Firefox to list all host permissions on about:addons

Upcoming versions of Mozilla’s Firefox web browser will list all host permissions on about:addons, the internal management page of the browser.

Firefox, just like most desktop web browsers, supports browser extensions. Extension developers need to specify special permissions for their extensions, e.g. access to a particular site, if they make use of that functionality.

Firefox displays these permissions on the Mozilla Add-ons website and when users start the installation process. Firefox users need to accept the permission request to install the add-on in the browser.

Add-ons may be managed on the browser’s about:addons website. All it takes is to load the URL, or select Menu > Add-ons, to open the management interface. Firefox lists all installed add-ons and their state, as well as themes and other information.

Permissions of each add-on may be listed when the add-on is selected on the management page. Up until now, host permissions were limited as Firefox did not list them all but only some. The remaining would be listed as “access your data on X other sites” on the Permissions page.

While Firefox users had the option to visit the add-on’s page on the Mozilla website to look up all hosts permissions, it was clear that something had to be done about it on about:addons so that users would see all permissions right away. Hosts permissions refer to sites that the extension has access to (opposed to the universal “access your data for all websites” permission.

The following two screenshots visualize the difference. The first screenshot shows how Firefox displays hosts permissions currently, the second how hosts permissions are displayed in the future.

updated-firefox hosts permissions

The change is a smaller one considering that there are only a few extensions that request more than a few hosts permissions. The vast majority of Firefox add-ons appear to request access to all sites even if they are designed to run only on a specific site; this is not a Firefox-specific problem though as the same is done by Chrome extension developers.

Now You: Do you check permissions and/or something else before you install extensions?

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Here is what is new and changed in Firefox 75.0 Stable

Firefox 75.0 is the latest stable version of the Firefox web browser. Its release date is April 7. 2020. Previously released versions of Firefox, including Firefox 74.0 and Firefox 74.0.1, as well as older versions, may be upgraded to the new version.

All major versions of the Firefox web browser receive upgrades when Firefox Stable is updated. Firefox Beta and Dev versions are upgraded to version 76.0, Firefox Nightly is upgraded to version 77.0, and Firefox ESR is upgraded to version 68.7.

The current version of Firefox for Android will also be upgraded to Firefox 68.7 while Mozilla prepares the release of the new Firefox browser for Android.

The next stable version of Firefox, Firefox 76.0, is scheduled for a release on May 5. 2020.

Executive Summary

  • Firefox Stable releases are not delayed because of the global crisis caused by Covid-19 but some features may be delayed because of it.
  • Mozilla revamped the Firefox address bar and introduced new Enterprise policies.

Firefox 75.0 download and update

firefox 75

Mozilla will release Firefox 75.0 Stable on April 7. 2020. The release may not yet be available officially when this article is published. The new version of Firefox will be available as a direct download on Mozilla’s website and also as an in-browser upgrade.

Firefox users may check the version in Firefox by selecting Menu > Help > About Firefox; this will also download and install any new version that is found during the check.

The following pages list direct downloads for supported Firefox channels (will be available later on April 7, 2020)

Firefox 75.0 Changes

Revamped Address Bar

firefox suggestions

The major feature in Firefox 75.0 is a revamped address bar that helps users “search smarter and faster” according to Mozilla.

Mozilla highlights the following improvements:

  1. Improved readability of search suggestions.
  2. Suggestions include solutions to “common Firefox issues”.
  3. Better search experienced on smaller screens, e.g. laptop screens.
  4. Top Sites appear when the address bar is selected. Top sites are a mix of “recently and frequently visited sites” and sites that are pinned.
  5. Linux only: clicking matches other desktop platforms. Single-click selects all without primary selection, double-click selects a word, triple-click selects all with primary selection.

Other changes

  • Firefox is available in Flatpak which gives Linux users another option to install and use the browser on Linux devices.
  • Firefox caches “all trusted Web PKI Certificate Authority certificates known to Mozilla” locally. Mozilla notes that this will improve HTTPS compatibility with misconfigured web servers and improve security.
  • Direct Composition is integrated on Windows ” to help improve performance” and pave the way for shipping WebRender on Windows 10 laptops with Intel graphic cards.
  • Enterprise: experimental support for using client certificates from the OS certificate store on Mac OS X. To enable, set security.osclientcerts.autoload to true.
  • Enterprise: policies to exclude domains from being resolved via Trusted Recursive Resolver using DNS over HTTPS.

Firefox for Android

Mozilla lists “various stability and security fixes” without providing additional details.

Developer Changes

  • Web Crypto API is no longer supported on insecure sites.
  • Sites may now use the “loading” attribute on image elements to specify that the images should by lazy loaded.
  • Changes to submit event and new requestSubmit method.
  • Several Web Animations API improvements.

Security updates / fixes

Security updates are revealed after the official release of the web browser. You find the information published here.

Additional information / sources

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Firefox 74.0.1 Stable out with important security fixes

Mozilla has released a new stable version of the organization’s Firefox web browser on April 3, 2020. Firefox 74.0.1 Stable is a security update that patches two critical security vulnerabilities in the browser that are actively exploited in the wild. Mozilla released an update for the Extended Support Release, Firefox ESR, as well to address the vulnerabilities in that browser. Firefox ESR is upgraded to version 68.6.1 and updates are available already.

Firefox users who run the stable version of the web browser should receive update notifications when they start the browser the next time. The process can be expedited either by downloading the new stable release manually from Mozilla’s official download site or by selecting Menu > Help > About Firefox to run a manual check for updates.

firefox 74.0.1

The release notes have been published already; they list security fixes only and no other changes. Mozilla’s Security Advisories site provides additional information on the two vulnerabilities that the organization fixed in the new Firefox release:

  • CVE-2020-6819: Use-after-free while running the nsDocShell destructor — Under certain conditions, when running the nsDocShell destructor, a race condition can cause a use-after-free. We are aware of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.
  • CVE-2020-6820: Use-after-free when handling a ReadableStream — Under certain conditions, when handling a ReadableStream, a race condition can cause a use-after-free. We are aware of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.

It is unclear how these vulnerabilities can be exploited, only that attacks happen right now that exploit them. ReadableStream is used to read data streams, nsDocShell’s issue seems to have been caused by data not being released properly.

Firefox users are encouraged to update the web browser as soon as possible to protect it from these attacks.

One of the researchers who reported the issues to Mozilla revealed on Twitter that the discovered issues might affect other browsers as well. He praised Mozilla for patching the vulnerability quickly. Whether other browsers means other Firefox-based browsers or non-Firefox browsers is unknown.

Now You: Have you updated your browser already?

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Firefox may have stored personal Twitter data in its cache

Firefox users who use Twitter may get a notification by the service when they connect to the site the next time that informs them that personal data may have been stored inadvertently in the browser’s cache.twitter firefox

The message states:

Important information for Firefox users

We recently learned that the way Mozilla Firefox stores cached data from Twitter may have resulted in non-public information being inadvertently stored in the browser’s cache. For example, if you downloaded your data using Firefox, the browser may have retained a copy of the download for a period of time. We have made changes to prevent this from happening again.

According to Twitter’s notification, personal information such as downloaded data from Twitter or direct message, could have been cached by Firefox. While that is not a problem on a device with a single-user, information could have leaked on devices that are used by multiple users, e.g. on public Internet workstations.

Other users or administrators could find the data if they browsed the cache of the browser. Firefox’s default caching period is set to 7 days but it is possible to change the retention in the browser’s settings.

Twitter notes that it has made changes so that the data is no longer stored in Firefox’s cache. Other browsers, non-Firefox-based browsers, are not affected by the issue according to Twitter. Other Firefox-based browsers may be affected by the issue on the other hand.

It is unclear if Firefox’s caching may cause the same issue on other services. Betanews colleague Brian Faglioli asked Mozilla about this on Twitter and received a reply stating that the organization was looking into this.

It is a good practice to clear caches and other data after using public machines to access content on the Internet or work locally on a device. Some public workstations are configured to erase caches automatically when users sign-out. Firefox users may use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Del to clear the history of the browser.

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View all your tabs in one place, search, move them between windows with Tab Manager Plus for Firefox and Chrome

There are plenty of add-ons that make tab management easier in Firefox. Tab Session Manager, Foxy Tab, Tree Style Tab are some good options that come to mind.

View all your tabs in one place, search, move them between windows with Tab Manager Plus for Firefox and Chrome

Tab Manager Plus is an extension for Firefox and Chrome that lets you view all your tabs in one place, search in open tabs and move them between windows.

The add-on places an icon on the browser’s toolbar; it displays a badge that indicates the total number of tabs that are open at the time. Click the icon to view the add-on’s interface. This pop-up window contains favicons of every tab that is opened. Mouse over a favicon to view the tab’s title and URL.

Tab Manager Plus change title

Tab Manager Plus assigns a title to the window that is based on the number of tabs you have opened per site. For.e.g If you had 6 or 7 gHacks tabs open or 8-9 of GitHub, it will use gHacks and GitHub.

Mouse over the title and click on it to customize it if you prefer a different one. You may change the background color of the window from this screen as well and click on a favicon to switch to the tab instantly. There are four buttons below the tab icons for closing the window, minimizing it, setting the window color and title, and opening a new tab.

If you want to jump to a specific tab, but aren’t sure where it is, use the search box at the bottom of Tab Manager Plus’interface. It works on an as-you-type basis in real time, and highlights the tabs which match the search term. For e.g. If I type “ghacks”, the extension highlights the tabs which have the word in the url or title.

tab manager plus search demo

Right-click on a tab’s icon to select it, you can select multiple. Press enter to move tabs to a new window, or drag the icons from one window’s pane to another.

tab manager plus move tabs

The toolbar at the bottom of the add-on’s interface can be used to highlight duplicate tabs, open a new window, filter tabs that don’t match your search, or to pin the current tab. The other two options are handy for managing tabs that you have selected, they can either be discarded from the memory or closed.

Click the three-line menu button to change the view. The default view is the horizontal view, and the others are vertical view, block view and big block view. Right-click on the Tab Manager Plus icon to view a context menu. This allows you to open the add-on’s interface in its own tab which can be useful if you’re using the vertical or big block view modes.

Tab Manager Plus horizontal view
Tab Manager Plus vertical view
Tab Manager Plus block view
Tab Manager Plus big block view

The wrench icon in the top right corner opens the extension’s Options panel. You can set the maximum number of tabs per window (for e.g. 15), once it reaches the limit, new tabs will be opened in a new window. The pop-up interface’s size can be customized in terms of height and width. Not a fan of bright colors? Enable dark mode. Compact mode trims the spaces between each icon.

Tab Manager Plus dark mode

Tab Manager Plus supports some mouse and keyboard shortcuts. As mentioned earlier, right-click selects tabs, holding shift while right-clicking selects multiple tabs. Close tabs using the middle mouse button. Pressing the enter key opens a selected tab, or moves multiple tabs to a new window. You can toggle animations, window titles, and the tab counter from the add-on’s options page.

The extension has a couple of experimental features for session management. But I couldn’t get these to work in Firefox or Chrome.

Tab Manager Plus is an open source extension. This reddit post explains the origin of Tab Manager Plus. Apparently, the developer was using a similar Chrome extension which was eventually sold and then went bad. So he forked the original add-on (before it went rogue), improved it and later ported it to Firefox.

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Mozilla won't delay Firefox releases (but some features may be delayed)

Mozilla won’t change the schedule of Firefox releases for the moment according to a schedule update published on the official Mozilla Wiki website.

Several browser makers, software developers and hardware manufacturers announced recently the postponing of planned releases. Google for example decided to skip Chrome 82 and Microsoft announced that it would focus on delivering security updates for its Windows operating systems only and skip non-security updates for the time being.

firefox browser

It was not clear up until now if Mozilla would also delay the release of new Firefox versions; this changed yesterday when Mozilla confirmed that the current Covid-19 pandemic won’t impact the Firefox release schedule.

Firefox Stable will continue to be updated every four weeks. Mozilla changed the flexible Firefox release schedule to a fixed four-week cycle recently. The next Firefox Stable release will therefore be released on April 7, 2020 as planned.

Mozilla notes that feature developments may be slowed down because of the current situation; while this won’t impact the release schedule, it could mean that planned features may be moved to a later release date. The organization plans to review planned features and delay some of the non-critical changes based on that review.

sticking with the published release schedule for the moment

expect feature development to slow down though
reviewing planned features for breaking potential, and delaying some changes

Mozilla re-enabled the security protocols TLS 1.0 and 1.1 in Firefox already this month, which it disabled in the Firefox 74 release previously, as some government sites relied on these protocols exclusively. Firefox users who tried to access these sites could not any longer because Firefox support for these outdated protocols ended with the release of Firefox 74 originally.

Mozilla (and other browser makers) will still disable TLS 1.0 and 1.1 in browsers eventually but the current situation made it necessary to re-enable the protocols. (via Sören)

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Make YouTube faster on Firefox with this extension

Google launched a new design of the company’s YouTube website recently that made the site slow on Firefox when compared to Google Chrome. Firefox users who open YouTube in the browser may notice extended loading times and other issues after the design change was published by Google.

We covered a discussion about YouTube being purposefully slower on non-Chrome browsers by Mozilla Technical Program Manager Chris Peterson on Twitter back in mid 2018. Peterson stated that Google used a deprecated API only implemented in Chrome on YouTube that made the site slower on non-Chrome browsers.

The Firefox extension Disable Polymer on YouTube fixes the issues caused by the new design on Firefox by disabling it. All the extension does is append the parameter disable_polymer=true to the YouTube URL.

speed up youtube in firefox

Firefox users may give it a try without installing the extension to compare the performance on classic YouTube and the new YouTube design. Chance is that classic YouTube loads faster and performs better than the current design of the site.

All the extension does is automate the process by adding the parameter to the YouTube URL automatically.

The polymer redesign of YouTube has made the site very slow for Firefox users. This add-on adds the “disable_polymer” option to YouTube URLs in order to revert back to the old classic design.

Just install the extension in Firefox and it will add the parameter to YouTube’s URL automatically. The extension requires access to data on YouTube but that is the only special permission that it requests during installation; good.

Note that the functionality depends on Google keeping the parameter enabled on YouTube. The return to classic YouTube to speed it up on Firefox won’t work anymore should Google decide to remove it from the site.

The parameter may also be useful to non-Firefox users who prefer the classic design over YouTube’s new layout.

Another alternative that users have is to use a third-party tool to watch YouTube videos, e.g. video players such as SMPlayer support YouTube playback.

Now You: How often do you use YouTube?

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Firefox Better Web with Scroll: experimental subscription-based service launches

Mozilla launched Firefox Better Web with Scroll today as an experimental service in the United States.

Firefox Better Web with Scroll is a subscription-based service that aims to provide an ad-free environment on the Internet without neglecting that publishers need to make money to provide content on the Web.

The newest Test Pilot project is only available in the United States and it requires a Firefox Account and the installation of a web extension. Interested users may sign-up for the plan, available at $2.49 for the first six months, to support participating publishers and get an ad-free environment on these sites in return. The money “goes directly to fund publishers and writers” according to Mozilla’s announcement on the official blog of the organization.

Mozilla claims that publishers and writers make “at least 40% more money than they would have made from” showing advertisement to users.

The organization re-launched its Test Pilot project back in September 2019 to focus on privacy products.

firefox better web scroll

Firefox Better Web with Scroll is an attempt to please Internet users and publishers alike. The majority of Internet users don’t want to be tracked and that is one of the main reasons why content blockers are growing. As content blocking usage increases, revenue is going down; this is often countered by more aggressive ad-formats and styles, or more tracking.

Firefox Better Web with Scroll tries to break the cycle by providing users with protection against tracking and exposure to advertisement while providing revenue in form of subscription money to publishers who joined the service.

The money is divided between partner sites based on the time spend on these sites. The more time a subscriber spends on a property, the more of the subscription money is earned by that publisher. Some of the money is earned by Mozilla and Scroll, the two organizations that operate the service. Mozilla promises that partners will always earn more from the program than they would if they would run ads on their sites.

Firefox Better Web, unlike content blockers, will provide such an experience only on sites that have joined Scroll. Joining appears limited at the time of writing and requires that publishers request to be included.

Mozilla highlights some of the larger publishers on the “first look” page; the list includes Business Insider, The Verge, Salon, USA Today, and SBNation.

Closing Words

Success and failure for such a project depends on a number of factors including the number of publishers that joined the project and the number of users who want to spend some money for rewarding publishers.

In an ideal world, every publisher would have joined the project and the majority of users would subscribe to it. While it is certainly possible that Firefox Better Web with Scroll will see some success, it is hard to imagine that it will see a lot of traction in the beginning. Yes, some big mainstream sites have joined and users who spend a lot of time on these sites might subscribe to Better Web to reward these publishers for doing so.

Some users may not like that Scroll logs time spend on sites as it is used to divide the subscription money among publishers. A system like that of Brave, which puts users in control of giving BAT to sites or not, might be appreciated by some.

It will nevertheless be interesting to see how Firefox Better Web with Scroll fares in the coming six months and whether it will become something sustainable or wither away.

Now You: what is your take on this?

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Firefox 76 gets optional HTTPS-only mode

Mozilla plans to introduce an optional HTTPS-only mode in Firefox 76 which only allows connections to HTTPS sites.

Most Internet sites use HTTPS already to improve the security of connections. HTTPS encrypts the connection which protects against manipulation and also blocks the logging of activity.

Firefox users may soon enable an option in the web browser to allow only HTTPS connections; this sounds very similar to how HTTPS Everywhere operates. The browser extension tries to upgrade unencrypted resources to encrypted ones when enabled, and it comes with an option to block any traffic that is not encrypted.

When enabled, Firefox loads HTTPS sites and resources just like before. When HTTP sites or resources are detected, the browser attempts to upgrade these to HTTPS. The site or resource is loaded if the upgraded worked; if not, it is blocked which may result in sites becoming inaccessible or partially loaded.

firefox https only mode

Firefox users who run Firefox 76 or newer can activate the new HTTPS-Only mode in the browser in the following way:

  1. Load about:config in the browser’s address bar.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful.
  3. Search for dom.security.https_only_mode using the search field at the top.
    1. Set the preference to TRUE to enable HTTPS-only connections in Firefox.
    2. Set the preference to FALSE to allow all connections (default).

A “Secure Connection Failed” error is displayed by Firefox is a site cannot be upgraded to HTTPS after setting the preference to TRUE in the Firefox preferences.

The new HTTPS-Only mode works like HTTPS Everywhere’s strict mode as it blocks all insecure connections automatically. Firefox’s built-in feature does not support a fallback mode (which HTTPS Everywhere supports).

Is this useful?

How useful is a HTTPS-only mode on today’s Internet? I see some limited applications for it when combined with browser profiles. A user could enable the feature for a profile that is used exclusively for online banking or other sensitive tasks on the Internet that benefit from increased security.

While most sites do support HTTPS already, Mozilla’s own stats show that about 82% of all Firefox connections use HTTPS, it is quite common that HTTP-only sites or resources are accessed on the Internet.

Most Internet users therefor may find the HTTPS-only mode disruptive as it blocks access to certain sites or resources on the Internet.

Now You: What is your take on a HTTPS-only mode? (via Sören Hentzschel)

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Firefox will soon support hardware media controls

Mozilla enabled support for the Media Session API in Firefox 76 Nightly recently. The plan is to introduce the API in stable versions of the Firefox web browser soon.

One of the abilities of the API is to support hardware media keys in the web browser. If that sounds familiar, it may be because Google added support for hardware media keys in the company’s Chrome web browser this year.

Google introduced support for media keys in Chrome 73 Stable for the desktop. The feature enables support for using media keys on the keyboard, e.g. mute, volume up or down, or play/pause, on media sites in the browser.

One of the downsides of the feature is that it may interfere with other services and apps that rely on media keys, e.g. Spotify or iTunes. Chrome users may disable media key support in Chrome to fix the issue currently.

Mozilla enabled the Media Session API in Firefox 71 partially and has now enabled it by default in Firefox 76 Nightly.

firefox hardware media controls

Firefox will display an overlay when media keys are used when the feature is enabled. A quick test on several media sites such as YouTube and Twitch was successful. All test sites responded to media keys such as mute or play/pause.

Firefox users may interact with the overlay once it is displayed using mouse or touch input as well.

Windows 10 users may furthermore notice media controls on the operating system’s lockscreen if a video is playing in Firefox.

Nightly is the development version of the Firefox web browser and the Meta bug suggests that work is still ongoing. Nightly users may run into bugs or issues because of that.

If development progresses as planned, Firefox users may soon use hardware media keys to control playback in the browser.

Mozilla added an option to Firefox to disable the feature; this may be useful if Firefox interferes with used media applications just like Chrome does.

Here is what you need to do to disable media key support in Firefox:

  1. Load about:config in the Firefox web browser.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if the warning message appears.
  3. Search for dom.media.mediasession.enabled.
    1. Set the preference to TRUE to enable the feature.
    2. Set the preference to FALSE to disable the feature.

Closing Words

Users who spend a lot of time in the browser, especially on media sites, may find the new media support useful if they have a keyboard with multimedia keys. Instead of having to interact with the browser’s UI, e.g. by using mouse or touch, they may then use the media keys to control playback.

Now You: Does your keyboard have media keys? (via Techdows)

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