Now that the Internet Explorer 9 Beta is out, Redmond is sharing a few more details about the final product. One juicy tidbit they've dropped is that users of Windows XP are boned if they expected to be able to update to the latest and greatest Microsoft browser. According to Microsoft's Ryan Gavin, the company won't be adding IE9's GPU acceleration to IE8, and IE9 won't be available on XP.
During this Windows XP hate-fest, Microsoft reps also took the opportunity to talk up Windows 7. So the picture is clear, If you're still on Windows XP, Microsoft is looking to leave you in the dust bit by bit. About 53% of global PCs are still on Windows XP, many of them in corporate settings. Much of the IE9 hardware acceleration is tied into DirectX 10, which is only officially available on Windows Vista and 7.
By making this move, Microsoft is basically ceding a portion of the market to Firefox and Chrome. If users want advanced web features, that's where they have to go. It's not clear if development of any sort will continue on IE8. Still, using language like this just invites clever users to make IE9 run on whatever they want.
Mozilla was quick to release a couple of new versions of Firefox -- version 3.6.10 and version 3.5.15 -- just one day after turning off update notfications to address a bug that was causing headaches for some people.
The bug, which seemingly popped out of nowhere, caused the browser to crash during launch. It wasn't something that was detected in pre-release versions.
"Interesting that this doesn't show up in the top 300 crashes in 3.6.9pre or 3.5.12pre," Christian Legnitto, Firefox release manager, said in a bug comment.
Later on, Legnitto said that even though this caused a spike in the number of Firefox crashes, it was still a "drop in the bucket vs. active daily users." Nevertheless, "because it is a crash on start-up that could prevent people from using Fireofx entirely, we feel it was best to get a fix out quickly."
You can grab the latest version here (3.6.10) or here (3.5.13), or hit the "Check for updates" option in Firefox's Help menu.
Just how popular are add-ons to Mozilla Firefox’s Web browser? A usage survey taken by Mozilla as of one year ago revealed that one-third of all Firefox users—at least—use add-ons in some capacity. That’s a pretty big deal, but not quite as eye-opening a number as the raw statistics from Mozilla’s official add-ons page.
According to the company, more than two billion add-ons have been downloaded since Firefox’s started tracking statistics back in August of 2007. There are currently 125 million add-ons in use as of this article’s writing, with more than 890,000 registered users attached to Mozilla’s official add-ons directory. I won’t bore you with any more statistics; suffice, there’s a lot of neat stuff you can install into your browser. And it appears that many are indeed doing so.
Where does one begin?
These are both questions that hit to the core of the Mozilla add-on experience. Simply put, your browser is only as good as the extensions you choose to install, and trying to get a handle on the ever-increasing world of Firefox add-ons can be as difficult for a first-timer as it is for an experienced add-on enthusiast. So we’ll make it simple. We’ve scoured the Web to come up with a listing of must-have add-ons for any Firefox installation, period.
And, even then, did we mention that we’ve found twenty?
One of our favorite Chrome features is finally making its way into Firefox 4, automatic updates. This might not sound like a huge breakthrough, but the little discussed feature is responsible for 97 percent of Chrome users running the most up-to date version of the browser within three weeks of its release. The concept is to simply download updates silently in the background when bandwidth is not being otherwise used, and then apply the patch automatically when the browser is started. Users who never restart their browsers will be given a gentle reminder after a few weeks.
In an age where zero day security vulnerabilities are the norm, and major releases drop every six weeks, it’s easy to understand why users would grow fatigued with giving the thumbs up for every update. Unlike Chrome however, Mozilla claims they will allow Firefox users to turn off the automatic updating feature, or to have it prompt only on major updates. This is a concession for those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of software automatically installing itself in the background, or for those that just like to always know what’s going on.
The auto-update feature will make its debut in the beta build of Firefox 4 soon, with the Mac and Linux versions getting the same treatment sometime before final release.
For about the past six years, Mozilla has been putting cash bounties on bugs, and more recently, the open-source company upped the reward from $500 to $3,000. Not a bad score for researchers who make it their business to hunt down bugs and turn them in, but for some, it's not about the money.
In fact, roughly 10-15 percent of the serious security flaws reported to Mozilla since the cash bounty program was first offered have been provided at no cost.
"A lot of people would say, 'Don't worry about it. Donate it to the eFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) or just me a T-shirt,'" said Jonathan Nighingale, the director of Firefox development, in a recent interview.
Turning down the cash for reporting clunky browser behavior is made even more impressive considering these bugs can sometimes fetch even more money in the underground market. Cyber crooks are always on the lookout for rogue software to infect people's machine, and Mozilla's cash bounty is an attempt to counter this practice.
"In North America, $3,000 is not nothing," Nightingale added. "But in a lot of the world, $3,000 is a big deal, and our contributors come from lots of places."
For the third straight month, Microsoft's Internet Explorer trended upwards in browser market share, doing so largely at the expense of Mozilla's popular Firefox browser, according to Net Applications.
Internet Explorer gained 0.42 percent in July, and now commands 60.74 percent of the browser market. Firefox, however, was the biggest loser of the bunch, dropping 0.9 percent, while Google's Chrome browser slid slightly by 0.08 percent. As for the rest of the major players, both Safari and Opera gained a bit of ground to the tune of 0.24 percent and 0.18 percent, respectively.
That makes IE the biggest, having gained more ground than any other browser. More importantly (for Microsoft), this three month win streak shows that IE isn't going down with a fight, and might not be going down at all. Prior to this recent upswing, it looked as though IE was on its way to forfeiting its position as the world's most used browser.
Innovation in the browser market is pretty rare these days with most developers putting the focus on speed rather than features, but Mozilla is working on something that may fundamentally change the way you work with tabs. A new feature called “Tab Candy” is currently being tested that will allow users to group tabs by category and zoom out on all your open pages giving you the freedom to organize the chaos that comes from a day’s worth of browsing.
You need to watch the video after the jump to truly appreciate what they are trying to do here, but to sum it up in words, it’s somewhat similar to a Mac OSX feature called expose which gives you a smaller preview of everything going on in your browser. If after giving the video a preview you want to give Tab Candy a try, you can download the custom Firefox 4 beta build which contains an alpha version of the new tab manager.
I’m not sure if this will come together in time for Firefox 4, but it’s the one feature I could see myself switching back from Chrome for. It’s great to see new ideas continuing to evolve.
Now, Dell’s Kace subsidiary is offering a “virtualized and contained” version of Firefox 3.6 (with Adobe Reader and Flash plugins) called the Secure Browser. According to the company, the Secure Browser provides a safer web experience by limiting all malicious downloads and hostile changes within the sandbox, effectively shielding the operating system from such threats.
Browser extensions may seem innocuous from a security standpoint to most internet surfers, but as with any chunk of code it is a mistake to presume their harmlessness. It is a lesson that probably most of the people, who downloaded a Firefox add-on called Mozilla Sniffer, have learnt by now.
“Mozilla Sniffer has been downloaded approximately 1,800 times since its submission and currently reports 334 active daily users. All current users should receive an uninstall notification within a day or so,” Mozilla said in a statement on its blog. “The site this add-on sends data to seems to be down at the moment, so it is unknown if data is still being collected.”
Mozilla has also disabled another add-on, CoolPreviews, after a security escalation vulnerability was discovered in version 3.0.1. All previous versions of the add-on have been disabled along with the flawed version. However, a fixed version “was uploaded and reviewed within a day of the developer being notified.”