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04 October 2011, 16:02

Firefox developer reveals changes and new update service

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In a post on his blog, developer Brian R. Bondy says that, while Mozilla’s rapid release process has allowed the development team to release a new version of the Firefox browser every six weeks, modifying restricted files under Windows has been difficult due to the introduction of User Account Control (UAC). By default, UAC prevents software from making changes to c:\Program Files\ without the user’s permission, in the form of a confirmation dialogue box. Bondy argues that "if a user with administrative access gives permissions to Firefox one time via a UAC prompt, and that user has automatic updates on, then there is no reason we should continue to ask them to elevate the permissions each and every time we want to apply an update."

The proposed solution is in the form of a Windows service. While the feature is currently experimental, Bondy said that the service will be an optional component, which when installed will circumvent the need to ask for the user’s permission to install future updates. Although there are four different development channels of Firefox (Release, Beta, Aurora, Nightly), all will use the same Windows service for updates. The ability to disable or uninstall the service is also planned, so that users can revert to manually confirming updates. Bondy stated that the Windows service opens up many opportunities for centralised maintenance and integration, and that features such as prefetching may be included in the future.

Further updates to the browser were also discussed, including reducing the appearance of the "What’s New" page. Developers revealed that feedback from users states that “the information is not required and is actually an irritant”; discussions on the method to achieve this are currently on-going. The current waiting period of 12 hours between downloading updates in the background and notifying the user is to be doubled, as crash analysis showed that "approximately 15% of users run Firefox longer than 12 hours and would be affected". Additional changes to Firefox will include add-ons defaulting to being considered compatible with future Firefox versions, improved handling of incompatible add-ons, and automatically applying updates on shutdown.

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