In a recent blog post, Mozilla announced it is experimenting with new features in pre-beta versions of Firefox (Firefox Developer Edition on Windows, Mac and Linux and Firefox Aurora on Android) to offer more control over users’ privacy, including updated Private Browsing ready for pre-beta testing.
Whilst all major browsers offer some form of experience that is labelled ‘private’, this is typically a ‘local’ service, preventing others on a shared computer from seeing traces of a user’s online activity.
“This is a useful solution for many users, but we’re experimenting with ways to offer you even more control when they open private windows,” Mozilla said in its blog.
Operating on the hypothesis that when users open a private browsing window, they are sending a signal that they want more control over their privacy than current private browsing experiences actually provide, the Firefox enhancements ready for testing today actively block website elements that could be used to record user behaviour across sites.
This includes elements like content, analytics, social and other services that might be collecting data without someone’s knowledge. In some cases, websites might appear broken when elements that track behaviour are blocked, but these can always be unblocked should one want to view the website normally.
In pre-beta Firefox, users find that the private browsing also has a control centre that contains important site security and privacy controls in a single place. The company is looking for feedback from its pre-beta testers, to make the experience better for future releases. Mozilla is urging users to leave feedback on its dedicated feedback page.
Making Add-ons safer
“Add-ons are another important way you control your Web experience in Firefox and we are making them safer,” the company states.
Mozilla is working to help make third-party add-ons a safer experience for personalising Firefox. Add-ons may have the ability to create unwanted toolbars or buttons, collect information, change a user’s search settings or inject ads or malware into a device.
Working with developers and creating a process that attempts to verify that add-ons installed in Firefox meet guidelines and criteria, Mozilla will be ensuring the Add-ons are safer for users. Starting with this release, add-on verification is enforced by default in pre-beta Firefox. Users who understand the risks of unverified add-ons can disable this, meaning there is still flexibility.
Testing multi-process with Electrolysis
Electrolysis runs web content in a separate process from the main browser and is enabled by default for most pre-Beta users. Performance can improve with Electrolysis because the main browser process remains responsive to a user’s input even when the content process is doing work. Some Firefox add-ons may not currently be compatible with Electrolysis and might not work as expected or at all.
The company is also promising more new features to test soon, including an experience to help parents get added control of their children’s online experience, more ways to connect with Firefox Hello Beta and a way to bring the full Firefox experience to iOS.