Mozilla today launched Firefox 72 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Firefox 72 includes fingerprinting scripts blocked by default, fewer annoying notifications, and Picture-in-Picture video on macOS and Linux. There isn’t too much else here, as Mozilla has now transitioned Firefox releases to a four-week cadence (from six to eight weeks).
You can download Firefox 72 for desktop now from Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider.
Fingerprinting blocked by default
Fingerprinting is a popular mechanism for tracking web users as they move across the internet inside a browser. It works independently of cookies and lets advertisers, companies, and governments build a picture of an individual over time by tracking signals from their machine’s configuration, such as time zone, screen resolution, HTTP headers, operating system type, the fonts the user has installed, and more.
Browser makers are fighting back against the practice. Google has announced plans to block fingerprinting in Chrome, but Firefox beat it to the punch (and Safari got there first).
Over the last year and a half, Mozilla has been ramping up Firefox’s privacy chops. In October 2018, Firefox 63 arrived with Enhanced Tracking Protection, blocking cookies and storage access from third-party trackers. Firefox 65, released in January 2019, 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 cross-site tracking cookies from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn blocked under the Standard setting.
As part of all this, Mozilla also tackled cryptomining, which uses your CPU to generate cryptocurrency for someone else, and fingerprinting, which builds a digital fingerprint that tracks you across the web. Firefox 69 blocked cryptomining by default as part of the Standard setting and fingerprinting as part of the Strict setting. Now, Firefox 72 blocks fingerprinting under the Standard setting, too.
Windows, Mac, and Linux
As sites add notifications, the popups browsers show for them can get pretty annoying. In Firefox 72, Mozilla has tweaked notification request popups so they no longer interrupt your browsing. The browser now shows a speech bubble in the address bar instead.
Firefox 71 for desktop introduced Picture-in-Picture support for Windows. Firefox 72 brings the feature to macOS and Linux, as Mozilla promised last month. Picture-in-Picture means 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.
Here’s the full Firefox 72 for desktop changelog:
- Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection marks a major new milestone in our battle against cross-site tracking: We now block fingerprinting scripts by default for all users, taking a new bold step in the fight for our users’ privacy.
- Firefox replaces annoying notification request popups with a more delightful experience by default for all users. The popups no longer interrupt your browsing, in their place a speech bubble will appear in the address bar when you interact with the site.
- Picture-in-picture video is now also available in Firefox for Mac and Linux: 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 or apps.
- Debugger Watchpoints lets developers observe object property access, and writes make it easier to track data flow through an application.
- Firefox now supports simulation of meta viewport in Responsive Design Mode.
- Enterprise: Experimental support for using client certificates from the OS certificate store can be enabled by setting the preference “security.osclientcerts.autoload” to true (Windows only).
- Various security fixes.
- Support for blocking images from individual domains has been removed from Firefox, due to low usage and poor user experience.
If you’re a web developer, you’ll want to get more details here: Firefox 72 for developers.
Firefox for Android is still barely getting updates. The latest changelog simply states “Get WebRender in Geckoview leading to performance gains for Firefox in Android.” The lack of notable additions is due to the Android team working 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.
As mentioned, Mozilla is transitioning to a four-week Firefox release cycle. Firefox 73 is currently slated for February.