Firefox 13 may have been the most substantial release of Firefox since moving to the new rapid release process and it will probably be the last one we’ll see for a while. The launch of Firefox 14 on Tuesday only brought a few new updates, but what’s there is good.
The big update for Firefox 14 is that Google searches are automatically sent through HTTPS by default. Here’s how team at Mozilla explained it when they introduced HTTPS search in Aurora two months ago:
Enabling HTTPS for these searches shields our users from network infrastructure that may be gathering data about the users or modifying/censoring their search results. Additionally, using HTTPS helps providers like Google remove information from the referrer string. While Google users may expect Google to know what they are searching for, Firefox users may not be aware these search terms are often transmitted to sites they visit when they click on items in the search results; enabling HTTPS search helps sites like Google strip this information from the HTTP referrer string, putting the user better in control of when and to whom their interests are shared.
Of interest for Mac users, Firefox now has full screen support on Mac OS X Lion. Here’s hoping that they add retina display support to Firefox soon. Chrome is already testing it and Firefox obviously doesn’t want to fall behind Chrome in features.
Another great security update is that Firefox 14 features opt-in activation for plugins. What does that mean? When you visit a new site, Firefox will give you the option of allowing only the plug-ins that you trust to be activated. If you visit the site often and trust it fully, you can allow Firefox to load all plug-ins automatically.
The awesome bar is getting a little bit more like Chrome as well. Firefox will now auto-complete typed URLs. It’s a simple additions that’s been a long time coming.
Other security fixes include an improved site identity manager that should prevent spoofing an SSL connection. As you may recall, Firefox now uses a lock favicon to indicate that a Web site is on an SSL connection. Some developers could spoof this to trick people into thinking they were on a secure site when they were not.
Firefox has also added more support for various HTML5 APIs that should help improve HTML5 applications like gaming. Two of the big ones are the Pointer Lock API and a new API that prevents your computer from sleeping. The Pointer Lock API is super important as it opens up the possibility of HTML5-powered first-person shooters.
It’s not a huge update, but there’s some great stuff to be had in Firefox 14. Now it’s time to play the waiting game as Waterfox updates to the latest source code. I really hope Firefox 15 finally adds an x64 executable. If Mozilla is serious about the future of HTML5, restricting Firefox to x86 isn’t helping anybody.
If Firefox hasn’t already updated itself to the newest version, you can grab Firefox 14 at Mozilla’s site.