Mozilla is out today with the new Firefox 20 open source web browser release. The new browser is notable in that it provides a privacy fix that some users have been asking about for over four years.
The Firefox 3.1 release back in 2008, introduced a Private Mode for browsing. In private mode, user history and cookie information is not retained after the browser is closed. Since 2008, there has been a bug listed against Private mode, that the Firefox 20 release finally fixes.
Prior to Firefox 20, Private Mode only worked by spinning up a new browser window that replaced the non-private browser window. As such, users could not have both a private and non-private browsing session at the same time. With Firefox 20, Private Mode browser tabs can be open at the same time as regular browser tabs.
The Private Mode fix isn’t the only user experience item that Mozilla has improved in Firefox 20. There is also a new Download Manager being introduced in the open source browser. “The old, separate window for managing downloads has been replaced by a simpler downloads panel integrated in the main browser toolbar,” Asa Dotzler, Product Manager for Firefox, told Datamation. “With the new Download Manager, downloads are now a single click away, users no longer have to look to another Window to get to their downloads.”
Mozilla has also made a number of under-the-hood changes that result in improved performance for end users.
“Firefox start-up time has improved by more than 10 percent, which is significant and noticeable to users,” Dotzler said.
Developers will also benefit from Firefox 20 with the new Web developer toolbox. Dotzler explained that the new developer toolbox was designed to give developers easy access to the existing tool set in Firefox in one Window.
Going a step further, Firefox 20 is a key milestone for Mozilla in enabling WebRTC. WebRTC (Real Time Communications) is a W3C effort to enable a rich degree of multi-party communications via the web browser without the need for additional plugins. For example, WebRTC can potentially enable full video collaboration via the browser.
In Firefox 20, Mozilla is including the getUserMedia component. “getUserMedia is the first API component of WebRTC that allows the browser to capture local camera and/or microphone streams directly, and not through third party plugins,” Dotzler said. “The other pieces of WebRTC, PeerConnection and DataChannels, are in Firefox 20 behind a configuration preference (not enabled by default) while we continue to test the features. They will be enabled by default in an upcoming release.”