Archive for May, 2010

WebM, Inspector, AMO, Fennec, Socorro, Sync, Thunderbird, Jetpack, Drumbeat, and more…

In this issue…

Open web, open video and WebM
Last week, Mozilla joined Google in announcing the WebM project to advance web video, including Google’s release of the VP8 codec under open source and royalty-free terms.

“Until today, Theora was the only production-quality codec that was usable under terms appropriate for the open web. Now we can add another, in the form of VP8: providing better bandwidth efficiency than H.264, and designed to take advantage of hardware from mobile devices to powerful multicore desktop machines, it is a tremendous technology to have on the side of the open web. VP8 and WebM promise not only to commoditize state-of-the-art video quality, but also to form the basis of further advances in video for the web.”

Several Mozillians have written about the WebM project and things related to it, including Mike Shaver, Chris Double, Robert O’Callahan, and Chris Blizzard, among others.

Preview builds of Firefox with WebM support are already available at Additionally, the Participatory Culture Foundation has updated their Miro Video Converter to be the first tool to produce WebM videos.

An open web app store
Mozilla has started discussions about what principles an “Open Web App Store” would need to follow. “Web developers are expressing interest in an app store model for the Web that would enable them to get paid for their efforts without having to abandon Web development in exchange for proprietary silos. Supporting the needs of Web developers in their efforts to develop websites and apps that aren’t bound to a specific browser and work across the Web is core to Mozilla’s public benefit mission.”

The post goes on to outline a handful of high-level principles that Mozilla believes an Open Web App Store would need to be founded upon, largely based around open standards, interoperability, transparency, respecting user privacy, and remaining open and accessible to all. Read more about these principles and join in the discussion on the Mozilla blog.

Firefox Inspector impetus
Rob Campbell is working on a new Inspector feature that is planned to ship as part of Firefox 4, the initial parts of which have landed and are available in Firefox nightly builds. Rob has blogged again about this feature, discussing why Mozilla is building an inspector into Firefox, explaining a bit about the direction the team is taking with it, and asking for feedback about what you would like to see it do.

New add-ons review process proposal
The Mozilla Add-ons team has come up with a new proposal for revising the AMO review process. “We previously proposed an Incubation Process as a way to make add-ons hosted on AMO safer while still letting developers host their experimental add-ons via direct links. Developer feedback in our forums raised several issues. Taking these into account, we’ve come up with a new plan that accomplishes our previous goal of making all publicly available add-ons on AMO safe, and also provides incentives for developers to make great add-ons.” Review the new proposal and join in the discussion on the Mozilla Add-ons Forum.

Fennec 1.1: form autocomplete + portrait browsing
Madhava Enros has written about two more new features that are part of Firefox mobile (Fennec) 1.1. The first of these is form field autocompletion: “Using an algorithm similar to the one that powers the awesome bar, Firefox will suggest entries appropriate for the form field based on what you’ve entered before. For forms you use a lot — checking into a flight, entering your address — a single tap can replace a lot of messing around with a keyboard.”

The second new feature is portrait-mode browsing. “Firefox 1.1 on Maemo lets you browse with your phone in a portrait orientation as well as landscape. The browser will switch orientations automatically as you reposition the phone, as you would expect.”

Socorro: Mozilla’s crash reporting system
Laura Thompson has written about Socorro — Mozilla’s crash reporting system — and future plans for upgrading and scaling it to handle even more data. “You may have noticed that Firefox has become a lot less crashy recently — we’ve seen a 40% improvement over the last five months. The data from crash reports enables our engineers to find, diagnose, and fix the most common crashes, so crash reporting is critical to these improvements. We receive on our peak day each week 2.5 million crash reports, and process 15% of those, for a total of 50GB. In total, we receive around 320GB each day! Right now we are handicapped by the limitations of our file system storage (NFS) and our database’s ability to handle really large tables.” Read more on the Mozilla Webdev blog.

Help test Firefox Sync 1.3
The Mozilla QA team needs some help testing the most recent builds of Firefox Sync 1.3. “Firefox Sync 1.3 Final is going to be highly publicized and encouraged for daily usage. We’re hoping to release this month, but there’s still a lot of testing of the client and server that we could use feedback on.” If you’re interested, Tony outlines some quick ways to get involved.

Nightly Fennec builds for Android
It’s now easier than ever to get involved with testing the pre-alpha builds of Firefox mobile (Fennec) for Android devices. “Our automated build machines have just started producing pre-alpha Fennec for Android builds with the latest changes from developers each night. We have similar builds for the desktop version of Firefox and for the N900 to let testers have a way of getting the latest changes to provide feedback and to report bugs.” Read more at Stuart Parmenter’s blog.

Add-on packaging spec, parts 2 & 3
Jorge Villalobos — following up on his earlier posts about the Add-on packaging GSOC project — has posted part 2 and part 3 of his proposed Add-on packaging specification. “This is a specification for a project that will be implemented for the Google Summer of Code, and it can still change as feedback is received. There are no concrete plans for making this part of Firefox in the near future. Read my previous post for more info.”

Thunderbird 3.1 needs testers
Ludovic Hirlimann, the QA lead for Thunderbird, is looking for people to help test Thunderbird 3.1 RC1. You should be willing to spend 30 minutes to an hour working through tests and entering test results in Litmus, Mozilla’s test management system. If you are able to spend some time helping out, check out Ludovic’s post for more information about how to get started.

Jetpack developer survey
Just a quick reminder that the Jetpack team is looking for feedback from Jetpack developers to better understand who you are, what you are developing, and how they can better help you achieve your add-on development goals. Head over to the Labs blog to take the survey.

Crisper Drumbeat messaging?
A few weeks ago Mark Surman posted an updated Drumbeat description. “People said it was good, but not good enough. We’ve pushed hard to come up with something better and crisper. The result is a simple set of key messages that explain Drumbeat and why it matters. We’ll use these to write site copy, update our slide decks and drive our upcoming social media campaign. Feedback and tweaks welcome.”

Open Video Conference: proposals
The proposals submission deadline for the Open Video Conference is June 7th, 2010 — just a couple of weeks away. “We are now accepting proposals for panels, presentations, workshop sessions, demo sessions, and other programming for the next Open Video Conference in New York City. Join us and over 900 participants during our groundbreaking two-day conference and take part in the discussions that are driving the future of the online video medium.”

Software updates
* Processing.js 0.9.1
* SeaMonkey 2.1 alpha 1
* Firebug 1.6a11
* Firebug Lite 1.3.0

Upcoming events
* May 26 – Firefox 4 beta plan brownbag
* May 28 – Addon Testscripting with MozMill
* Jun 7 – Open Video Conference proposals deadline
* Jun 30 – London 2010 Add-ons workshop
* Oct 1-2 – New York City – Open Video Conference

Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page. Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project. The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning.

If you have any news, announcements, events, or software releases you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]

If you would like to get this newsletter by email, just head on over to the about:mozilla newsletter subscription form. Fresh news, every Tuesday, right to your inbox.


Firefox 4, Plugin Check, Drumbeat, Inspector, Collections, SUMO, Privacy, Fennec, Add-ons, and more…

In this issue…

Firefox 4: the HTML5 parser
Henri Sivonen has written an overview of the HTML parser improvements that will be part of Firefox 4. Chris Blizzard elaborates, “The HTML parser is one of the most complicated and sensitive pieces of a browser. It controls how your HTML source is turned into web pages and as such, changes to it are rare and need to be well-tested. While most of Gecko [the platform upon which Firefox is built] has been rebuilt since its inception in the late 90s, the parser was one of the stand-outs as being ‘original’.”

Henri has been working on a project to replace the old parser entirely, with a new one that’s faster, compliant with the new HTML5 standard, and that also includes a lot of new functionality. Read more about this project at Mozilla Hacks.

Plugin Check for all browsers
Last fall, Mozilla started a program to help Firefox users keep their plugins up to date. Outdated plugins are a major source of security and stability issues for users, and some studies suggest that 80% of users have older versions. Last week, we expanded the Plugin Check system to work for all browsers.

“We believe that plugin safety is an issue for the web as a whole, so while our initial efforts focused on building a page that would work for Firefox users, the team has since expanded plugin check coverage to work with Safari 4, Chrome 4, and Opera 10.5. We have added support for Internet Explorer 7 and 8 for the most popular plugins, as well, but since IE requires specific code to be written for each plugin it will take us a little longer to get full coverage.” You can read more about this project on the Mozilla Security weblog, and check your own plugins at the Mozilla Plugin Check page.

May Mozilla Drumbeat update
Mark Surman has posted the most recent Drumbeat Project update. Highlights include notes about Web Made Movies; local events that have taken place in Toronto, Sao Carlos and Berlin; the Drumbeat and Shuttleworth Foundation joint “education for the open web” fellowship; joining forces with One Web Day, and the addition of a new European team member – Henrik Moltke. Read more about the recent project highlights on Mark’s blog post.

New Firefox Inspector lands
Rob Campbell has announced the initial landing of a new Inspector feature that will be part of Firefox 4, now available in Firefox nightly builds. “In the Tools menu, there’s a new menu item labeled ‘Inspect’. Selecting this will bring up a panel at the bottom of the Firefox window with a tree representing the nodes in the HTML page you’re on. Hovering over elements in the page will select the appropriate node in the tree. It’s pretty rough-looking still, but over the next few days and weeks we’ll be landing new features as they’re written. There are already two partially-formed features waiting in the wings which will make this tool almost useful.” Read more about this new feature at Rob’s weblog.

Smart Tapping in mobile Firefox
The Firefox mobile team has developed a new “SmartTap” algorithm that improves how Firefox works on touchscreen devices. “It’s now well understood that, when designing for a touchscreen, there are certain minimum usable sizes for touchable targets. While the amount you can display on a screen is increasing with higher resolutions, human finger sizes aren’t changing, and fingertips are much larger than a mouse pointer. In Firefox mobile 1.1, we’ve added a smart-tapping scheme with the goal of allowing for accurate and easy tapping on links, form widgets and other focusable targets in web content.”

What’s next for add-on Collections
“Since their launch last year, users have created more than 56,000 collections of add-ons,” writes Justin Scott. “I’ve been thinking about ways to improve collections since last year, especially as many other sites now support similar groups of content. We’re well underway in rewriting, so now is the perfect time to make some improvements to this feature as we rewrite it for the new site.” Justin’s post goes on to discuss some of the changes the Add-ons team has planned, and asks for your feedback and ideas about other ways to improve and build upon the Collections feature.

SUMO rewrite needs your help!
The Firefox Support site sees more than four million visitors per week, hosts hundreds of articles, has translations in dozens of languages, and supports a large and active group of contributors. The demands on the Firefox Support knowledge base are very high, which is why the team is trying to approach the design of the new platform in a comprehensive way. “It’s not only a rewrite of the current knowledge base in another framework, but a step forward. If this system fulfills our needs, chances are that it will be useful in a lot of other cases as well. So this is a unique opportunity to build a modern, open source knowledge base with resources from Mozilla and field testing in one of the most demanding environments. If you are a localizer, an editor or a Firefox user and want to contribute to that project, this is your chance.”

Mozilla + privacy policies
Julie Martin, part of Mozilla’s legal team, has been working hard on refining and improving our privacy policies and exploring new ways to present those policies to users in a way that makes them easier to understand and evaluate.

“Mozilla is interested in helping to move the ball forward on privacy generally and on how privacy practices are communicated to users more specifically. We are exploring using a higher-level privacy summary that contains some of the most important nuggets from a given privacy policy. And we’d like to make this part of the UX flow so that users signing up for the service or product can quickly see and evaluate the key data practices. We hope to incorporate this into the Weave product.” There are more details about the Weave product privacy policy and this new method for presenting key privacy policy points to users on Julie’s blog.

Fennec 1.1: n900 zoom buttons
“One of the most requested features after we released Firefox on Maemo (Fennec) 1.0 was for a way to ‘free-form’ zoom. Fennec already supported what I call a ‘structured zoom’ – that is, double tapping that zooms to fit the part of the page structure that you’re tapping on. That method doesn’t help you in every circumstance, though, and that’s where a free-form or arbitrary zoom mechanism is useful. Devices that support multitouch almost all now use the pinch-to-zoom gesture for this, and that’s what Fennec will do on such devices as well. The Nokia N900, though, is single touch only, so for version 1.1, Fennec makes use of the device’s rocker button to allow free-form zooming in and out.” Read more at Madhava’s weblog.

Add-on packaging GSOC project + spec
Jorge Villalobos is mentoring Hebert Duarte from Brazil on a project to simplify add-on packaging for this year’s Google Summer of Code. Jorge has posted part 1 of a proposed spec for the project, which you are invited to review on his weblog. “In order to simplify the packaging system, both manifest files should be merged into a single file. The file specification should allow for the least amount of unnecessary declarations that is possible, so that simple add-ons are simple to make. It should also be robust enough not to limit complex add-on creation, and it should cover every single non-obsoleted feature of both current manifest files. It should work for all add-ons that currently use the XPI format: extensions, themes, locales, and multi-item packages. The chosen format for the manifest file is JSON.”

Privacy is brewing
“People think about Mozilla mostly in the context of our major project, Firefox, but we’ve got lots of activities, both related to Firefox and beyond, that touch on issues of user control and privacy,” writes Harvey Anderson. “It’s an incredibly active area right now across the industry, and we’re finding ourselves more involved, so I wanted to start writing about these issues as they develop. What’s below is a bit of an effort to divine some meaning from what on its face looks like a series of unrelated events; however, in aggregate, they suggest a bigger story is unfolding which is that users’ expectations about their ability to control their online information, at least for a growing segment, are not being satisfied.” Read the rest of this post on Harvey’s weblog.

Jetpack developer survey
The Labs team has launched a survey for developers working on Jetpack-based add-ons. “In the past month we’ve released Jetpack SDK 0.3, various extension examples, and our development plans for Jetpack SDK 0.4 and 0.5. We would like to hear about what you are creating with the Jetpack SDK.” The survey is targeted at understanding more about who is developing with Jetpack, which of you are developing add-ons with the SDK, and what it is you’re working on. Take the survey over on the Labs Jetpack weblog.

Lanikai Beach donations page
“We just posted a page about Lanikai Beach. This provides information about the place that is used as the codename for Thunderbird 3.1 and also gives people an opportunity to donate to support conservation efforts for the local Bulwer’s Petrel.” This is the second conservation effort Mozilla has been involved in, with the first being for Namoroka Park, which was the codename for Firefox 3.6.

Software releases
* RequireJS 0.11.0
* Processing.js v0.9

Upcoming events
* May 18, 12:30p PST: Brownbag – Next Generation Textbooks
* May 19: Selenium Meetup
* May 19: Brownbag – How to write a Test Pilot study
* May 21: Testday – Testing the Grafx Bot
* May 21: Account Manager meet-up @ Mozilla HQ
* May 21-23: Balkan Meetup @ Skopje

Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page. Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project. The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning.

If you have any news, announcements, events, or software releases you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]

If you would like to get this newsletter by email, just head on over to the about:mozilla newsletter subscription form. Fresh news, every Tuesday, right to your inbox.


Next »