Firefox 52 bans plugins except for Flash, warns users about logins on unencrypted websites, and claims to run processor intensive apps at nearly the same speed as native code.
Mozilla have quietly released their latest browser, Firefox 52 into the wilds of the internet this week. In doing so Firefox has officially become the world’s first web browser to fully support the new WebAssembly standard.
WebAssembly is a new browser standard that all the major players in the industry are currently considering using as the next step in web browsing. Google, Apple, and Microsoft have all agreed that WebAssembly could be a potential game changer. The fact that Mozilla have got their first however is hardly a surprise. WebAssembly as a going concern is a direct result of a Mozilla Labs research project that started in 2015.
That’s Great, But What Is It And How Does It Work?
Put simply, WebAssembly is a binary format that is used code webpages. The real advantage for developers is that it allows them to pack more code and resources into a far smaller amount of data. Not only does this allow for reduced web page loading times, but it speeds up what browsers can do by delivering the background code to your browser faster and in a way that your computer or mobile device can process faster. David Bryant, the lead platform engineer for Mozilla has this to say about it:
“WebAssembly is one of the biggest advances to the Web Platform over the past decade. This new standard will enable amazing video games and high-performance web apps for things like computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization.”
Mozilla vice president, Nick Nguyen, explained: “We expect that WebAssembly will enable applications that have historically been too complex to run fast in browsers – like immersive 3D video games, computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization. We also expect that developers will use WebAssembly to speed up many existing web apps.”
So, there you go. That’s WebAssembly in a nutshell, and it could change everything we expect from our web browsing.
Any other changes we should be aware of in Firefox 52?
That’s a great question. Go you. You’re on fire today!
Firefox 52 has also done its best to clear up a lot of legacy hangover issues from the 1990’s. Mozilla have killed all the plugins that use the vintage Netscape Plugin API, with the one exception of Flash. Previous versions of Firefox already block Flash content that is “not essential to the user experience.”
For extra security and peace of mind, Firefox will now also show an alert if you’re about to enter your username and password on a page that isn’t encrypted with HTTPS.
Yes, and this is a nice touch.
Firefox 52 will also make it easier to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots. “If you’ve ever had trouble connecting to hotel Wi-Fi, it’s likely because you had to sign in to a ‘captive portal,’ Nguyen says. “These captive portals are often problematic because the login page itself is hard to discover if the operating system doesn’t detect it. Very often, you try to navigate to a website and end up with an error.” Firefox 52 will automatically detect these portals and notifies you that you need to log in.
Firefox 52 also patches some 28 security vulnerabilities, 6 of them labelled as critical.