Mozilla is out today with the Firefox 17 open source browser release, providing new user-facing features as well as improved security.
Among the key highlights of the release is the SocialAPI that Mozilla first began testing at the end of October. The SocialAPI provides a new type of integration capability for Firefox, enabling a very vibrant user experience for social networking services.
The first social network that Firefox is integrating with is Facebook, with more to come in the future. The initial beta period for the SocialAPI was a critical part of the development process.
“We fixed several minor bugs that the larger test audience helped expose and polished both the feature and API overall based on the beta feedback,” Gavin Sharp, Lead Firefox Engineer, told Datamation. “Having other developers reach out to us to ask questions about how the API works and what it could be used for was also pretty exciting – there’s a lot of potential here.”
When Mozilla first began to test the SocialAPI, Johnathan Nightingale, Senior Director of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla, explained that as users are browsing around reading stuff, they have the ability to share with a single click and and have the sidebar available so they can keep in touch.
“Social is an overlay on the work you’re already doing in the browser, it’s not a discrete task,” Nightingale said.
Mozilla has implemented various plugin protections over the years, and with Firefox 17, the open source browser group is going a step further. There is a class of plugins known as click-to-play that only activate when a user clicks. With Firefox 17, there is now a blocklist for click-to-play that provides an additional layer of security for users.
“By combining the safety of the blocklist with the flexibility of click-to-play, we now have an even more effective method of dealing with vulnerable or out-of-date plugins,” Mozilla developer David Keeler wrote. “Instead of choosing between vulnerable but useful (by allowing an old plugin to run automatically) and safe but less useful (by completely disabling old plugins), click-to-play blocklisted plugins gives the user the ability to make an informed decision depending on their current activity.”
Firefox 17 now also implements the HTML5 Sandbox attribute, which can isolate iFrame content in an effort to mitigate risk and improve security.
“If specified as an empty string, this attribute enables extra restrictions on the content that can appear in the inline frame,” the Mozilla developer documentation on the feature states. “The value of the attribute can be a space-separated list of tokens that lift particular restrictions.”
Mozilla is also expanding its mobile footprint with the Firefox 17 release. Starting with the new Firefox for Android 17 release, Mozilla is now supporting ARMv6 processors. Previously Firefox for Android only supported ARMv7.
“Given that roughly half of the nearly 500 million Android phones in use today run on ARMv6 architecture, this is an important step toward making the open Web free to all,” Mozilla stated.