MOZILLA HAS announced its latest release of the Firefox browser, which brings some new personalisation options as well as extra functionality to its instant messaging platform, Firefox Hello.
Firefox 41 becomes the first browser to include instant messaging, as part of Hello, the RTC product that it has developed in association with Telefonica.
The RTC protocol exists in all modern browsers but its implementation varies. It is hoped that one day, users will be able to communicate from browser to browser with no separate apps or plug-ins.
Meanwhile, as Firefox 41 becomes stable, Firefox 42 reaches Beta. Privacy is a major feature in this beta, with the addition of Private Browsing with Tracking Protection, which does pretty much what it says on the tin.
Mozilla's Chief Legal and Business Officer, Denelle Dixon-Thayer explains, "Rather than focusing on the symptoms of the problem, we should be asking ourselves why users have sought to use blunt instruments like content blockers to help them navigate their online lives."
The matter of ad blockers has been thrown into sharp focus in recent weeks by the release of iOS 9, which offers users the opportunity to block adverts for the first time, leading to concerns that such a move could lead to the end of the free web.
Dixon-Thayer continues, "We don’t know the full answer to this question yet. What we see is that the reasons differ among users and may depend on the device (e.g. on desktop users may be focused on privacy and performance may be a side benefit, whereas on mobile performance and data usage may be a main focus). We as an industry need to understand the user’s needs.
"User needs and commercial interests are not a zero-sum game – they are complementary parts of one thriving, resilient Web. Creating a balance between commercial profit and user benefit is critical to the health of the Web."
Mozilla uses a number of tools to this end, including Lightbeam, Smart On Privacy and Web Literacy, designed to give a 360 approach to understanding the psyche of the web community and offering balance between the needs of users and the needs of content vendors.
Back with stable release 41, the open-source browser has added the ability to give your profile a photo, and requires Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), a protocol designed to limit the effects of a compromised key.
There's enhanced IME support for anyone still using Windows Vista, and improved box-shadow rendering performance. Windows 7 users can no longer rely on the Windows Advanced Rasterisation Platform (WARP), if they did. WARP is an element of Direct X and has been superseded by a Mozilla solution.
But it is the instant messaging service that will prove most interesting, as it, hypothetically, removes the need for Skype and Google Hangouts.
It is known that Microsoft is already working to bring Skype into line with RTC on the web, and Google Hangouts already uses a fancified Web RTC, meaning that Firefox users can chat to Chrome users straight away.
This hopefully means that somewhere down the line we have a single messaging standard. You only have to look back a few years to a time when everyone was using the XMPP and Jabber, which meant that chatting between clients, and having a single universal client, was a possibility.
Like the retirement of Concorde, we seem to have gone backwards since then, but the rise and adoption of WebRTC suggests we could soon be back to where we were, and beyond.
Firefox 41 and Firefox 42 Beta are available across Windows, Mac and Linux as a free download. µ
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