Mozilla has just released Firefox 12 to the release channel, six weeks after Firefox 11. Version 12's chief addition to the browser is a new auto-updater for Windows users, which no longer requires administrative privileges to install updates – you'll be prompted once by the UAC the first time you install Firefox, and the browser will update silently after that. If you still want to be notified before updating, you can revert to the old behavior by unchecking "Use a background service to install updates" in Firefox's update preferences. The new auto-updater appears to be a Windows-only change, at least for now; the updater's behavior is unchanged in OS X and Linux.
The other major user-facing change is in Firefox's developer tools, which Mozilla claims introduces 85 improvements, including the addition of line numbers to the Page Source window. Other minor changes include a WebGL performance issue under OS X on certain hardware and a smattering of security fixes, a list of which can be found here.
More information on these changes, as well as on other fixed bugs and known issues, is available in the release notes linked below. Firefox 12 is available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7, as well as OS X 10.5 (Intel), 10.6, and 10.7 and most Linux distributions.
A WEB STANDARD enabled by default in the Firefox 4 and Google Chrome web browsers has serious security issues, according to an independent security consultancy.
WebGL, which stands for web-based graphics library, is a software technology that allows you to bring hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to a web browser without the need for additional software. Enabled in the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox, it can also be switched on in Safari and Opera.
Context Information Security consultant James Forshaw said there are a number of serious security issues with the specification and implementation of WebGL.
He said, “These issues can allow an attacker to provide malicious code via a web browser which allows attacks on the graphic processor unit (GPU) and graphics drivers. These attacks on the GPU via WebGL can render the entire machine unusable.”
Forshaw claimed that there are other dangers with WebGL that put user data, privacy and security at risk, adding, “These issues are inherent to the WebGL specification and would require significant architectural changes in order to remediate in the platform design.”
“Fundamentally, WebGL now allows full programs from the internet to reach the graphics driver and graphics hardware which operate in what is supposed to be the most protected part of the computer.”
He said that denial of service attacks are already a well known WebGL security issue, and that some operating system crashes that the firm has observed created potentially exploitable conditions. µ
THE OPEN SOURCE Mozilla Foundation has unwrapped the second beta for version 4.0 of its Firefox web browser.
Firefox 4 will be the next major release of Mozzarella’s web browser and will include a number of improvements, updates and new features for both end users and developers.
Firefox 4 beta 2 includes the new ‘tabs on top’ layout that puts the tabs in the same place as the Chrome and Opera web browsers. It is now available in 23 languages.
Actually Windows users saw the tabs thing in the first Firefox 4 beta earlier this month, but this is the first time the feature has made it to the Mac version.
The developers moved the tabs to “make it easier to focus on the Web content” and note that Linux systems will receive the new tabs on top layout in a future update “when the theme has been modified to support the change”.
Changes affecting developers include support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) transitions, a feature that lets websites animate changes rather than having the changes take effect instantly.
Other changes include the idea of retained layers, allowing for “super-fast scrolling” on complex websites and changes to the XPCOM framework that improve start-up time.
The plan is for developers to release another beta version “every two to three weeks”. A first release candidate (RC) for Firefox 4 is due to to arrive in October. µ
THE OPEN SOURCE WEB BROWSER Firefox has been given the thumbs up by the former typewriter and punch-card machine maker IBM.
Biggish Blue executive Bob Suter wrote in his blog that the change will mean 400,000 IBM employees around the world will be viewing the world wide web through Firebadger.
Sutor said that IBM already has thousands of employees using Firefox on Linux, Mac, and Windows laptops and desktops, but the policy change would add thousands more users to the rolls.
He said IBM likes Mozilla’s web browser because it is “stunningly standards compliant” and interoperability through open standards is key to IBM’s strategy.
Firefox is open source and its development schedule is managed by a community that’s not beholden to any one commercial entity. It is also secure and has an international group of experts that continues to develop and maintain it.
Sutor noted that Firefox has steadily improved, and he expects this to continue as it adds even more support for HTML5. µ