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 Outdated plugins are a major source of security and stability issues for users, and some studies suggest that 80% of users have older versions.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.

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