Road-Test sending video to Chromecast and Roku in Firefox for Android Beta

Mozilla

We have been working hard to develop initial multi-screen capabilities within Firefox for Android Beta. Now, supported video content from Web pages you visit can be sent to and viewed on a second screen, with a new ‘send to device’ video sending feature. This feature is now available for testing.

Users now have even more control over their Web experience and can enhance the way they view video content by sending it to a larger screen. They can play, pause and close videos directly from within Firefox for Android via the Media Control Bar, which appears at the bottom of the phone’s screen when a video is being sent to a device. The Media Control Bar will stay visible as long as the video is playing, even as you change tabs or visit new Web pages.

To help users identify that the video they are watching in Firefox for Android can be sent to their connected media streaming device, a ‘send to’ indicator will appear (after any ads have finished) on the playback controls bar for the video.

Clicking this indicator will bring up a list of connected streaming media devices. Users can then select the device they want to send the video to for viewing on a big screen. A second ‘send to’ indicator will then appear in the URL bar to remind users that content from this Web page is being sent to a device.

URL bar showing ‘send to’ indicator in right-hand corner

URL bar showing ‘send to’ indicator in right-hand corner

How to Get Started
To test this feature on Roku or Chromecast, follow these simple instructions:

1. Install Firefox for Android Beta if you haven’t already.
2. Make sure Roku or Chromecast is set-up on a nearby TV and is running on the same WiFi network as your Android phone.
3. If streaming to a Roku, add the Firefox channel to the channel list – instructions from Roku on how to add a new channel are here
4. Go to a site like CNN.com and look for a video on the homepage. Once you start playing a supported video (after any ads have finished playing), the above ‘send to’ icon will appear over the video controls indicating that it can be sent to a nearby streaming device.
5. You can send the video you are watching to a nearby media streaming device by tapping on the video and selecting ‘send to’ from the video controls or touching the ‘send-to’ icon in the URL bar. Both actions will automatically launch the Firefox channel on Roku or activate Chromecast for streaming and send the video to a nearby TV.

NOTES:

  • So long as the device receiving the video supports the same video format being viewed on Firefox for Android (e.g. MP4 for Roku), it will play.
  • Some websites hide or customize the HTML5 video controls and some override the video playback menu too. This can make sending a video to a compatible device like Roku a little tricky, but the simple fallback is to start playing the video in the web page. If the video is in MP4 format and Firefox for Android Beta can find your Roku, a “send to device” indicator will appear in the URL Bar. Just tap on that to send the video to your Roku.

Support for sending videos to compatible devices like Roku and Chromecast is currently in pre-release. We need your help to test this exciting new feature. Please do remember to share your feedback and file any bugs. Happy testing!

For more information:

Help Test Experimental WebRTC Communications Feature in Firefox Beta

Mozilla

With today’s release of Firefox Beta, we are introducing an experimental Web Real Time (WebRTC) communication feature that aims to offer more value to Firefox users and we’re calling for your help to test it out and let us know what you think.

There are a growing number of online communication services which are incompatible with each other, making it hard to communicate with your friends and family who might not have the same service, software or equipment as you. In order to use one of these services, you have to register an account and also give up your personal information in exchange for the right to use the services.

We’ve been testing WebRTC in experimental builds of Firefox for the last few months and today are expanding these trials to Beta to get more user feedback and for load testing purposes. With this WebRTC experiment we’re aiming to simplify video and audio communications by building an integrated communications feature directly into Firefox. It’s free to make voice and video calls and there’s no need to download software, plugins or even create an account, it’s ready to go immediately when you open Firefox Beta.

Mozilla has been pioneering WebRTC in a number of areas, from our industry-first implementation of DataChannels, to the first WebRTC call between two major browsers. With this experiment in Firefox Beta we’re continuing this momentum and increasing the value of WebRTC to Firefox users and developers.

So why not give our experiment a test drive. You’ll notice the product feature identified by a phone icon on the toolbar.

Please remember to share your feedback and file any bugs as we continue to improve performance and features around this WebRTC experiment.

We’ll have more to share as this product feature progresses.

More information:

New Tab Page Experiments in Firefox Beta

Johnathan Nightingale

Back in May, I let you know that we were running some experiments with the new tab page. I wanted to share a quick update on our progress and thinking as we expand testing to Firefox Beta.

We’ve learned a lot. We’ve experimented with every part of the new tab page – the size, layout, number of tiles, their UI, as well as varying the kinds of content we show. We’ve seen that some tiles don’t work at all, and some tiles get 50x the interaction we’d expect from industry benchmarks. We measure those interactions because we think they’re a proxy for giving users something valuable.

We’re really excited about the good stuff we can bring to users by working more closely with content providers and leading by example. This is new terrain for us, though, so we’re being deliberate about testing as we go.

Our next step is to extend these tests to the Firefox Beta channel, starting with our English locales. Our early results are promising, and we’ll keep measuring and refining until we’ve got it right.

Firefox for Android Beta Makes it Even Easier to Customize Your Web Experience

kshaw

Firefox for Android Beta introduces a powerful set of customization features for users and APIs for developers. These new features are unique to Firefox for Android Beta and offer users more personalization options and even greater control over their Web experience.

More Customization Options

Users can customize their home screen pages to see the Web content they want from a variety of websites, feeds and services. Just some of the websites, feeds and services that Mozilla has been experimenting with include Instagram, Pocket, Vimeo and Wikipedia. Users can now experience these in Firefox for Android Beta.

Instagram Home Screen

Instagram home screen page in Firefox for Android Beta

Users can pick and choose which home screen page appears as the default, re-order pages, hide unwanted pages or hide all pages for a completely clean new tab experience.

Users can now install new home screen pages for testing the same way all add-ons are installed from the settings menu under tools/add-ons. The pages can also be installed from the home screen panels collection on the Mozilla add-ons website.

A New Class of Add-Ons

This new set of APIs transforms and extends the potential of home screen pages, giving add-on developers the tools they need to build a whole new class of add-ons into the Firefox for Android Beta user experience. Add-on developers can use these APIs to create their own home screen pages, giving them a dedicated space where they can entice users to interact with their add-ons.

Easily Switch Between Languages

We added a feature to Firefox for Android Beta that enables users to easily switch between languages without restarting the browser. The feature allows us to offer 54 language options in Firefox for Android Beta, which a user can switch between regardless of the locales supported by their Android device. We created this feature in direct response to user demand, working alongside our passionate community of volunteer localization contributors to deliver it.

Help us test this new home screen experience and our new language switching feature from today. Please remember to share your feedback and file any bugs as we continue to improve performance and features for our users.

More information:

Help Test Powerful Cross-Platform Developer Tools in Firefox Beta

Mozilla

Firefox Beta for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android introduces some powerful new features and tools to help developers create and build Web content, apps and add-ons more easily than before. Please help us test these tools and provide any feedback you have.

Here’s a look at what’s new for developers:

Mobile Apps

  • Firefox Hub APIs: Firefox Beta includes support for Firefox Hub APIs allowing add-on developers to add their own content to the Firefox for Android homepage (where users find bookmarks, top sites etc.), providing them with a large area to entice users to interact with their add-on. For more details about building add-ons with these APIs, check out the documentation on MDN and see this collection of experimental add-ons as examples.
  • APK Factory Performance and Stability Improvements: We have been working on providing more performance improvements to this “native experience” for Web apps on Firefox for Android. Using APK Factory, Firefox OS app developers can now target millions of Firefox for Android users without changing a line of their apps code. By giving Web apps native updates, native installation and native app management, developers can now provide a more familiar way for users to manage their Web apps. The APK Factory also ensures Web apps use a modern up-to-date runtime, so there is no performance degradation or compatibility issues. Find out more here

Web Design Perks

  • Eyedropper: New to the color picker in the Inspector is an Eyedropper tool that grabs the color from any pixel on the page, making it easier to copy colors or manipulate them based on their color value.

    To enable a convenient toolbar icon, go to the settings panel and check ‘Available Toolbox Buttons > Grab a color from the page’. You can also trigger the eyedropper from the Web Developer menu.

  • Editable Box Model:
    Keeping with the design theme, the Inspector now also allows you to directly edit dimensions in the Box Model panel.

    Need to add or take away some padding or margin on the fly? Just double-click any of the margin, border, or padding values to change its value for the currently selected element. You can enter any valid CSS value and use the Up/Down keys to increment or decrement the value by 1. Alt-Up increments by 0.1 and Shift-Up increments by 10.

  • Code Editor improvements: Style Editor and Scratchpad gain powerful new features available as part of the upgrade to the Codemirror 4 editor, including Sublime Text key-bindings, Rectangle selection, Undo selection and Multiple selection.

Workflow Improvements

Web developers tend to use the console and network monitor heavily as they debug, and we have been listening to feedback on how to improve the console experience with some nice improvements in Firefox Beta:

  • Console stack traces: console.error, console.exception, and console.assert logs in the console now include the full stack from where the call was made.
  • Copy as cURL: replay any network request in the Network Monitor from the comfort of your own terminal. Right-click a request and select the copy as cURL menu item to copy a cURL command to the clipboard, including arguments for headers and data.
  • Styled console logs: on parity with other browser developer tools, you can now add style to console logging with the %c directive.

Increased Debugging Support

  • Canvas Debugger: Mozilla technologies like asm.js have greatly increased the awareness of HTML5 Games and WebGL in particular. To help developers inspect 2D and 3D graphics we have introduced a canvas debugger that allows developer to record and scroll through their code frame by frame.
  • Add-on Debugger: With the introduction of the Add-on Debugger, testing add-ons just got a lot easier. If you’re an add-on author you will want to enable the setting ‘Enable chrome and addon debugging’ under the Developer Tools’ ‘Advanced Settings’ section. Once this is enabled, any restart-less add-ons listed in the Addon Manager will gain a ‘Debug’ button, including add-ons created using the Add-on SDK. For more on how this works, we’ve created a short screencast of the Add-on Debugger in action.

More information:

Experimenting with WebRTC in Firefox Nightly

Chad Weiner

** July 25 UPDATE: Since we landed our initial WebRTC experiment in Nightly we have received lots of positive feedback. This update is to let you know that the WebRTC feature will now be available in Aurora so we can gather feedback from even more users. It’s important to note that we’re still in the testing and experimental phase and as always, we’re keen to get your feedback. We look forward to sharing more soon as the feature develops further.**

The number of different services that promise to make communication faster and simpler has exploded in recent years. As every new social messaging service comes online, we see increasing fragmentation that makes it harder to stay close to everyone you care about, everywhere around the world. Moving so frequently between walled gardens can be tiring and confusing.

So, we asked, what if Mozilla could help tear down these walls? What if the browser, with near universal adoption, could become keystone of an open, interoperable communications system.

Soon, in Firefox Nightly, you will see our first experiments in creating a WebRTC-powered communications feature that aims to connect everyone with a WebRTC-enabled browser. And that’s all you will need. No plug-ins, no downloads. If you have a browser, a camera and a mic, you’ll be able to make audio and video calls to anyone else with an enabled browser. It will eventually work across all of your devices and operating systems. And we’ll be adding lots more features in the future as we roll it out to more users. It’s going to be awesome!

From our industry-first implementation of DataChannels, to the first WebRTC call between two major browsers, we’ve been pushing WebRTC to deliver more value to users and developers and we’re continuing along this path with this experiment. But you shouldn’t expect a polished service quite yet. It’s early days and we’re just starting to test pieces of this service.

As we develop this experimental feature in Firefox, we’re proud to have a partner in TokBox who have provided invaluable help in getting this project to where it is today, and whose OpenTok video and voice platform powers the service. Their early support and contributions to WebRTC are helping this emerging standard establish a foothold and earn developer attention.

We’re excited to start testing this feature in our Nightly channel and look forward to providing frequent updates as we develop this service.

Chad Weiner
Director of Product Management, Firefox

New Tab Experiments

Johnathan Nightingale

A few months ago Darren posted about some experiments we wanted to do with the new tab page. It didn’t go over well. A lot of our community found the language hard to decipher, and worried that we were going to turn Firefox into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit.

That’s not going to happen. That’s not who we are at Mozilla.

But we will experiment. In the coming weeks, we’ll be landing tests on our pre-release channels to see whether we can make things like the new tab page more useful, particularly for fresh installs of Firefox, where we don’t yet have any recommendations to make from your history. We’ll test a mix of our own sites and other useful sites on the Web. We’ll mess with the layout. These tests are purely to understand what our users find helpful and what our users ignore or disable – these tests are not about revenue and none will be collected. Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.

We’ll experiment on Firefox across platforms, and we’ll talk about what we learn before anything ships to our release users. And we’ll keep listening for feedback and suggestions to make this work better for you. Because that’s who we are at Mozilla.

Johnathan Nightingale
VP Firefox

Firefox OS Update Adds New Features including Dual-SIM Support and Enhancements for Music Lovers and Gamers

Mozilla

The next update to Firefox OS is now available to Mozilla partners to implement in smartphones. The update includes several new features including Dual-SIM dual-standby (DSDS) support offering the flexibility of having two separate SIMs, additional camera features and simplified access to the music player and the ability to create unique smart collections of apps.

App developers will be pleased to see the arrival of new platform technologies such as WebGL, asm.js and WebAudio for creating immersive games with great audio effects.

Here are some more highlights from this release:

For Firefox OS users:

Dual-SIM dual-standby (DSDS) offers the flexibility of two lines with compatible phones: A highly demanded feature for emerging markets, DSDS now allows people with dual-SIM devices to individually manage two different SIMs for calling, texting or data through the simple “SIM Manager” UI. For example, you might wish to swap between a business and home SIM or if traveling may want to use a local SIM to eliminate roaming charges. It’s also possible to import contacts from each SIM into the device.

Capture sharper images and videos and locate them faster: Continuous autofocus (dependent on device compatibility) and flash are now supported, empowering you to take better photos and videos. The Galley app also receives several feature and performance improvements including content arrangement by month and file-information display, showing useful data such as date taken, file type and file size.

Direct access to your music: Several improvements for media apps are in this release including access to music controls in the notifications tray or from the lock screen. The FM Radio app can now also be played through the phone’s loudspeaker.

Lock screen showing music controls

Lock screen showing music controls

Adaptive app search enhancement: With adaptive app search, you can now also search for apps from the Firefox Marketplace, in addition to the Web, making it easier to find your favorite content.

Smart Collections: Firefox OS automatically groups your apps into smart collections on your homescreen relating to a specific app categories, for example: Social, Games, Music, Showbiz etc. By clicking on one of these categories, lets say gaming, you will see a list of all your installed games and clearly delineated below; a list of suggested new gaming apps you might like to try out. You can also save specific searches that interest you on the homescreen as new smart collections (examples: recipes, sports, news) by tapping the star icon under the search bar.

More options for messaging:

  • MMS/SMS: You can now send MMS messages to email addresses and add a subject line. Firefox OS will automatically switch an SMS to an MMS if you decide to add an image or video. You can also save message drafts and can opt to receive delivery notifications when a message is read by the recipient.
  • Email: Now supports email notifications and POP3, one of the most popular ways to connect to email accounts.

Advanced Bluetooth makes sharing easier: Multiple Bluetooth file transfers are now supported, allowing you to share multiple photos or MP3s with other devices simultaneously.

Performance improvements: Enhanced scrolling performance and faster app startup times throughout the various system apps (e.g. calendar, address book, camera etc.), means you can get to what you’re looking for quicker.

Languages supported: Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (Cyrillic & Latin), Slovak, Spanish, Turkish.

For Developers:

Improved support for Graphics and Gaming: This update will ship with some great optimizations for games. With WebGL, asm.js and WebAudio support now included, developers will be able to bring superior and engaging gaming experiences to Firefox OS phones.

Experiment with NFC: This update includes NFC enablers starting with the availability of the WebNFC API. Developers will be able to begin experimenting with NFC pairing and tag reading in their apps, with additional NFC functionality coming in futures updates.

Improved Gecko Platform Capabilities with new WebAPIs:
This release is based on Gecko 28 and includes several new WebAPIs. Shared workers enable more powerful data processing and resource sharing so developers can write faster applications. Among the new APIs, SpeakerManager gives developers access to the phone’s speaker allowing application such as the FM Radio to be listened to without headphones. The WebIccManager API, which allows support for multiple SIM cards, has also been updated. These new APIs continue to build more functionality and features into the Web for app development.

Audio Streaming with RTSP: We have now built the RTSP streaming framework and have completed support for audio streaming allowing developers to leverage their existing music technologies to target Firefox OS users.

This Firefox OS update is now available for handset manufacturers to deploy to their existing in-market phones and for developer phones.

More Information:

Update on Metro

Johnathan Nightingale

Earlier this week, I asked our engineering leads and release managers to take the Windows Metro version of Firefox off the trains. The team is solid and did good work, but shipping a 1.0 version, given the broader context we see for the Metro platform, would be a mistake.

Mozilla builds software to make the world better, but we have to pick our battles. We’re not as tiny as we were when we shipped Firefox 1.0, but we still need to focus on the projects with the most impact for our mission; the massive scale of our competitors and of the work to be done requires us to marshal our forces appropriately.

In late 2012, when I started up the Firefox for Metro team (I know that’s not what Microsoft calls it anymore, but it remains how we talk about it in Mozilla), it looked like the next battleground for the Web. Windows is a massive ecosystem and Microsoft pushes its new platforms hard. At first, it looked like we would be locked out completely. We eventually broke open Metro (though never the RT line of ARM-based products) and we got to work.

In the months since, as the team built and tested and refined the product, we’ve been watching Metro’s adoption. From what we can see, it’s pretty flat. On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment.

This leaves us with a hard choice. We could ship it, but it means doing so without much real-world testing. That’s going to mean lots of bugs discovered in the field, requiring a lot of follow up engineering, design, and QA effort. To ship it without doing that follow up work is not an option. If we release a product, we maintain it through end of life. When I talk about the need to pick our battles, this feels like a bad one to pick: significant investment and low impact.

Instead, we pull it. This opens up the risk that Metro might take off tomorrow and we’d have to scramble to catch back up, but that’s a better risk for us to take than the real costs of investment in a platform our users have shown little sign of adopting. The code will live on – many of us feel a great attachment to the product regardless of its market – but we’ll focus our efforts in places where we can reach more people. There’s a lot more of that work still to do.

Johnathan Nightingale, VP Firefox

Test the New Firefox Sync and Customize the New UI in Firefox Aurora

Mozilla

welcome-to-sync

A new version of Firefox Aurora for Windows, Mac and Linux is ready for download and testing. This update includes major changes to Firefox’s UI. This includes flexible customization options, a new streamlined look, and a new version of Firefox Sync.

Simplified and flexible user interface: Firefox Aurora includes a redesign of the browser interface to help you get things done, faster. Tabs have a new fluid and streamlined shape and non-active tabs blend into the background to make it faster for you to find and focus on the tab you want. A new menu contains the most popular features including copy, paste, zoom, as well as add-ons all in one spot with easy to identify visual icons.

Flexible customization: In Firefox Aurora we’ve made browser customization easier and more discoverable. The new customization function in the menu allows you to prioritize features in the menu, toolbar, and tab bar by simply dragging them to the desired position. You can easily remove or move any of your browser’s buttons, including add-ons, based on your preferences. This makes it faster and easier to access the features you use the most.

Firefox Accounts with Firefox Sync:
With this Aurora update we are introducing Firefox Accounts as a safe and easy way for you to create an account that enables you to sign in and take your Firefox with you anywhere. With Firefox Accounts, we can better integrate services into your Web experience. The new Firefox Sync makes it even easier to setup and add multiple devices while delivering end-to-end encryption. Simply enter your email address during setup and choose a password to complete the setup process. If you are currently a Firefox Sync user, you will see no change in Firefox Aurora.

We need our adventurous group of Firefox Aurora users to help us test these new features and provide feedback as we continue to improve performance and features.

For more information: