Mozilla today launched Firefox 49 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes expanded multi-process support, improvements to Reader Mode, and offline page viewing on Android. The built-in voice and video calling feature Firefox Hello, meanwhile, has been removed from the browser.

Firefox 49 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play.

Mozilla doesn’t break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say “half a billion people around the world” use the browser. In other words, it’s a major platform that web developers target — even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.

Desktop

First up, Firefox 49 brings two improvements to Reader Mode. You can now adjust the text (width and line spacing), fonts, and even change the theme from light to dark. There is also a new Narrate option that reads the content of the page aloud.

Next is the Mozilla’s crusade to enable multi-process support, a feature that has been in development for years as part of the Electrolysis project. In fact, work to make the frontend and add-ons support multiple processes began in early 2013, and Firefox Nightly gained multi-process support in November 2014.

With the release of Firefox 48, Mozilla enabled multi-process support for 1 percent of users, slowly ramping up to nearly half of the Firefox Release channel. Initial tests showed a 400 percent improvement in overall responsiveness. With Firefox 49, Mozilla is expanding support to include a small initial set of compatible add-ons. The goal is to have all Firefox users with multi-process sometime in the first half of 2017. To check if you’re in the Electrolysis group, type “about:support” into the URL bar and check to see if it says “1/1 (Enabled by default)” under the Multiprocess Windows line item.

firefox_ui_processes

Just like other browser vendors have concluded, Mozilla believes using a separate rendering process lays the foundation for significant performance and security improvements in Firefox. By separating web content and Firefox UI processes, when a webpage is consuming a large part of your computer’s processor and memory, your tabs, buttons, and menus (hopefully) won’t lock up.

Last but not least, Firefox Hello is gone. With Firefox 34, Mozilla launched an experimental WebRTC feature that let users make free voice and video calls without needing to download additional software or plugins, nor create an account. Powered by the OpenTok real-time communications platform from TokBox, owned by Spanish carrier Telefonica, Mozilla called Firefox Hello “the first global communications system built directly into a browser.”

Because WebRTC is compatible with Chrome and Opera browsers as well, you didn’t need the same software or hardware as the person you want to call. But Mozilla has decided the feature wasn’t worth the effort and recommends a few alternatives: Talky, Cisco Spark, Appear.in, and Jitsi Meet.

Here’s the full Firefox 49 changelog:

  • Updated Firefox Login Manager to allow HTTPS pages to use saved HTTP logins. It’s one more way Firefox is supporting Let’s Encrypt and helping users transition to a more secure web.
  • Added features to Reader Mode that make it easier on the eyes and the ears: Controls that allow users to adjust the width and line spacing of text and Narrate, which reads the content of a page out loud
  • Improved video performance for users on systems that support SSSE3 without hardware acceleration
  • Added context menu controls to HTML5 audio and video that let users loops files or play files at 1.25x speed
  • Improved performance on OS X systems without hardware acceleration
  • Improved appearance of anti-aliased OS X fonts
  • Improvements in about:memory reports for tracking font memory usage
  • Improve performance on Windows systems without hardware acceleration
  • Fixed an issue that prevented users from updating Firefox for Mac unless they originally installed Firefox. Now, those users as well as any user with administrative credentials can update Firefox.
  • Ended Firefox for Mac support for OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8.
  • Ended Firefox for Windows support for SSE processors
  • Removed Firefox Hello
  • Re-enabled the default for Graphite2 font shaping
  • Added a Cause column to the Network Monitor to show what caused each network request
  • Introduced web speech synthesis API

If you’re a web developer, more details are available for you here: Firefox 49 for developers.

Android

Firefox for Android has a slew of minor improvements and one big addition: offline page viewing. The feature allows users to access some previously viewed content when their connection is poor or while completely offline.

Mozilla didn’t specify which “viewed pages” can be accessed, but the team promises “you can interact with much of your previously viewed content.” Apparently the feature is dependent on your specific device specs, suggesting the newer and more powerful the device, the more pages will be effectively cached.

Notice this Android phone is in airplane mode:

Android-Offline-Page-Viewing-600x1067

The way Firefox tabs behave has also been updated. Outdated tabs are now hidden when restore tabs setting is set to “Always restore,” Firefox remembers the scroll position and zoom level for open tabs, and the media controls have been updated to avoid playing sounds from multiple tabs at once.

Here’s the full Firefox 49 for Android changelog:

  • Added offline page viewing, which allows users to access some previously viewed content while offline.
  • Updated Firefox Login Manager to allow HTTPS pages to use saved HTTP logins. It’s one more way Firefox is supporting Let’s Encrypt and helping users transition to a more secure web.
  • Outdated tabs are now hidden when restore tabs setting is set to “Always restore”
  • Remember scroll position and zoom level for open tabs
  • Updated media controls to avoid playing sounds from multiple tabs at once
  • Visual improvements in favicon display
  • Added tour of indispensable features like Reader View and Sync to First Run page
  • Locales added: Spanish from Chile (es-CL) and Norwegian (Nynorsk) (nn-NO)
  • Deliver asynchronous notifications via Push API
  • Introduced web speech synthesis API

Mozilla releases new Firefox versions every six to eight weeks, and Firefox 50 is currently slated for early November.

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