Category Archives: Firefox

Firefox 55

Besides fixing twenty-nine security vulnerabilities, Firefox 55 adds support for the virtual reality technology WebVR, some new performance-related settings, and improvements to address bar functionality. The sidebar can now be on the right side of the browser, instead of only on the left. The Print Preview function now includes options for simplifying what’s printed. Starting Firefox with multiple tabs is now much faster. The Flash plugin is now ‘click to activate’ and only works with regular web and secure web URLs.

The default installation process has been modified, to simplify and ‘streamline’ installation for most users. Traditional, full installers are still available. The somewhat-less-likely-to-crash 64-bit version of Firefox is now installed by default on 64-bit systems with at least 2 GB of RAM.

Mozilla steadfastly refuses to mention version numbers in Firefox release announcements (including the one for Firefox 55), or to announce all new versions. Their rationale seems to be that the information exists somewhere, therefore they have done their job. Combined with the unpredictability of Firefox’s internal update mechanism, this is an ongoing frustration for some users (possibly only me).

On that subject, I’m still waiting for my installation of Firefox to notice that a new version is available. Firefox 55 includes changes to the browser’s built-in update process, but it’s not clear whether those changes will actually improve things. From the release notes: “Modernized application update UI to be less intrusive and more aligned with the rest of the browser. Only users who have not restarted their browser 8 days after downloading an update or users who opted out of automatic updates will see this change.

Update 2017Aug13: According to denizens of Mozilla’s official #firefox IRC channel, the Firefox update servers have been disabled because of some problems with Firefox 55. Of course, Firefox will continue to tell you that “Firefox is up to date”, which can mean several different things. There’s no word on when the update servers will be back online, or what the problems are, but a search of the bug list for Firefox shows a likely candidate: Tabs are all restored as blank frequently after restart of [sic] applying Firefox 55 update. Apparently after upgrading to Firefox 55, some users are having problem restoring tabs, and in some cases, profile information is lost. Recommendation: don’t jump the gun and install Firefox 55 manually. Wait for the next version, which will likely be 55.0.1 or 55.0.2.

Update 2017Aug15: A new post on the Mozilla blog (64-bit Firefox is the new default on 64-bit Windows) confirms that 64-bit Firefox is now the default for 64-bit Windows systems, and that the 64-bit version is much more stable than its 32-bit equivalent. It goes on to say that to get the 64-bit version, you can either download and install it manually, or “You can wait. We intend to migrate the remaining 64-bit Windows users to a 64-bit version of Firefox with a future release.” No word on just how long we’ll have to wait.

Update 2017Aug17: Today, my install of Firefox started showing 55.0.2 as the latest version on its Help > About dialog. I went ahead and let it update itself, and now I’m running the 32 bit version of 55.0.2. According to the release notes, Firefox 55.0.1 fixes the bug in the tab restoration process that was introduced in 55.0. Firefox 55.0.2 fixes a problem with profiles that was introduced in 55.0.

Firefox 53.0.2

Mozilla released Firefox 53.0.2 on May 5. The new version includes three bug fixes, one of them for a security vulnerability.

As usual, Mozilla did a lousy job of announcing the new version: in fact, they didn’t bother at all, apparently preferring to leave that job to others like the far more dependable CERT.

If you use Firefox, and you’re not sure which version you’re running, open its menu (click the ‘three horizontal lines’ icon at the top right), then click the question mark icon, then About Firefox. If an update is available, this should trigger it.

Firefox 53.0: security updates and performance improvements

A major change to the internal workings of Firefox should result in faster web page rendering on most Windows computers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include Windows XP: starting with version 53.0, Firefox no longer supports XP or Vista.

Firefox 53.0 also fixes at least twenty-nine security issues, so it’s a good idea to update it as soon as possible. Firefox can be rather sluggish about updating itself, but you can usually trigger an update by clicking the menu icon at the top right (three horizontal lines), then the little question mark icon, then About Firefox.

Also in the new release are some improvements to Firefox’s user interface, including two new ‘compact’ themes that free up some screen space. Site permission prompts are now somewhat easier to understand and more difficult to miss. Tab titles that are too long to fit in a tab now fade out at the end instead of being cut off and replaced by ellipses, which makes more of the truncated title visible.

Firefox 52.0.2

There’s another new Firefox release: 52.0.2. The new version fixes a few minor bugs, none related to security.

Firefox should update itself automatically to the new version, but there’s no particular urgency about this update, unless you’re affected by one of the bugs it fixes. See the release notes for details.

As usual, there was no announcement from Mozilla about Firefox 52.0.2. I learned about this one when Firefox offered to update itself.

Firefox 52.0.1

A single security fix is apparently the sole reason Mozilla released Firefox 52.0.1 on March 17. There was no announcement from Mozilla, but as usual, CERT picked up the slack with their own announcement. The release notes for 52.0.1 point to a related security advisory.

Firefox will offer to update itself over the next few days, but you can usually trigger an update by navigating to its About dialog (hamburger menu icon > question mark icon > About Firefox).

Firefox 52 – security fixes, WebAssembly support

At this point it seems clear that Mozilla has instructed its content writers to never mention version numbers in Firefox release announcements. The reason remains a mystery. Take yesterday’s announcement, for example. It begins “Today‚Äôs release of Firefox” – which makes it sound like Firefox is a new product.

Anyway… the mystery Firefox release yesterday was in fact version 52, which fixes at least twenty-eight security vulnerabilities. The new version also adds support for WebAssembly, which can dramatically improve the performance of web-based applications. Support for those annoying WiFi ‘captive portal’ hotspot login pages is improved in Firefox 52, and there are further improvements to the warnings you’ll see when you’re presented with a login form on an unencrypted connection.

Firefox 52 also removes almost all remaining support for the NPAPI plugin technology, with the lone exception being Flash, which means Silverlight, Java, Acrobat and other plugins that depend on NPAPI will no longer work. Support for the NPAPI version of Flash will apparently be removed in the next major Firefox release.

Firefox 51.0.1

There were a couple of problems with Firefox 51 that prompted Mozilla to push out another new version yesterday. Firefox 51.0.1 resolves the two problems, one of which was related to the new multiprocess features.

Firefox itself seems to take a few days to notice new versions. Click the ‘hamburger’ menu button at the top right, then click the question mark icon, then click ‘About Firefox’ to see the version you’re running. In my experience, Firefox will usually say ‘Firefox is up to date’ until a couple of days after a new release becomes available. This is potentially confusing, but Mozilla doesn’t seem to understand that.

If you don’t want to wait for Firefox to notice the new version, you’ll have to download it directly from Mozilla.

Firefox 51 fixes 24 security issues

The latest version of Firefox addresses at least twenty-four security vulnerabilities and changes the way non-encrypted sites appear in the address bar.

As usual, there’s nothing like a proper announcement for Firefox 51. What we get from Mozilla instead is a blog post that discusses some new features in Firefox, and mentions the new version number almost accidentally in the third paragraph. Once again, CERT does a better job of announcing the new version than Mozilla.

Starting with version 51, Firefox will flag sites that are not secured with HTTPS if they prompt for user passwords. Secure sites will show a green lock at the left end of the address bar as before, but sites that are not secure will show a grey lock with a red line through it. Previously, non-encrypted sites showed no lock icon at all. The idea is to draw the user’s attention to the fact that they are browsing without the security of encryption, which is risky when sensitive information (passwords, credit card numbers) is entered by the user.