Reducing Adobe Flash Usage in Firefox

Browser plugins, especially Flash, have enabled some of our favorite experiences on the Web, including videos and interactive content. But plugins often introduce stability, performance, and security issues for browsers. This is not a trade-off users should have to accept.

Mozilla and the Web as a whole have been taking steps to reduce the need for Flash content in everyday browsing. Starting in August, Firefox will block certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience, while continuing to support legacy Flash content. These and future changes will bring Firefox users enhanced security, improved battery life, faster page load, and better browser responsiveness.

Over the past few years, Firefox has implemented Web APIs to replace functionality that was formerly provided only by plugins. This includes audio/video playback and streaming capabilities, clipboard integration, fast 2D and 3D graphics, WebSocket networking, and microphone/camera access. As websites have switched from Flash to other web technologies, the plugin crash rate in Firefox has dropped significantly:

Plugin crash rate in Firefox

Firefox will continue this trend by blocking specific Flash content invisible to users. This is expected to reduce Flash crashes and hangs by up to 10%. To minimize website compatibility problems, the changes are initially limited to a short, curated list of Flash content that can be replaced with HTML. We intend to add to this list over time.

Later this year, we plan to expand this list to include the use of Flash to check content viewability, a common practice to measure advertising. This will improve Firefox performance and device battery life. We will make this change at the same time Firefox implements the equivalent HTML Intersection Observer API (Firefox bug 1243846) and recommend that content producers currently using Flash to measure viewability adopt this new API as soon as it is available.

In 2017, Firefox will require click-to-activate approval from users before a website activates the Flash plugin for any content. Websites that currently use Flash or Silverlight for video or games should plan on adopting HTML technologies as soon as possible. Firefox currently supports encrypted video playback using Adobe Primetime and Google Widevine as alternatives to plugin video.

We continue to work closely with Adobe to deliver the best possible Flash experience for our users. Our engineering partnership has led to improvements in high-DPI support on Windows, enhanced sandboxing, and an accelerated Flash rendering pipeline that improves performance and stability.

These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to make browsing safer and faster without sacrificing the Web experiences our users love. As we announced last year, Firefox plans to drop support for all NPAPI plugins, except Flash, in March 2017. The next major Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) release, also scheduled for March, will continue to support plugins such as Silverlight and Java until early 2018, for those users who need more time for their transition.

We are experimenting with many other features and improvements that will make Firefox an even more awesome platform for discovery and collaboration. We welcome your feedback and feature requests.

Update on Firefox support for OS X

Mozilla will end support for Firefox on OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 in August, 2016. At that time, Firefox will continue to function on these platforms but will no longer receive new feature or security updates.

Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) 45 will continue to support OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 until mid-2017, but this ESR release will be the last that supports them.

All three of these versions are no longer supported by Apple. Mozilla strongly encourages our users to upgrade to a version of OS X currently supported by Apple. Unsupported operating systems receive no security updates, have known exploits, and are dangerous for you to use.

What’s New in Firefox Beta

Today’s beta release of Firefox features a tool to view the open tabs that are synced across your desktop and mobile instances of Firefox.

Updates to Firefox for Android focus on a set of design changes that will make browsing safer and simpler for our users.

More information:

Firefox is the default browser for Linux users on Ubuntu, new snap format coming soon

At Mozilla, we strive to offer users a great experience based on transparency, choice and trust, and to make Firefox available across many platforms, devices and operating systems. Today, Mozilla and Canonical are renewing their partnership to make Firefox the default browser for Ubuntu users. We are proud to have been a partner of choice for Ubuntu for over a decade. Canonical and Mozilla share a similar heritage as open-source and community-supported organizations.

Ubuntu version 16.04 will include the introduction of the snap infrastructure. With the snap format, we will be able to continually optimize Firefox on Ubuntu. Like our rapid engineering release cycle, snap format will allow us to provide Linux users the most up-to-date features, in particular security patches, even after major Operating System ship dates.

Previously, a static version of Firefox would ship with each new Operating System version for the lifecycle of that OS. With the snap format, new features can be released to users of older OS versions too. Later this year, we will offer Firefox in snap format making it easier to push the browser directly to users rather than relying on an intermediary to accept updates before they reach users.

Mozilla To Test Widevine CDM in Firefox Nightly

Update, June 7, 2016: Support for Widevine is now available in the general Firefox release.

Update, April 27, 2016: Today, we will expand support of Widevine to our general release channel beginning in Firefox 47.

As we previously announced, Mozilla has been working to enable playback of HTML5 video content that requires DRM. Last year, we launched with Adobe’s Primetime CDM and now we will soon be testing Firefox support for Google’s Widevine CDM on Windows and Mac OS X. Firefox will download the CDM shortly after users first run Firefox after installing or upgrading. The CDM will be activated when users first interact with a site that uses Widevine.

Widevine support is an alternative solution for streaming services that currently rely on Silverlight for playback of DRM-protected video content. It will allow websites to show DRM-protected video content in Firefox without the use of NPAPI plugins. This is an important step on Mozilla’s roadmap to remove NPAPI plugin support.

The Widevine CDM runs in an open-source CDM sandbox in Firefox, providing better user security than NPAPI plugins.

For more information:

Shipping Some Firefox Features Outside of the Release Cycle

Four years ago, we updated the Firefox release process to the Train Model to move at the speed of the Web. More recently we improved the process further. We are now adding a mechanism to ship some features in Firefox even faster. This means it will take even less time for Firefox innovation and improvements to reach users.

Some features will now be shipped between release cycles, starting with Firefox Hello Beta. These modules are built into Firefox and delivered similarly to add-ons. This allows them to be updated more-frequently than the standard Firefox Rapid Release cycle.

This won’t interfere with our release cycle, which will still be used for most significant updates and users will only notice that some features, like Hello, are updated more frequently.

This is part of our ongoing commitment to continue delivering uncompromised quality in Firefox.

Viewing Cached Tabs Offline Ready for Testing in Firefox for Android Beta

We are testing a feature in Firefox for Android Beta that will display some Web pages even when you’re offline.

Firefox Android Beta Cached Tabs Viewing

If you’ve recently visited a site and it is still cached in the offline storage on your device, Firefox for Android Beta will display the stored offline version of the page instead of showing you an error. There’s no need to do anything to try this feature. You’ll notice that some pages you visit when you’re offline will still be displayed in Firefox for Android Beta, even when you aren’t connected to the Internet.

More information:

Discontinuing Rarely Used Firefox Features

We’re always looking for new ways to improve Firefox. Part of that process sometimes means that we need to remove features that aren’t used very much or support for platforms that are going away. This lets us concentrate our resources on finding new ways to delight Firefox users.

As part of this ongoing process, we are now removing Tab Groups from Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux. Users who want to keep this functionality can do so through add-ons that offer an identical functionality, explained here.

In Firefox for Android we are ending support for rarely used versions of the Android operating system. We have stopped support for Android OS version 3.0 through 3.2.6 (Honeycomb) and will soon end support for  2.3–2.3.7 (Gingerbread). Users can learn about versions of Android Firefox supports here.

We’ve tried to minimize any inconvenience for the few users affected by these changes. As always, please visit our Feedback Page to share your thoughts.

Update on Connected Devices Innovation Process: Four Projects Move Forward

The Internet of Things is changing the world around us, with new use cases, experiences and technologies emerging every day. As we continue to experiment in this space, we wanted to take a moment to share more details around our approach, process and current projects we’re testing.

We are focused on a gated innovation process that includes time to brainstorm solutions to real life problems and evaluate the market opportunity for these ideas. Additionally, we are aligning ourselves with users when it comes to simplicity, ease-of-use and engaging experiences, while ensuring everything is built with the Mozilla values of openness, transparency, privacy and user control at the core.

We have identified a shortlist of experiments as our first group of projects in need of community participation to help us develop, test and evaluate.  We’re excited to say that our first round of projects cover a wide range of potential solutions, as you can see below:

  • Project Link: Your personal user agent that understands your preferences for how you want to interact with the world of devices in your home, and automate your connected world for you. All of this still done conveniently and securely, but completely under your control.
  • Project Sensor Web: The easiest path from sensors to open data for contributors to collaboratively build a detailed understanding of their living environments. We are launching a pilot project to build a crowdsourced pm2.5 sensor network.
  • Project Smart Home: A middle ground between “in a box” solutions like Apple Homekit and DIY solutions like Raspberry Pi. Combining modular, affordable hardware with easy-to-use rules, Smart Home empowers people to solve unique everyday problems in new and creative ways.
  • Project Vaani: An IoT enabler package to developers, device makers and users who want to add a voice interface to their devices in a flexible and customizable way. We will prototype interactions at home in near term, and in future, showcase the ability to access services from the open Web.

We cannot do this without our dedicated and passionate community of developers and volunteers serving in an array of roles, as they are critical at ensuring each project has the best opportunity at making an impact. If you are interested in participating as a developer or tester, please click here to get involved.

We look forward to giving you updates on these projects as we continue to innovate with you all, out in the open.

Next Steps for Connected Devices

We recently announced a pivot for Firefox OS to Connected Devices and I’d like to share an update on the new product innovations we’re working on in the IoT space.

We’ve been working on a Product Innovation Process to identify our new IoT product programs. This process pushes us to think about early-stage ideas as if they were tech-startup projects where teams advocating for them are required to demonstrate a clear consumer value proposition at all points or “gates” in the development cycle: validation (whether there is a problem to solve), productization (whether there is a market fit), and scaling.

As of today, we have a good set of projects that have passed the first gate, including more SmartTV work (building on the success of our work with Panasonic in this space) and new opportunities such as FoxLink (a personal Web of Things) and Vaani. We’re working to open up this innovation process to non-staff participation soon.

Of course, Boot to Gecko (b2g) has been and will continue to be an open source operating system open to contribution.

We’re entering this exciting, fragmented IoT space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security. This is what we at Mozilla do best and it is indeed this intersection of opportunities and challenges that makes it the right time for Mozilla to focus on this new exciting phase of the Internet!