Firefox 23 Adds Features, Security to Open-Source Browser
The open-source Mozilla Foundation is out today with its Firefox 23 Web browser for multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux and Android devices. The new release comes just six weeks after the last major Firefox release, and brings a number of feature and security updates to the browser.
Firefox 23 debuts new sharing features that will enable users to share Web pages with friends over social media sites. The new sharing capability is an extension of the Social API that Mozilla first deployed into production with Firefox 17 in November 2012. The Social API is an extensible programming mechanism that allows Mozilla developers and partners to open up the Web browser for integration with social media services and sites.
The social-media-sharing capability in Firefox 23 supports a limited number of sites, however.
"Currently, users of Facebook Messenger for Firefox and Cliqz are able to share content with those networks," Gavin Sharp, lead Firefox engineer at Mozilla told eWeek. "We look forward to integrating more social networks and services soon."
The notion of sharing via a Web browser is not unique to Firefox. Apple Safari users, for example, have long been able to share content via Twitter and Facebook. Though Mozilla is now highlighting social sharing as a new feature in Firefox 23, Sharp said that Mozilla has been experimenting with sharing for a long time. In 2010, Mozilla experimented with social sharing via its F1 project. In 2011, Mozilla launched another sharing experiment in the form of the "Firefox Share" Mozilla Labs experiment.
"The share functionality in the latest iteration of the Social API is the result of that experimentation, and we're now shipping it to Firefox users," Sharp said.
With Firefox 23, Mozilla is also debuting a new Network Monitor feature.
"The network monitor makes it very easy to visualize not just how quickly parts of the page load and in what order, but also where problems are, including things like missing assets, slow Web servers and buggy APIs," Sharp said.
The Network Monitor is a tool that will help developers build better sites, which has long been a goal for Mozilla. Over the last several Firefox releases, Mozilla has introduced myriad new features to help developers. For example, the Firefox 20 release in April delivered a new Web Developer toolbox that provides all of Mozilla's developer tools in one window, enabling easier access.
Mozilla is also aiming to make Web browsing safer by way of the Mixed Content blocker that is now in the Firefox 23 release. Mixed Content refers to the common, but ill-advised practice among some Web developers of including both HTTP and secured HTTPS traffic on the same Web page. The risk is that the secured traffic isn't really secured when mixed with regular HTTP traffic.
"Firefox's Site Identity panel has historically warned about the risks of mixed content," Sharp said. "Active Mixed Content blocking goes one step further and proactively blocks some forms of mixed content that have the potential to cause security problems."
Users don't need to worry that Firefox 23's Mixed Content blocker will now mean they can no longer access sites that provide Mixed Content that they need or want to access. There is an option to "disable protection on this page" if necessary, Sharp explained.
Additionally, Mozilla has released 13 security advisories for vulnerabilities that have now been fixed in Firefox 23. Of those, Mozilla has marked four as critical. Three of the critical issues are memory-related vulnerabilities, while the fourth is identified as being a potential Cross Site Scripting (XSS) flaw. XSS flaws potentially enable an attacker to inject arbitrary code into one site from another, which could lead to a malware infection or unauthorized information disclosure.
With Firefox 23 now out the door and generally available, the release cycle begins anew and a Firefox 24 update will be set to appear in approximately six more weeks. While the features in Firefox 24 are not yet certain, Mozilla has already been talking about the big user interface refresh that is set to land in Firefox 25, which is likely 12 weeks away at this point.
Dubbed Australis, the Firefox 25 update is likely to mark the largest overhaul of the open-source browser interface since the Firefox 4 release in March 2011.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.