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Firefox switches to a user name and password sync service

No more magic incantations at twilight
Mon Feb 03 2014, 17:23

OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE OUTFIT Mozilla has retooled its Firefox Sync service.

The system - which allows users to transfer and sync bookmarks, browsing history and passwords between systems - previously required a somewhat longwinded authentication process that required users to store their credentials.

In that system, users were given a synchronisation key that they then had to input into each machine. Because Mozilla did not keep a database of those keys, there was no way of retrieving them if they were mislaid, rendering all sync data inaccessible, but it had the advantage of making the service completely anonymous and of very little use to hackers.

This weekend, however, Mozilla released a nightly build that introduced a more traditional user account service with user names and passwords stored on Mozilla's servers.

While this abandons anonymity, it means that in the event of a hard drive meltdown, theft, or plain forgetfulness, Firefox Sync user accounts not rendered unusable.

Firefox is in third place in popularity among web browsers after Chrome/Chromium and Internet Explorer, but it continues to gain ground with a loyal following of users and a large library of add-ons and extensions. The convenience of an account synchronisation service appeals to users, but the complexity of Firefox Sync might have cost it market share that it now can begin to capture.

Mozilla said that it will share further details as development continues, but this change will bring Firefox into line with rival Chrome/Chromium, which offers similar synchronisation functionality via Google accounts. µ


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