Firefox 41 (and Headaches) Coming September 22nd

Mozilla is moving right along with getting Firefox 41 ready to ship for the September 22nd release. Having had a chance to play with the current Beta version of Firefox 41, here are THREE major changes users should be aware of to avoid headaches upon updating/downloading:

  1. New ‘New Tab’ behavior. Gone are the days users could set their preference as to what comes up when they open a new tab via the browser.newtab.url preference in about:config. Nope, that was being ‘exploited’ so Mozilla removed this functionality that has been in Firefox since Firefox 13 (June 2012). There is a simple solution, Custom New Tab add-on. Simple, but… Why should users have to add an add-on to restore (what now has become) core functionality to Firefox and at the same time why can’t users add an add-on to add features that shouldn’t be in the core functionality such as Hello, Pocket, etc.? This add-on does not require a restart. Once installed go into the add-ons manager click Custom New Tab and then Options.custom-new-tab-optionsSimply place the address of the site you want to open (or leave blank for a blank tab) when you open a new tab. Place focus in URL bar – when you open a new tab, the specified page opens and your cursor is placed in the URL bar (after the page is fully loaded) so you type the address of where you want to go next without having to click in the URL bar. Make URL bar empty – when you open a new tab, the specified page opens and the URL bar is blank (warning: the URL bar is cleared when the page finishes loading and if you start typing in the URL bar before the page is done loading your text will be removed).
  2. Extension Signing/Verification. Been talking about this for a while now. You may have seen the warnings in your add-on manager with Firefox 40 if you have unsigned or unverified extensions. In Firefox 41, unsigned extensions will be disabled when you update and also won’t be installable. However, in Firefox 41 you still turn off this annoying feature via about:config and set xpinstall.signatures.required to FALSE. Warning: in Firefox 42 xpinstall.signatures.required preference will be ignored and unsigned add-ons will not be permitted.Mozilla can still ‘make this right’ by keeping the xpinstall.signatures.required preference active so that users who know what they are doing can continue to use unsigned add-ons. Just because an add-on is unsigned does not mean it is not safe. There are many developers who don’t want to host their add-ons on AMO and don’t want to jump through the multiple hoops with Mozilla to get their add-ons signed. This is especially true for corporations which may have proprietary add-ons, though they should be using the ESR version of Firefox which currently does not enforce extension signing.
  3. 64-Bit Windows Firefox. The plan is for Mozilla to release the first official public version of 64-Bit Firefox for Windows with Firefox 41. Mozilla’s objectives on this is to make it more stable, efficient and safer compared to the 32-bit version. To do this, they have made a critical change in the Windows 64-bit (no changes with the OS X and Linux) version that removes support for most NPAPI plugins such as Silverlight and Java. This appears to be an industry trend as Microsoft Edge (Windows 10) browser has no plugin support (other than Flash) and Google Chrome is removing support for NPAPI plugins (except Flash) by the end of the year.With that said though, Mozilla needs to carefully consider how they ‘disclose’ this fact and market the Win64 version of Firefox. By disclose I don’t mean bury it in the release notes which is likely what they are going to do. What I fear is Mozilla is going to make a big deal out the 64-Bit support and mention in very small print somewhere deep on the page: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Magine TV, Maxdome and an unknown number of other streaming and VOD sites worldwide will not work this version. Instead they need to tell users if you want to use Silverlight, JAVA or any other plugin technology this version is not for you, use the 32-bit Firefox version.

So there you have it, three things to be aware of with the upcoming Firefox 41.