performance, security, and other improvements.
Also, below you will find a video explaining how to use Firefox Hello which is a new feature and online communication tool that Mozilla has introduced in FF34. Since Hello was first introduced, there have been several updates to this new online voice and video chat feature like screen-sharing and instant messaging. The video below has been accordingly updated to reflect these changes.
Firefox Hello Voice and Video Communication
Performance: in Firefox 34, there were no major changes made in terms of performance-related issues, however, there were over 3,700 bug fixes, including fixes to security vulnerabilities. There were a few new features implemented in Firefox 34 as discussed below.
Mozilla implemented Windows Off Main Thread Compositing (OMTC) in Firefox 33. Essentially, OMTC provides a smoother browsing experience while consuming fewer resources. This is accomplished by adding a second thread in order to make the main-thread-loop more efficient.
Firefox 32 introduced a new HTTP cache which was designed to improve performance. This helped load-time speed as well as efficient reloading from a browser crash recovery. Additionally, FF33 included improvement in the reliability of the “Session Restore” feature in the browser by creating smart backups.
Security: in Firefox 34, in terms of security, Mozilla implemented secure searching in Wikipedia via HTTPS which is a secure communications protocol that helps prevent "man-in-the-middle" attacks.
Mozilla also disabled SSLv3 which is a communication protocol that provides communication security. The decision was made after Google reported a serious vulnerability in SSLv3, earlier in October 2014.
Support for connecting to HTTP proxy over HTTPS was added in the Firefox 33 upgrade. Also, the new Content Security Policy (CSP) was enhanced since it was first introduced in FF4. Basically, CSP helps limit the risk of cross-site scripting attacks by allowing sites to show where content can be loaded from.
Firefox 31 introduced a new Certificate Verification library which provided enhanced certificate verification. The subsequent upgrade, FF32, included Public Key Pinning support. In doing so, the browser’s security was enhanced by ensuring that trusted certificate authorities have issued valid certificates for websites rather than accepting the built-in root certificates.
This was designed to counter and help prevent “man-in-the-middle” attacks due to certificates issued by rogue certificate authorities. Firefox displays a “Site Identity” button or icon for each site that you visit and provides additional details on the site certificate.
Another new feature security feature introduced in Firefox 31, was the new download screening tool which helps detect malicious malware when downloading files by using Google’s Safe Browsing application. Yet another security feature was the Parental Control feature called “Prefer:Safe” to enhance security and protect kids on the internet.
Other Improvements and Changes: in Firefox 34, Mozilla released Firefox Hello, an online communication feature, that allows users to voice or video chat.
What makes Firefox Hello unique is that you don't need to download any additional software or plug-in to use this Skype-like service.
Additionally, you don't need to register or have an account to use this online chat service. You can use this with any other internet browser that has WebRTC enabled, for example, Google Chrome and Opera.
With FF 34, Mozilla decided to adopt Yahoo as their default search engine. The Search Bar also has some improvements like providing suggestions as you type a search word or phrase. DuckDuckGo has also been added to the search engine options. This search engine promises to focus on protecting user's privacy.
You will also notice that you can change FF Themes and Personas in Customize mode, making them easier to manage. And the Forget button, in FF34, allows users to clear browing history for the past 24 hours with just one click of a button.
In Firefox 33, we saw implementation of OpenH264 support in WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication). Essentially, it is a software library for real-time video encoding and decoding in this particular format. Currently, H264 is the most widely used codec (or compressor) and can be subject to royalties. So Cisco has agreed to distribute a free H.264 codec plug-in.
FF33 provides a faster and improved search experience via the Location bar. In earlier versions, entering a number, for example, a telephone number like "9052026212" would result in an error page. This issue was resolved in Firefox 33. One of the new features is the Search Engine Bar to the New Tab page. Another improvement in Search are search suggestions on the Firefox Home Page and NewTab pages.
Also, the Context Menu (the short-cuts available when you right-click a blank space in the Firefox browser) has changed to provide easier actions like back, forward, reload, and bookmarking. And, Firefox now automatically handles PDF files as well as audio/video (.ogg) files internally, without the need for plug-ins, unless a specific application is selected.
In Firefox 29, Mozilla introduced a significant new customization mode that made it easy to personalize your web experience to access the browser features you use the most.
They dropped the Firefox favicon icon or button to simplify the browser user-interface (UI), including a new menu with increased flexibility to customize the UI. Also, the Firefox Sync function is now account-based in order to make it simpler for users to sync bookmarks, settings, history, etc. across devices.
In Firefox 28, VP9 video decoding was implemented which is an open-source and royalty-free video compression standard that was developed by Google. V9 was a marked improvement over V8 which significantly reduced the bit rate by 50 percent while maintaining video quality.
Browsermark™ Benchmark Test: Firefox 46 vs Google Chrome 50
After every Rapid Release upgrade, I run the Peacekeeper™ Browser Benchmark test. Overall, based on the results of the test and my personal experience using Firefox, there has pretty much always been an incremental improvement in performance compared to earlier version. However, in 2015 (FF35 and FF36), Firefox caught up with Google Chrome and has outperformed in terms of overall browser performance.
Having said so, after upgarding to the lastest Firefox 37 version which was released on March 31, 2015, I could not run the Peacekeeper browser benchmark test because the browser kept crashing on me. I reported these crashes to mozilla and they determined the issue has to do with WebGL. Mozilla released an updated version 37.0.1 and I was able to disable WebGL and run Peacekeeper.
Firefox 39 performed similar to FF38, so not much improvement in the results, though Firefox continues to outperform Google Chrome. However, after using it for a few weeks, I still experienced browser crashes, but not as many as in version 38. So far in version 39, I've not experienced any crashes. Above, you can check the results of the Peacekeeper™ Browser Benchmark test for Firefox 39.
In Firefox 40, Peacekeeper™ Browser Benchmark test is no longer supported, so I was not able to run the test and do a comparison with Google Chrome 44. I found an alternate browser benchmark test Browsermark from Basemark.
Based on the benchmark test results, Google Chrome has outperformed Firefox overall, though in most of the test categories both browsers did fairly equally. Firefox mainly under performed in Graphics Tests like HTML5 Canvas, WebGL and SVG.
Of course, these results will vary for each individual, therefore, it’s important to run these tests and see what works best for you. As mentioned earlier, I use both browsers, Firefox and Google Chrome.
For a full list of Firefox changes, improvements, new features and security updates, including Developer updates, you can check the Firefox Release Notes.
Internet Browser Usage World Wide June 2017
Firefox Help - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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If you were still not able to find the answer to your Firefox problem, click the above link to visit the Firefox Help Forum and ask your specific question. It's an active forum of volunteers helping out FF users.
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