Mozilla today launched Firefox 59 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The release builds on Firefox Quantum, which the company calls “by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004.” Version 59 brings faster page load times, private browsing mode that strips path information, and Android Assist.
In related news, Mozilla is giving Amazon Fire TV owners a new design later this week that lets them save their preferred websites by pinning them to the Firefox home screen. Enterprise users also have something to look forward to: On Wednesday, Firefox Quantum for Enterprise is entering the beta phase.
Firefox 59 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 have to consider.
Firefox 59 builds on the performance gains in Firefox Quantum by focusing on further improving page load times. Mozilla is promising faster load times for content on the Firefox home page, as well as faster page loads by loading either from the networked cache or the cache on the user’s hard drive.
Firefox 58 improved the way the browser renders graphics using Off-Main-Thread Painting (OMTP) on Windows. Firefox 59 uses OMTP to bring improved graphics rendering to Mac users as well.
Mozilla also made improvements to Firefox Screenshots. You can now draw on screenshots, highlight saved screenshots, and recrop to change the viewable area of saved screenshots.
Arguably the biggest change Mozilla has made with Firefox 59 in regards to privacy is stripping path information in HTTP referrers. Only in private browsing mode, Firefox will now help prevent third-party data leakage by removing path information from referrers sent to third parties.
When you click a link to navigate to a new site, the new site you visit receives the address of the site you came from via the “referrer value.” Usually this merely tells the new site the exact page you were looking at when you clicked the link. But embedded content on that new site can also get this information, which can be collected and sold to the highest bidder. Sometimes referrers include information you entered on the previous site, which can be quite problematic, depending on what you were doing before you clicked. Firefox’s browsing mode strips the referred information to simply the domain name of the previous site.
Speaking of privacy, Firefox 59 adds a new setting in about:preferences to stop websites from asking to send notifications or access your device’s camera, microphone, or location. You can allow trusted websites to use these features even if you turn them off for the rest of the web.
Here’s the full Firefox 59 for desktop changelog:
- Faster load times for content on the Firefox Home page
- Faster page load times by loading either from the networked cache or the cache on the user’s hard drive (Race Cache With Network)
- Improved graphics rendering using Off-Main-Thread Painting (OMTP) for Mac users (OMTP for Windows and Linux was released in Firefox 58)
- Drag-and-drop to rearrange Top Sites on the Firefox Home page, and customize new windows and tabs in other ways
- Added features for Firefox Screenshots: Basic annotation lets the user draw on and highlight saved screenshots and recropping to change the viewable area of saved screenshots
- Enhanced WebExtensions API including better support for decentralized protocols and the ability to dynamically register content scripts
- Implemented RTP Transceiver to give pages more fine grained control over calls
- Implemented features to support large scale conferences
- Added support for W3C specs for pointer events and improved platform integration with added device support for mouse, pen, and touch screen pointer input
- Added the Ecosia search engine as an option for German Firefox
- Added the Qwant search engine as an option for French Firefox
- Added settings in about:preferences to stop websites from asking to send notifications or access your device’s camera, microphone, and location, while still allowing trusted websites to use these features
- Various security fixes
- Firefox Private Browsing Mode will remove path information from referrers to prevent cross-site tracking
If you’re a web developer, more details are available for you here: Firefox 59 for developers.
The biggest addition to Firefox for Android in this release, aside from getting the same privacy improvements as the desktop version, is the ability to set up Firefox to work with Android Assist. If you set this up, when you long-press the home button on your Android device, Firefox search will show up instead of Google Assistant.
Here’s the full Firefox 59 for Android changelog:
- Added Firefox as an Assist App so users can start a search by long-pressing the home button
- Added support for HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) playback for improved compatibility with video sites
- Various security fixes
- Firefox Private Browsing Mode will remove path information from referrers sent to third parties to help prevent third-party data leakage
- The “about:” page was removed. Use the “About Firefox” dialog instead.
- Lock video full screen in landscape mode
Mozilla releases new Firefox versions every six to eight weeks, and Firefox 60 is currently slated for early May.