Mozilla today launched Firefox 71 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox 71 includes Lockwise password manager improvements, Enhanced Tracking Protection tweaks, and Picture-in-Picture video on Windows. There isn’t too much else new, possibly because Mozilla is getting ready to speed up Firefox releases to a four-week cadence (from six to eight weeks) next year. The company did, however, share updates on its VPN efforts and Firefox Preview.
Firefox 71 for desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, and the iOS version is on Apple’s App Store. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider.
1 trillion tracker requests blocked to date
Mozilla has been talking up privacy for years. In the last year and a half, however, the company has really started to deliver. In August 2018, Mozilla announced Firefox would block trackers by default. Firefox 63 arrived in October 2018 with Enhanced Tracking Protection, blocking cookies and storage access from third-party trackers. Firefox 65, released in January, added Content Blocking controls with three options for the blocking feature:
- Standard: the default, where Firefox blocks known trackers and third-party tracking cookies in general.
- Strict: for people who want a bit more protection and don’t mind if some sites break.
- Custom: for those who want complete control to pick and choose what trackers and cookies they want to block.
Firefox 69 arrived in September with Enhanced Tracking Protection turned on by default. Firefox 70 followed in October with social tracking protection under the Standard setting, blocking cross-site tracking cookies from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Two months ago, Mozilla estimated that Firefox had blocked more than 450 billion tracking requests. That number has more than doubled now to 1 trillion tracking requests blocked to date.
Firefox Private Network and full-device VPN
In September, Mozilla introduced its own VPN, the Firefox Private Network (FPN), in beta for logged-in Firefox desktop users in the U.S. So far, beta testers have reported incompatible websites, connection issues, and some bugs that Mozilla says it has fixed.
The company today expanded the beta to more U.S.-based Firefox account users. The next phase of the beta includes a limited-time free service that lets you encrypt your Firefox connections for up to 12 hours a month. Mozilla envisions testers taking advantage during the holidays. That means on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks when you’re traveling, at your local coffee shop, or even at the doctor’s office.
But the FPN only works for Firefox browsing. Mozilla today also revealed plans for a full-device VPN. There’s a waitlist for now, but if you’re picked, the company promises to “follow up with a link to access the VPN at an introductory price of $4.99 per month.” The VPN is currently only available for Windows 10 and for U.S.-based Firefox account holders. But Mozilla promises that pricing and platform availability “will continue to evolve.”
Windows, Mac, and Linux
Firefox 71 for desktop introduces Picture-in-Picture support (something the Android version got more than a year ago). It’s available on “all video sites,” Mozilla claims, so you can watch your favorite clips in a separate small window as you browse. The window sticks around when you switch tabs and even works outside Firefox. To try it, hover your mouse over the video and click the small blue “Picture in Picture” option.
Picture-in-Picture support only works on Windows for now. Mozilla plans to make it available on macOS and Linux with Firefox 72.
Here’s the full Firefox 71 for desktop changelog:
- Firefox now recognizes subdomains and will autofill domain logins from Lockwise.
- Integrated breach alerts from Firefox Monitor are now available to users with screen readers.
- Notifications when Firefox blocks cryptominers.
- A running tally of blocked trackers in the protection panel accessed by clicking the address bar shield.
- Picture-in-Picture video comes to Firefox for Windows. Select the blue icon from the right edge of a video to pop open a floating window so you can keep watching while working in other tabs.
- Native MP3 decoding on Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android.
- DevTools’ Network panel can now inspect WebSocket messages and automatically formats a variety of framework formats.
- Console’s new multi-line editor mode provides an IDE-like experience that makes it convenient to iterate on longer code snippets.
- The Network panel’s new resource blocking can simulate the impact of tracking protection, security, service outages, and bad connectivity for more robust testing.
- Improvements to the website certificate viewer, with more features and more detailed information.
- Improvements to the extensions downloads API for handling download failures.
- Extension popup windows now include the extension name instead of its moz-extension:// url when using the windows.create API.
- Extension-registered devtools panels now interact better with screen readers.
- New kiosk mode functionality, which allows maximum screen space for customer-facing displays.
- Various security fixes.
- Configuration page (about:config) reimplemented in HTML.
- Firefox will now ship with Catalan (Valencian) (ca-valencia), Tagalog (tl), and Triqui (trs).
If you’re a web developer, you’ll want to get more details here: Firefox 71 for developers.
Android and iOS
Firefox for Android barely got an update this time around. The changelog simply states “Updates to improve performance and stability (full list of fixes).” That’s because the Android team is mainly focused on Firefox Preview, a new version of Firefox for Android powered by GeckoView. Mozilla plans to launch the new Firefox for Android in the first half of 2020.
Firefox Preview got a slew of new features today, including the aforementioned Enhanced Tracking Protection on by default. In fact, the new Firefox for Android will use Strict mode by default. Mozilla says this makes the browser up to 20% faster. (You can switch to Standard mode in three taps or turn off Enhanced Tracking Protection in two taps.) Other new features include Firefox Site Protections, a customizable Search Widget, and a Send Tab.
Firefox for iOS also received an update today, and it’s largely about visibility. The full changelog:
- Improvements to dark theming: Firefox for iOS will now allow users to automatically switch to a dark or light theme based on device settings. Users can also configure this setting manually.
- Increased visibility for synced tabs: Users can now find their open tabs synced from other devices in the Your Library section of the Firefox home screen.
- Visibility issues while dark theme is enabled.
As mentioned, Mozilla is transitioning to a four-week Firefox release cycle. Firefox 72 is currently slated for early January.
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