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Firefox 31 is now generally available, providing users of Mozilla's open-source web browser with multiple patches to improve security. For developers, the new release also provides new tools to help accelerate web application development.
Firefox 31 first entered beta development on June 12 and follows Mozilla's Firefox 30 browser, which was released on June 10. For regular end-users there are few user-facing changes that will be immediately noticeable. Mozilla has already updated the user interface for Firefox this year, back in April with the Firefox 29 release, and isn't likely to make any major changes on that front anytime soon.The one user-facing change in Firefox 31 is that the new tab page now gains a search menu.
From an HTML5 specification perspective, Firefox 31 now supports the CSS3 variables attributes, which enable improve web design layout control.
In terms of security, Firefox 31 provides users with some new capabilities as well. There is now a new download malware blocker in Firefox that aims to limit the risk of malicious downloads. Mozilla is also improving its SSL security with the inclusion of the mozilla::pkix library for certificate verification. Mozilla first announced its intention to use a new certificate validation library back in April. At the time, Sid Stamm, senior engineering manager for security and privacy at Mozilla, explained that the hope is that mozilla::pkix is more secure than the code that it is replacing.
Firefox 31 also introduces the new 'Prefer:Safe' header, which is intended to be integrated into parental control-based technologies. The idea is that with the 'Prefer:Safe' header a site can identify to parental control technologies whether or not a site is safe from potentially objectionable content. The 'Prefer:Safe' header effort is currently a draft specification with the IETF.
Mozilla is also providing its Firefox users with security fixes for vulnerabilities, with 11 security advisories attached to the Firefox 31 update. Of those 11, only three are rated as being critical. There is the usual advisory for miscellaneous memory safety hazards in the critical list. The second critical advisory is for a use-after-free memory issues in the DirectWrite font handling component of Firefox. The third critical advisory is for an exploitable WebGL graphics crash.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist
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