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16 August 2011, 19:52

Firefox 6 arrives officially, but it's hard to tell

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Firefox logo Firefox 6 is now officially available from Mozilla after its early appearance over the weekend, but it's hard to tell as the Mozilla announcements don't refer to the version number, instead referring to the latest "Firefox update". In the release posting on the Mozilla blog, the version number is not mentioned. The change is a result of the switch to a new rapid release scheme which will see new versions of Firefox every six weeks. For now at least, users can still see the version number in the About window, though its days are numbered.

In terms of security, Firefox 6.0 addresses 5 critical and 2 high severity issues including memory safety issues, unsigned JavaScript privilege escalation, a string and heap overflow in WebGL, and a dangling pointer in the SVG handling. A major privacy enhancement in the "Firefox update" is the new Data Management Window which gives users more control over the access that individual web sites have to their browsing data, including cookies, passwords and location information – it can be accessed by typing "about:permissions" in the URL bar. The URL bar has been enhanced and now highlights the domain of the site you are currently visiting.

Support for the WebSocket protocol has returned and has been updated to version 7 of the protocol after Mozilla removed it last year due to security concerns. Firefox 6.0 has a new Scratchpad window, located under the Web Developer menu, which allows developers to quickly write and test JavaScript snippets within the browser. Further support for HTML5, DOM level 3, server-sent events and networking technologies has been added. A new matchMedia function makes it easier for web apps to detect screen sizes. A page detailing changes in Firefox 6 for developers is available.

Other changes include the new Plugin Check functionality in the Add-ons manager that automatically verifies the compatibility of installed plugins (including the Flash Player plugin), improved startup times, and the ability to move the Web Console to other parts of the window or even into its own separate window. The Web Console also gets auto-completion.

The update for Firefox for Android incorporates an interface that, according to Mozilla, has been "streamlined to be consistent with the Android look and feel". Buttons and fonts have been optimised for tablets with the developers promising further tablet optimisation in future releases. Rendering speed and quality has also been improved and a new welcome screen introduces features available in the mobile browser. Developers can make use of a "single touch event" API to enable web apps to respond to swipes; multi-touch support is also promised for future releases. For data-oriented applications, Firefox for Android now supports the IndexedDB API for offline and local storage. Firefox for Android is available in the official Android Market.

Firefox for the desktop can be downloaded from the site, or in any language and system from the localised Firefox download page. Users of Firefox 5 will find their browser will automatically update to the new version, but they can hurry the process by bringing up the About window of Firefox. Firefox binaries are released under the Mozilla Firefox End-User Software License Agreement and the source code is released under disjunctive tri-licensing that includes the Mozilla Public Licence, GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1.


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