Firefox OS Update (1.1) Adds New Features, Performance Improvements and Additional Language Support

Mozilla

Just weeks after the first Firefox OS phones hit the market, an update is being made available adding new features, support for a number of new languages and significant performance improvements. There have been hundreds of improvements added to Firefox OS, but we wanted to give you a brief overview of some of the highlights from this release:

  • MMS support: you can send and receive pictures, audio and video files via MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service).
  • Push Notifications API: developers can make use of push to deliver timely notifications to apps and reduce overall battery consumption.
  • Adaptive app search is now front and center on the home screen, making it easier and faster to find the content you want.
  • Contact Management enhancements:
    • Gmail and Hotmail contact import: it’s now even easier to get your contacts onto a Firefox OS phone. We’ve now added the ability to import your existing contacts from either Gmail or Hotmail, in addition to the existing Facebook or SIM card import options.
    • Add to contacts: You can easily add any phone number or e-mail address to your contacts that is listed in your call log, SMS messages or e-mail. Simply long tap the relevant information to directly create a new contact or add information to existing contacts.
    • Dialer suggestions: Start entering phone numbers or names into the Dialer to quickly find a specific contact.
  • Performance improvements: Experience faster application load times and smoother scrolling
  • Firefox browser downloads: Save images, audio and video from the browser with ease
  • Keyboard improvements: Auto correction fixes words that you accidentally misspell.
  • E-Mail enhancements:
    • Draft Mode: Automatically save in-progress e-mails offline so you can finish and send them later.
    • Download audio and video attachments: Save audio and video e-mail attachments in addition to image files to your gallery.
    • Sending image attachments: Attach and send Gallery images directly within the e-mail application.
  • Music Search: Finding a favorite song is easy with the new music search functionality, simply swipe down from the top of the Music app to reveal a search bar and find music by artist, album or song title.
  • Calendar enhancements:
    • Direct event creation: Just tap on the desired time slot to create a new calendar event.
    • Calendar event reminders: Set reminders to be notified of calendar events.
  • Fourteen languages supported.

This Firefox OS update will be available for current users and on developer phones soon. For more details on how to purchase developer devices, visit MDN.

- Chris Lee, Director of Product for Firefox OS

Plugin Activation in Firefox

Mozilla

To give people a better Firefox experience, we’re changing the way plugins work. Earlier this year we talked about our plan for putting users in control of their plugins.  We are now seeing these plans take shape in the latest version of Firefox Aurora. To give people more control over their browser, Firefox will no longer activate most plugins by default. When a site tries to use a plugin, the user will be able to choose whether to enable the plugin on that site.

A plugin is 3rd-party software which is loaded into the browser to assist in rendering the Web. Even though many users are not even aware of plugins, they are a significant source of hangs, crashes, and security incidents. By allowing users to decide which sites need to use plugins, Firefox will help protect them and keep their browser running smoothly.

The one plugin not affected by this change is Flash, which will remain enabled by default. Flash content is so common on the Web, and many websites use “hidden” Flash instances that the user does not see and cannot click on: making Flash click-to-play would be confusing for most users. Users with older versions of Flash that are known to be insecure will see the click-to-activate UI and will be prompted to upgrade to the latest version. Our security and plugin teams work closely with Adobe to make sure that Firefox users are protected from instability or security issues in the Flash plugin.

When Mozilla conducted a user research study on the prototype implementation of click-to-play plugins earlier this year, we discovered that many users did not understand what a plugin was. Participants were confused or annoyed by the experience, especially having to enable plugins on the same site repeatedly. We redesigned the click-to-play feature to focus on enabling plugins per-site, rather than enabling individual plugin instances on the page. Advanced users who want to activate individual instances may still do so by installing a Firefox extension. We encourage people who want to try the new plugin experience to use the Mozilla Nightly or Aurora preview releases.

Plugins used to be an important tool for prototyping and implementing new features such as video and animation. As browsers have advanced, this kind of feature development can occur directly within the browser using technologies such as WebGL, WebSockets, WebRTC, and asm.js.  Mozilla projects such as pdf.js and Shumway demonstrate that plugins can be implemented within the Web platform.

Plugins are now a legacy technology, and not available on most mobile devices. Mozilla encourages website developers to avoid using plugins wherever possible. If there are plugin features which are not available in the web platform, we encourage developers to post their use cases to mozilla.dev.platform project list, so that Mozilla can prioritize web platform work to make those use cases possible.

- Benjamin Smedberg, Engineering Manager, Stability and Plugins

Help Test a Preview of Firefox Optimized for Windows 8 Tablets

Mozilla

Today’s Aurora update for Firefox offers our broad community of Mozillians, especially our global localization and testing communities, an exciting early look at the newest member of the Firefox family, designed and coded from the ground up for Microsoft’s Windows 8 Modern UI. Try it out now and share your feedback.

This touch-friendly version of Firefox has been designed to ensure people get the best browsing experience on their Windows 8 tablet. It has a tile-based Firefox Start experience and supports Firefox Sync, Windows 8 touch and swipe gestures, Snapped and Fill views, and Windows Share integration all delivered with a streamlined, modern and beautiful interface.

Because this new version of Firefox uses the same powerful Gecko rendering engine as in Firefox desktop, there’s also support for WebGL for compelling 3D graphics and asm.js which supercharges JavaScript in the browser, allowing developers to port high performance C++ games to the Web. Hardware accelerated full HTML5 video is also supported, including open video formats like WebM and proprietary formats such as H.264.

To test it out, first make sure that Firefox Aurora is your Windows 8 default browser. Then visit the Windows Start screen (if you’re on Windows 8) to locate the Firefox Aurora tile. Visit the All Apps screen if you’re on Windows 8.1 where you can locate the Firefox Aurora tile and pin it to the Windows Start screen. Find more details here.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be almost exclusively focused on improving performance and responsiveness.

This is still a preview and while most of the features are very nearly complete, we know there are bugs, so please help us test and share your feedback or file any bugs you find.

Guest Browsing and More Customization Options in Firefox for Android Beta

Mozilla

Firefox for Android Beta is ready for download and testing. This update features UI improvements and guest browsing, which enables users to seamlessly share Firefox on their mobile device with friends and family. Firefox for Android Beta also features new developer tools like remote debugging and SkiaGL performance improvements, making for a faster and better Web experience.

  • Guest browsing: Guest browsing lets the owner of an Android device log out of his or her current Firefox session (effectively protecting history, bookmarks and open tabs) to enable a guest user to surf the Web on Firefox. When the guest is done, he or she simply selects to end the session, and the browsing data from that session will be deleted. From there, the device owner’s session is restored.
  • Set wallpaper images and contact photos: Users set any image as their wallpaper or assign it to a contact directly from the Web page they are viewing. Simply press and hold the desired image to bring up the Context menu and select “Set image as” to customize your device with an image from the Web.
  • Update to Settings menu: The Settings menu has a new look that makes it easier for you to customize  Firefox. The menu now groups similar settings together under categories like Sync, Customize and Privacy, so users can configure their Firefox settings more intuitively.
  • Added locales:  Firefox for Android Beta is now available in 27 languages worldwide with added support for Ukrainian, Irish and Romanian locales.
  • Mixed Content Blocker: The Mixed Content Blocker protects the integrity of secure (HTTPS) websites by blocking nonsecure (HTTP) content from loading. This prevents attackers from being able to read or modify the secure page.
  • Page actions support: Add-on developers can designate a “quick-action” to the user experience via an icon on the Firefox URL bar. This addition enables users to quickly tap into the functionality of their favorite add-ons, regardless of where they are on the Web.
  • Remote debugging: The Remote Debugger for Firefox for Android Beta lets developers debug web pages through the same Firefox Developer Tools used in Firefox desktop, making developing on Android that much easier.

For More Information:

New Features and Improvements for Firefox Beta Ready for Download and Testing

Mozilla

Firefox for Android Beta

Firefox for Android Beta is ready for download and testing. The latest update to Firefox for Android Beta helps users share content quickly and easily.

      • Support for WebRTC: Firefox for Android Beta includes WebRTC components that enable developers to easily integrate real-time communications across the Web. The components DataChannels, PeerConnection and GetUserMedia enable the Web with Real Time Communication capabilities including video calls and file-sharing between browsers. Developers can now begin to experiment with WebRTC experiences on Firefox for Android.
      • New and improved Reader & Reading List:
        • The updated Reader includes a redesigned formatting menu that allows users to toggle between Serif and San-serif fonts.
        • In Reader, Firefox for Android Beta can automatically switch to “dark mode” (dark text on a light background) or “light mode” (light text on a dark background) depending on the level of light in the room. Users can also manually switch between these states.
        • Users can now long-tap the reader icon to quickly add an article to their Reading List without switching to Reader first. All Reading Lists can be accessed offline.
        • Firefox now makes it clear when Reader is on or off by changing the URL bar to orange when Reader is on and grey when Reader is turned off.
      • NFC Bump: Share Firefox tabs with another NFC-enabled Android phone by “bumping” them together. NFC must be powered “on.”
      • Quickshare: Quickshare creates a space in the Share menu from a list of sharing services available on the user’s device. For example, email, SMS, social, etc.
      • Firefox for Android Beta adds support for Catalan-Spanish, British-English and Swedish languages bringing a great Web experience to more than 24 languages.

Firefox Beta for Windows, Mac And Linux

  • Browser Console: Firefox Beta for Windows, Mac and Linux includes an updated Browser Console for developers. The Browser Console allows developers to inspect the browser’s logs (rather than a content page’s logs) and is especially useful for Firefox Add-on developers. Developers can filter by log type (net, css, security, js, and misc. logging) or perform free text search through the logs. This replaces the existing Error Console.

For More information:

Mozilla’s Heartbeat & Quarterly Firefox OS Releases

Alex Keybl

Mozilla and the community have been on a roll creating new products and evolving existing ones. We now release multiple browsers across a multitude of platforms, including

  • Firefox – three desktop pre-release channels alongside our shipping version for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows (soon with a redesign)
  • Firefox for Android – compatible with thousands of phones and tablets, also shipping to four channels
  • Firefox ESR – sometimes with two supported releases overlapping at once

All of these products share a single platform, Gecko, and collectively release to hundreds of millions of users almost exactly every six weeks. Like a well-practiced choir, we synchronize our technical and organizational heartbeat around releases. This heartbeat enables us to push a unified vision across the entire web, keep our users regularly delighted with new (many times cross-platform) functionality, and prevent any one product from lagging behind in security updates.

You may have heard that we recently added a new product to the litter, Firefox OS. To put it bluntly, the project as a whole has been an incredible undertaking but we’ve finally pushed our v1.0 out the door with the help of our community and partners.

Unlike our desktop/mobile releases, we’ve had to do go even further than delighting our users. We’ve also had to juggle the timelines and requirements of all of the OEMs, carriers, and chipset manufacturers that we’ve partnered with. These new variables lead us to standardize on Gecko 18 for our first two major releases of Firefox OS. It made us “skip a beat”, but for all the right reasons.

Now that we have our v1.0 behind us and we’re moving forward with even more partners, we’re going to do our best to bring Firefox OS back into our heartbeat and will make quarterly feature releases available to partners along with six-weekly security updates for the previous two feature releases. As far as I know, that’s the most aggressive mobile OS release strategy out there (and may still require some tweaking).

This sort of alignment across multiple browser products, and now an OS, is unprecedented at the pace we’re moving. Keep it up, Mozillians.

Firefox for Android Beta includes Improvements to the Awesome Bar and Awesome Screen

Mozilla

A new update to Firefox for Android Beta is ready for download and testing.

Firefox for Android Beta includes new features and optimizations to the Awesome Bar and Awesome Screen to help get you to where you want to go on the Web quickly. The Awesome Bar automatically hides while not in use, to make your entire small screen available for browsing. Simply pull down the Awesome Bar from the top of the screen when you are ready to use it again. The Awesome Bar in Firefox for Android Beta also includes domain autocomplete, which will complete your URL destination as you type. Firefox for Android Beta is currently the only browser that supports this autocomplete function. Switch to Tab lets you easily find and switch to any open tab from your Awesome Screen without opening duplicate tabs.

Firefox for Android Beta lets you change your default search provider directly from the add-ons manager. To change your default search provider, visit the Add-ons manager, and long-tap on an installed search engine. This brings up a dialog where you can either “Disable” the search engine, or “Set as Default”.

Firefox for Android Beta includes an updated RSS feed reader to create a simple way to subscribe to an RSS feed. You can subscribe to RSS feeds in either My Yahoo! or Google. If you go to any page with a discoverable RSS feed and long-tap on the Awesome Bar, you will be given the option to “Subscribe to Page”.

Firefox for Android Beta adds support for Turkish and Hungarian locales bringing Firefox for Android to more than 20 languages worldwide.

For more information:

Calling all Developers – Integrate your App into Firefox Beta with the Social API

Mozilla

Developers interested in integrating their website or service into the Firefox Social API are now able to do so.

New in Firefox Beta:

  • Share: Firefox Beta adds a “Share” button and panel to the Social API. This feature enables developers to let users share content with friends in one click. Facebook users can use this functionality to share content (like news articles, images, videos or links) with their friends and family directly from the Firefox toolbar.
  • Mixed Content Blocker: The Mixed Content Blocker protects the integrity of secure (HTTPS) website by blocking nonsecure (HTTP) content from loading and hence prevents attackers from being able to read or modify the secure page.
  • Network Monitor: For developers, the Network Monitor breaks down individual website components, highlighting how long it takes for the components to load to help you pinpoint problems.
  • Optimizations for Firefox on Mac OSX 10.7: Firefox Beta supports bounce behavior when reaching the top and bottom of pages and support for the new scrollbar style for Mac OSX 10.7 users.

Finally, with Firefox Beta, we are happy to introduce a fresh, redesigned Firefox logo. The new logo has a modern feel and has been created specifically with mobile in mind – optimized to be crisper and cleaner on small screens and lower resolution devices. The new logo will be rolled out more widely in the coming weeks. More information on the new logo and the Firefox logo evolution can be found in this post from our awesome creative team.

More information:

Social API for All

Mozilla

Firefox Beta is taking the next step in making the Firefox Social API available to all Web developers.

Last year, Mozilla partnered with Facebook to develop and introduce the Social API. Earlier this year, we continued to refine the feature and extended that support to additional providers. The Social API is exciting because it offers users a way to interact with websites and Web apps in richer ways – it makes them more than “just a tab”. We’ve always thought these capabilities should be exposed to all websites, and in Firefox Beta, we’re making that a reality.

Firefox allows any website to prompt users to activate and make use of the Social API toolbar buttons, sidebar, chat windows, panels, notifications, and a brand-new Social API feature: the share panel. The activation mechanism is dead-simple, and makes it easy for users to enable these features directly from your website with only a couple of clicks. For developers, hooking into the API couldn’t be easier: social panels and sidebars just load URLs on your website, where you have full control over how things look and work.

We’re going to continue to improve the Social API documentation that you can find here. Stay tuned for future posts with more information about how to best make use of the Firefox Social API!

– Gavin Sharp, Lead Firefox Engineer

New Firefox OS Videos Highlight How HTML5 Gives Developers Freedom to Innovate without Boundaries

Mozilla

As we move closer towards the launch of the first consumer Firefox OS phones, more and more developers are eager to find out what developing apps for Firefox OS entails and how they can get started.

We’ve created a series of short videos to whet developers’ appetite, and make it easier for them to get up and running developing apps.

The first video, entitled “Firefox OS for developers – the platform HTML5 deserves”, is posted here on our Hacks blog. It features Open Web Advocate, Daniel Appelquist from Telefónica Digital / W3C and Mozilla’s Principal Developer Evangelist, Christian Heilmann, as they discuss the freedom HTML5 offers app developers and some of the first steps to take to start innovating with Web apps and publishing them to the Firefox Marketplace.

We hope you find the first installment helpful and look forward to hearing your feedback.

Look out for more videos to follow soon – enjoy!