Firefox Friday: Mozilla refuses to ban Firesheep, a more-Awesome Bar, delayed Firefox 4, and more
First of all, Firefox 4 was pushed back to 2011. We had originally hoped to see it launch before the end of 2010, but in all likelihood we probably won't see before March or April 2011. There are still a bunch of Beta releases to get through, and then the Release Candidates. On the flip side, FF4 is already very fast and a joy to use -- as long as you don't mind the occasional hiccup, it's well worth the upgrade from FF3.6!
Then there was Firesheep, a sidejacking add-on that gets its name from Firefox, which Mozilla has decided not to ban. Mozilla retains the ability to blacklist add-ons, but generally only blocks add-ons that cause browser crashes. There have been a few add-ons blocked for 'security issues', though, which raises the question: is Mozilla simply looking at the bigger picture -- a Web made all the more secure because of awareness-raising add-ons like Firesheep?
Finally, the Nobel Peace Prize website was hacked to exploit a 0-day Firefox vulnerability. The hole was summarily patched and new versions of Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 were released.
It wasn't all bad this week though! Mozilla Labs threw out a few of very fun toys to play with (an auto-complete Awesome Bar!), and I've found a few other goodies to show you, too.
Mozilla Labs brings you Awesome Bar word completion
This add-on, which is the first deliverable from Mozilla Labs' Prospector experiments, is all about enhancing the search experience inside Firefox. If you thought the Awesome Bar was good -- this will blow your mind! It's hard to explain exactly what 'word completion' does, but essentially it means you have to type less while searching -- just like Google's search suggestions!
Incidentally, this is yet another Chrome-like feature -- but hey, I don't think anyone's complaining.
Combine your address books and friends lists with Mozilla Labs' Contacts
Mozilla Labs has been quietly plugging away at the Contacts add-on for a while, and with release 0.4 it's definitely starting to become usable.
Contacts is part of Mozilla's continued efforts to make the browser a tool, rather than a portal. While Google's Chrome tries to get out of your way as quickly as possible, Mozilla wants Firefox to be part of the browsing experience. With Contacts you can import contacts and friends from a variety of services (Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Yahoo, etc.) into your browser.
Having your contacts in your browser is great for two reasons: a) you always have an offline backup handy, and b) when registering for new Web services, you'll be able to give those sites access to your contacts directory. You won't have to give up your Facebook, Google, Flickr and Twitter credentials every time a site asks you to 'look for friends'!
[At the time of writing, this add-on doesn't seem to work -- I don't know if it's an issue with Contacts, or the latest builds of Firefox -- either way, I guess you just have to bookmark this one and hope Mozilla fixes it ASAP.]
The tenacious Mitch over at Firefox Facts dug up two gems this week: The Pale Moon Project and Swiftfox, which provide optimized versions of Firefox 3.6 for Windows and Linux respectively. Documentation for Swiftfox is lacking, but fortunately Pale Moon provides tons of details for why its build is faster than Mozilla's. The memory management runtime library has been custom-compiled for faster operation, and overall complexity has been reduced by removing unnecessary features (like accessibility and ActiveX). In general, it sounds like the Pale Moon build is angled towards speed, while Mozilla builds for compatibility.
The only real problem is that these are builds of Firefox 3.6. No matter how hard you tune it, 3.6 still languishes some way behind 4.0. Still, if you're not quite ready to transition over to the beta builds of Firefox 4, these two optimized builds should definitely give you a bit of a boost. Pale Moon also says it will build an optimized version of Firefox 4 when it's released -- and when that happens, Download Squad will be sure to review it.
Of course, neither of these optimized versions are overseen or ratified by Mozilla, so use them at your own risk!