Firefox 26 Gains Click to Play for Plug-ins, Except Flash

Mozilla's upcoming Firefox release will land key security features that could protect users from malicious plug-in content.

Mozilla is out now with a beta release of its upcoming Firefox 26 open-source Web browser, providing users with a preview of technology—including a key security change—that will become generally available before the end of the year.

The Firefox 26 beta follows the release of Firefox 25 earlier this week, which included 10 security fixes as well as new Web audio capabilities.

With Firefox 26, Mozilla will be providing a key security control that it has lacked—the ability to limit plug-ins from automatically loading and running in a user's browser. Browser plug-ins include various media players and content handlers that let browsers run video and other forms of dynamic content.

Click to play as a browser feature is not new to the Internet and is already implemented in other browsers, including Apple's Safari 7. The Firefox 26 implementation of click to play is different from the Apple Safari version in at least one key area—Flash. By default, Firefox 26 will not require the Adobe Flash plug-in to be subject to the click-to-play control. As such, Flash content will continue to load on Firefox browsers, as it always has.

"Striking the right balance between usability and security is a never-ending challenge," Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla, told eWEEK. "We think our focus on the user puts us in the best position to evaluate those trade-offs,"

Nightingale added that the Firefox 26 user interface is focused on allowing users to use plug-ins on the sites that matter, such as their banking and gaming sites, without exposing them to risk of infection in the rest of their daily browsing.

"The latest version of Flash is not subject to click to play, since we know how many sites use it and we want to ensure an optimal experience for Firefox users," Nightingale said.

Mozilla has been working on the click-to-play functionality in various iterations for at least a year. Nightingale said Mozilla is still watching people's reactions to the feature, and polishing the details.

"Click to play will be a huge security and stability win for our users, but we also want to make sure it's really smooth and intuitive to use," Nightingale said.

Firefox OS App Manager

The Firefox 26 beta also includes a new developer tool to help those who are building apps for Mozilla's nascent Firefox OS. Firefox OS is Mozilla's attempt at building a mobile operating system and is now ramping up with devices from multiple vendors, including ZTE and Alcatel.

The Firefox OS App Manager in Firefox 26 aims to enable developers to debug and deploy Web apps via the browser interface.

"The App Manager replaces the current Simulator Dashboard and provides an integrated debug and deployment environment for your Firefox OS apps, by leveraging the existing Firefox Developer Tools," Mozilla explains in a blog post. "You can install hosted or packaged apps and debug them in the Simulator or with a connected device."

Firefox 26, currently in beta, is expected to become generally available in the week of Dec. 10.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.