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Firefox 3.5 released!

June 30, 2009 Leave a comment

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Big news today: Firefox 3.5 was released!

Firefox 3.5 was released today, with better security, stability, and features. For those of you dreading having to download a new file and going through numerous complex steps to upgrade, guess what? Upgrading is easy, and it only takes about two minutes (which is well worth the improved speed and security).

Why switch?

New threats arrive every day online. Firefox keeps up with these threats with frequent updates. Spending 2 or 3 minutes of your time upgrading will keep you protected online.

Follow these 3 easy steps to upgrade (if you’re using Firefox 3.0)

  1. In Firefox, go to the Help menu and click on Check for Updates…
  2. Checking for updates should take a few seconds. Once it’s completed, a screen should come up within the window, asking you to upgrade. Click Upgrade (or similar option).
  3. Updating will only take a few minutes. Once the update has downloaded and installed, you’ll have to restart Firefox (not your computer). The option will come next, and will only take a few seconds.
  4. Welcome to Firefox 3.5: faster, safer, and more secure, along with some new features.

In case you need it, Plan B is to manually download Firefox 3.5 from the Firefox website.

New Features and improvements in Firefox 3.5

Speed and Performance – In tests, Firefox 3.5’s JavaScript engine was twice as fast as Firefox 3.0’s. What does this mean? Faster page rendering and script loading (and as always, Firefox 3.5 is free of dangerous ActiveX code).

I tried a JavaScript intensive site, Yahoo! Mail, and it’s noticeably faster.

Security and Safety – Firefox 3.5 has improved security and safety. Firefox works with your antivirus software to scan downloads, and utilizes Google’s massive database of sites that distribute dangerous viruses or scams.

New Features

  • Private browsing mode – pages you visit won’t be added to your history, forms you fill out, and other data will not be remembered
  • Forget this site – remove all traces you went to a website (gets rid of spyware)
  • Geolocation support – up until now, pages have had to rely on your IP address to find out approximately where you are. This method worked, but it could only get your general region. With geolocation support, sites can use Google’s location service to find out more exactly where you are, so, for example, you wouldn’t have to enter your address on a map site. But don’t worry, your privacy is safe. A site can never use geolocation support unless you approve it. And the site won’t know your location.
  • New Tab button – instead of pressing Control+T click on the plus button on the tab bar to easily create a new tab.

Need support?

Visit the Mozilla Support website, which includes a knowledge base, forums, and a live chat.

You’re ready!

You’re ready to use Firefox 3.5: the fastest and safest browser available.

To see a live download stats page, go here.

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Categories: Web Browsers

Firefox 3.5 is released just as it is about to become Europe’s #1 browser… get ready for a wild ride

June 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Firefox 3.5 was released today, after nearly a year of development. More on that in my next post.

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As you can see from the chart above, Firefox is just about to become the #1 browser in Europe (according to StatCounter), a monumental feat for the browser.

So, you might assume that this trend will continue going, IE steadily losing share and Firefox steadily gaining it. But there’s a good chance this won’t happen.

Well, Internet Explorer still claims the #1 position in Europe, so webmasters and programmers are still most likely to optimize their sites for it. Even as Mozilla narrows the gap to about a one percent difference, IE still claims the title of being the most used browser.

Then, Firefox will reach the key number (in this case, about 44%), and developers will start optimizing their sites for Firefox. Expect to see banners like this on European sites.

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User-created Firefox banner. Credit: Heymyn on SpreadFirefox

Europe (as with all continents except maybe Africa) is a big part of the Internet, and Microsoft won’t let this slide. Expect to see a lot of competition (as in a lot more) between browsers worldwide from now on.

I’m going to start working on a video congratulating the Paris-based MozillaEurope. Expect to see it on my YouTube channel sometime soon.

Categories: Web Browsers

Flashblock: Get rid of memory-hogging Flash

June 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Does this scenario sound familiar? You open a new website, and suddenly your browser becomes unresponsive. You’re forced to close the browser. I use Firefox, and this happens occasionally. But the truth is that this isn’t because of Firefox, it’s because of Adobe Flash.

Flash is memory-intensive, and is a common cause of browser crashes. It will start up on web pages without us having any control. Using a netbook, I’m especially vulnerable to these “Flash overloads”.

But there’s a way to fix this problem. The popular Firefox extension Flashblock, nearing 7 million downloads, kills Flash on websites and replaces it with the Flash logo. To see the content, just click on the logo. Conveniently, this also blocks quite a few ads (although if that’s what you’re going for, I highly recommend AdBlockPlus).

I’ll let you know if I experience anything major that I don’t like about Flashblock.

Categories: Web Browsers

Internet Explorer drama in Europe

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment

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Microsoft recently got into yet another antitrust lawsuit with the European Union over Internet Explorer, saying the bundling with Windows gave IE an unfair advantage. It was speculated that, in Europe, Windows would have a “ballot screen” giving the user a choice of what browser to use (most likely IE, Firefox, and Opera).

Microsoft responded not by adding a ballot screen, but by completely removing Internet Explorer from Windows 7 in Europe, leaving it with no web browser.

But, according to a “confidential” memo from Microsoft obtained by CNET, PC manufacturers in Europe will have the choice to install Internet Explorer, or another browser.

Just saying, if you had the choice to install a heavily criticized web browser associated with numerous lawsuits or a praised browser hundreds of millions of users had already optionally switched to worldwide (as well as being the browser of choice for people in your continent), what would you do?

All of this is happening just as Firefox is about to become the number one browser in Europe, and Microsoft has quietly made IE an optional feature in Windows in the United States (and I assume other countries).

The second browser war has only gotten started.

Categories: Web Browsers

A hidden alternative to Twitter?

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Twitter, the most popular microblogging website, allows users to post “tweets” about what they’re doing, or thoughts. Millions of people use Twitter to post updates about themselves, or connect with others. Companies are beginning to get Twitter accounts (ironically, even Facebook has a Twitter).

Twitter is another example of how a small group of people, with a relatively low budget, can make a huge worldwide impact via the Internet.

To get a good idea of this, just look at Twitter’s headquarters (pictured below). They don’t even own the entire building, just the top floor.

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But Twitter may have an unforeseen competitor that could take at least some potential users: Google. And surprisingly, I’m not talking about Orkut, which has pretty much failed to catch on among the social networking crowd.

The service? Google Reader.

Again, one of the main reasons people join Twitter is to stay connected with companies and other people. Each user has a unique page displaying tweets from the users they are following.

Well, everyone has an RSS feed as well. And Google Reader has the ability to merge RSS updates from a number of feeds into one page, displaying them in chronological order. Sound familiar? You can stay connected via Twitter without a Twitter account, but only recieve tweets.

I will note that Twitter has major features that Google Reader lacks as far as tweets go. For one, on Twitter, you can select a certain group of users that will exclusively recieve your tweets. That can’t be done with an RSS feed. Next, links cannot be as easily followed on Google as they can be on Twitter. And finally, the interface just isn’t as clean and easy to use on Reader compared to Twitter. Numerous options appear on the side, which someone who used the service just to recieve tweets would probably deem unuseful.

So is Google Reader really a threat to Twitter? No. But is it a hidden alternative? Yes.

Categories: Social Networking

Why shortened URLs are dangerous

June 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Hundreds of millions of URLs are being shortened using services like TinyURL, Snipurl, and Bit.ly (comparison). (Unrelated, but “.ly” is for sites in Libya, although the Bit.ly server is located in Colorado).

Sure, these short and easy to remember links are convenient, but they do pose a significant security risk.

When you click on a link to one, you don’t know what site that you’ll be taken to. You could be taken to a site like ErrorSafe, which was a distributor of the infamous WinFixer scareware that has since been shut down by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (I had a close call with it in 2007). There are, however, tools to prevent this. TinyURL offers a preview feature, (but only 1.7% of visitors utilize this feature) and Bit.ly offers a Firefox extension.

ZoneAlarm has gone an extra step to warn users about sites shortened by TinyURL, notifying users that “TinyURL may be unsafe. This website has been known to distribute spyware”. This prompted Gilby Productions, who owns TinyURL, to add the preview feature.

The users probably most vulnerable to insecure shortened addresses are those on Twitter. Twitter shortens longer URLs to shortened ones (to keep tweets shorter). Users who are careless and without an extension could be directed to sites that distribute, viruses, scareware, scams, spam, or exploits.

Categories: Security

[WG Announcement] We’re using a new theme

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

We’ve switched our theme from Light to K2, similar to our old theme. K2 is compatible with a wide range of layout engines (Trident, Gecko, Presto, WebKit) and browsers: (Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari, Netscape, Avant, Maxthon). The header graphics have also been improved.

Categories: WG Announcements