November 21, 2012
Firefox 17 Adds New Friends, Removes Leopard
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Mozilla has released their latest stable version of their popular web browser, Firefox. Mozilla has been keeping on track with their very rapid release schedule, releasing new versions of Firefox every 6 weeks. While a 6-week schedule might make it difficult for Mozilla to release significant upgrades each and every time, Firefox 17 does include a few new features, as well as a new step into the future and further away from the past.
The most notable new feature in Firefox 17 is the social networking integration. These Social APIs allow developers to bake aspects of social networking sites right into the browser. For instance, a Twitter plugin could display an alert in the browser itself whenever the user has a new follower. Facebook Messenger for Firefox is the first use of these Social APIs and can display new chat sessions, messages and updates all within a sidebar. Users can interact with Facebook from the browser itself rather than navigate to Facebook´s site.
Firefox has also debuted a new security feature called “click-to-play” which can automatically disable some popular plug-ins which may be out of date. Firefox 17 can also now detect when a user´s version of Flash, Java, Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Reader are out of date and prevent them from running within the browser.
Of course, Mozilla gives users the option to ignore these warnings and to continue using the plug-in regardless. Users are also given the opportunity to download the latest version of these plug-ins. Security features such as these have become important in recent years as plug-ins such as Java have been found to make systems vulnerable to some very dangerous attacks.
While Oracle battles to push out new and stable versions of Java to cinch up these security holes, many experts have begun suggesting that everyone simply disable Java unless they absolutely need it. Outdated plug-ins such as Flash or Silverlight can also cause a machine to run slowly or crash, thus having a browser that keeps an eye out for these out-of-date plug-ins and blocks them from executing can be a very handy security feature.
Finally, while Firefox 17 is now available online for many operating systems, it won´t be available for Leopard, Apple´s operating system from 2007. Firefox certainly isn´t the first web browser to move on from this 5-year old browser: Chrome stopped supporting Leopard just a few weeks ago while even Apple´s Safari dropped compatibility in July. Apple often celebrates high adoption rates whenever they release new operating systems. One month after Apple released their latest, Mountain Lion, more than 10% of all Mac users had already upgraded, leading some to predict that Mountain Lion would outperform all other Mac OS updates.
As such, ComputerWorld points out that only 9% of all Mac users still use the aging operating system, which is now 3 versions old. Mozilla also claims to have patched up 29 vulnerabilities in Firefox 17, 19 of which were labeled as “critical.”
Firefox 17 is available now at Mozilla.com.