Here's a quick blurb on the latest news for the second most used browser in the world.
Firefox 1.1 becomes Firefox 1.5
The Mozilla Foundation has updated their roadmap, changing the next version of Firefox from 1.1 to 1.5 to reflect the large amount of changes. These changes include rendering and stability fixes, but also major features like Fastback, inline error messages, redesigned Options window, improved IDN spoofing handling, several improvements to pop-up blocking and much more.
Neowin.net interviews Asa Dotzler
In a more conservative interview, Neowin.net asks Asa Dotzler several questions. Some of the questions are related to Jon, the choice of the Gecko engine (instead of KHTML and Presto), the future of Firefox and more.
The latest version has been released, though the list of changes is currently not available, the version increment suggest a bug fix release.
Both Mozilla Firefox as Mozilla Thunderbird got updated to 1.0.6, which fixes in both releases API compatibility for extensions and web applications that did not work in the previous version of 1.0.5. Besides this important fix there are no new features or other bug fixes.
Users of international language builds can now expect localized versions of their open-source web browser and e-mail client.
Security notice: Users of the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox, which enables the use of UserJS, should either uninstall or upgrade to the latest build in order to avoid a severe security issue. This issue allows would allow hackers to access your local machine's data. The latest build removes this possibility, but breaks a lot of scripts, a more permanent solution is being worked on. Though, it remains odd that neither mozillaZine, nor Asa Dotzler speaks of this severe issue, exposing extensions as security risks.
With Deer Park's second Alpha release out we can make some comparisons with another preview, called Opera 8.02 Technology Preview 1. Fair or not fair, both are previews of technology and are not intended for end users.
The new Options window and menus
After testing Deer Park Alpha 2 I've stumbled upon some issues that have arisen in the GUI department. First it seems the Tools and Help menu have grown in size, and seem to become the new favored places to dumb stuff. This feeling of bloatness might be related to the way menus are drawn (less space between each item vertically). But it can't be denied it's becoming overgrowded with options (not using any extensions, which might add more). Second there is a new Options screen in place, which seems to be smaller at first, but isn't at all. No, the new idea was to position several buttons at the top, specifying distinct parts as Privacy, Advanced, etc. The real problem starts here. For instance when selecting Privacy, the user gets a crowded window, filled with tabs for each subsection for History, Cookies, Cache, etc. An overview is lost this way, and the idea of minimizing the size of the Options window, and putting everything in subtabs made easier to find stuff, but at the same time crowdier.
Software update system to streamline product upgrades (currently disabledâ€“ will be turned on shortly for testing)
The new software update system isn't currently enabled, but should feature smaller patches, which are based on byte level patching. If all goes well, not only will this tool smaller downloads, it should really smooth out the upgrading process without further real user intervention.
Faster browser navigation with improvements to back and forward button performance - Fastback
Also enabled is the "new" Fastback feature which allows instant back and forward navigation through visited web sites. I can't remember in which Opera versions this was added, but it was a long long time ago. Let's not hope Asa Dotzler starts to think it was their innovation again...
Drag-and-drop reordering of websites
Opera's MDI did not support drag-and-dropping, but since Opera 7's enhanced tab support, drag-and-drop support has been part of it. Next to this Opera introduced some MDI features for tabbed browsing like duplicating and linked tabs. Opera also allows you to drag-and-drop a tab on the titlebar, which creates a new browser window for that tab. Advanced? Yup. Easy? Yup yup.
Improvements to pop-up blocking
Mozilla Firefox always had more advanced pop-up blocking by adding a white- and blacklist. Several new improvements involve opening windows from plug-ins. It remains to be seen if they finally got out the bugs, which also blocked pop-ups which were willingly triggered by users in Flash.
Several security enhancements
This includes Opera's already implemented solution for IDN spoofing. Why the Mozilla Foundation took so long? I don't know. Will Mozilla Firefox end up being more secure than Opera? Probably not, comparing the longer list of fixes for each maintenance release of 1.0.x.
Report Broken Web Site
Featured in Safari first, and Opera afterwards, this feature allows you to report broken sites to the browser makers. This feature is handy for normal users to quickly report their findings, and can be used to track down popular websites with issues.
Error pages instead of dialogs
Finally enabled in this release are the replacements for error dialogs with error pages. Previously this was possible in normal releases, but still buggy, and therefor not enabled nor recommended. Deer Park finally joins the the party, of Internet Explorer and Opera, which both feature this for some time now.
Overall, the cluttered GUI, once their proud method of letting Opera slip, will not help Mozilla Firefox. Although the improvements featured in Deer Park will be liked by most users, it is far from new. Existing Opera users will have no real reason to switch to this browser. With the positive feedbacks on the BitTorrent implementation, Opera Software seems on the right track to add a new and useful component to their Internet Suite!
Deer Park Alpha 2, the developer's preview of Mozilla Firefox 1.1, has been released. It contains some exciting new features which require extensive testing, so head on and try it out, but remember it is for testing purposes only!
- Software update system to streamline product upgrades (currently disabledâ€“ will be turned on shortly for testing)
- Faster browser navigation with improvements to back and forward button performance - Fastback
- Drag-and-drop reordering for browser tabs
- Improvements to popup blocking
- Better support for Mac OS X (10.2 and greater) - Safari profile migrator, Aqua compliance and shell service
- Several security enhancements
The new Reporter tool is now enabled by default (Help -> Report Broken Web Site), to help alert them about web sites which are not working properly. See the Wiki on the website for further details. Issues should be reported through the Bugzilla Tracker System.
The Mozilla Foundation has released Firefox 1.0.5. This release has improved stability and features security updates, therefor this release is a recommended download for all users.
- MFSA 2005-56 Code execution through shared function objects
- MFSA 2005-55 XHTML node spoofing
- MFSA 2005-53 Standalone applications can run arbitrary code through the browser
- MFSA 2005-52 Same origin violation: frame calling top.focus()
- MFSA 2005-51 The return of frame-injection spoofing
- MFSA 2005-50 Possibly exploitable crash in InstallVersion.compareTo()
- MFSA 2005-49 Script injection from Firefox sidebar panel using data:
- MFSA 2005-48 Same-origin violation with InstallTrigger callback
- MFSA 2005-47 Code execution via "Set as Wallpaper"
- MFSA 2005-45 Content-generated event vulnerabilities
News on the second mostly used browser!
New Update System in Deer Park
Asa Dotzler can blog useful information, and thus so with quality in the blog post showing off the cool new Deer Park (Firefox 1.1) Update System. Not only will it introduce a revamped GUI to be more user friendly, but it will also make use of the ability to patch on byte level. The latter one will improve the size of patches between different versions and make it easier to deploy it in large networks. Also improved is the automated updating, where Firefox does not launch the same old installer again, but just performs the update so you can easily get on with it. It requires some steps to enable it, but the new Mozilal Quality blog has all the knowledge. Nicety!
Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird 1.0.5 test builds
A new round of Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird 1.0.5 test builds are available. These releases contain security fixes and require extensive testing before the large crowd of millions of people are going to update to it!
Rewrite of the bookmarks code
Developers, and interested might want to know that Vladimir VukiÄ‡eviÄ‡ is working on rewriting the bookmarks code. Introducing a more generic but better way to store bookmarks and their data. It is likely to use mozStorage, which is aimed at storing information (like cookies, e-mail, history). mozStorage will be based on SQLite, an SQL driven library, giving the ability to use queries to work with the data.
IDN spoofing solution
Recently hired Gervase Markham, has updated his blog with more information regarding their IDN spoofing solution, which is simular to that found in Opera 8. In this blog he also thanks Opera Software for supplying part of the whitelist data.
ForecastFox 0.8 released
ForecastFox, the weather extensions for Firefox, has been updated to 0.8. This release introduces a lot of bugfixes and is a recommended update. Be sure to read all the information on their website regarding the pings that this extensions sends out!
Asa Dotzler, an addict of flaming blogs, has posted the history of tabbed browsing according to his view.
tabbed browsing history
Over the last few weeks, questions about the origins of tabbed browsing have come up several times. I thought it would be worth a short post to put my thoughts on the subject in front of a larger audience for scrutiny (and flames ;-)
Tabbed browsing is neither a Firefox nor Opera invention. Firefox and Opera fans, both, should step back from any claims to this invention.
The first real tabbed browser with any significant presence on the web was Netcaptor, created by the very talented Adam Stiles way back in 1997.
The next major implementation of tabbed browsing was the work of HJ van Rantwijk with MultiZilla, a tabbed browsing extension for Mozilla that copied pretty much everything that Adam had done in Netcaptor. HJ launched this extension for Mozilla back in 2000.
In September of 2001, Dave Hyatt added a tabbed browsing mode to Mozilla. This feature was release in Mozilla 0.9.5 in October of 2001
In December of 2001, Opera Software released version 6 of its Opera browser which was the first version to contain a genuined tabbed browsing mode (along with its SDI and MDI modes).
In September of 2002, Phoenix 0.1 (which would eventually be renamed to Firefox) shipped its first release which contained the most usable tabbed browsing implemenatation to date ;-)
In January of 2003, Apple introduced the Safari web browser which contained a very nice tabs implemenation.
In May of 2005, Microsoft announced that IE 7 (due later in the year) would have a tabbed browsing interface. The MSN team at Microsoft shipped a tabs-capable toolbar for IE 6 in June of 2005.
Am I missing anything in this timeline?
Sane people should just read Wikipedia. Opera 4 already contained MDI, which is a more complex way of dealing with multiple pages opened in one window. On a side note, and perhaps important for trolls and fanboys: leading developer of Firefox, Ben Goodger, was initially against adding tabbed browsing to Mozilla, which is promoted so aggressively as their innovation.
After the flaming article at ZDNet UK, and the open minded *cough cough hairball cough* discussion at Slashdot, we are once again at peace. The Register has written a healthy and humorly article on the issue, named: Opera boss swings at FireFox's Sugar Daddies.
So we're not sure how wise this is aside from von Tetzchner is. Opera's insane focus on usability and performance certainly comes from knowing that a paying user base pays its rent. Stop satisfying the users, and Opera is no more. And side by side comparisons of Opera and FireFox invariably show the former standing proud: its blazing rendering speed and caching leave FireFox standing. FireFox's greatest strength is its extensibly, but that's also it greatest weakness: if you need to add anything more than the most rudimentary functionality to the browser it soon turns into a Heath Robinson hairball of conflicting add-ins. (And after all that, you still can't move the tabs around...) Opera is a public company that's expanding at a healthy clip, and it shouldn't need to worry.
For several years Opera was the subject of a muttering campaign in Silicon Valley from jealous developers who couldn't quite believe that something so wonderful could be so self-supporting. Opera, they said, must be receiving sponsorship: probably from the EU or the Norwegian government. These rumors were entirely unfounded: Opera has always had to make its way from honest revenue. People can, and do, pay for quality.
Thanks to Opera Watch who reports that ZDNet UK has a story on Opera Software's CEO, Jon S. von Tetzchner. Von Tetzchner states in this interview that market share figures for Mozilla Firefox are inflated, due to its support for link prefetching.
Firefox and Opera have a market share of 8.7 and 1.0 percent respectively, according to the latest figures from Web traffic measurement company OneStat.com. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser, accounting for 86.6 percent of Web surfers. But Jon von Tetzchner, the chief executive of Opera, claimed that Opera's market share is likely to be higher than these statistics suggest, as it does not support pre-fetching and has a more efficient caching mechanism.
"Sadly the statistics are undercounting Opera and overcounting Firefox. Opera has a better caching mechanism so it doesn't access Web sites as often as other browsers. Firefox has added a pre-loading feature that Google has made use of. This inflates the numbers on the statistics," von Tetzchner said.
Opera's caching mechanism is not the only feature that could deflate its marketshare. Opera is configured by default to identify itself as Internet Explorer, a setting that users have to manually change to allow Opera to identify itself correctly.
There are between 10 and 15 million active users of Opera, according to von Tetzchner. He said that Opera is being downloaded between two and three million times per month. Opera also produces a version of its browser for mobile phones, which has been downloaded over one million times and "many millions" of licences for this browser have been sold to handset manufacturers and operators, according to the Opera Web site.