Mozilla today launched Firefox 83 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Firefox 83 includes an HTTPS-Only Mode, performance improvements, and a handful of new developer features. You can download Firefox 83 for desktop now from Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically.
According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 225 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider. Still, Mozilla recently went through layoffs and is now rightly worried about becoming “collateral damage” in Google’s U.S. antitrust case. The company has been doubling down on privacy and security this year, betting it will be able to win back businesses, developers, and users by protecting their data.
Firefox 83’s highlight feature is HTTPS-Only Mode, in which the browser attempts to establish fully secure connections to every website (just like the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere). If it can’t, Firefox asks for your permission before connecting to a website that doesn’t support secure connections. To enable HTTPS-Only Mode, click on Firefox’s menu button, hit Preferences, then Privacy & Security, scroll down to HTTPS-Only Mode, and choose “Enable HTTPS-Only Mode in all windows.”
HTTPS is a more secure version of the HTTP internet protocol used to connect users to websites. Secure connections are a necessary measure to decrease content injection (which can result in eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, and other data modification). Data like passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information is kept secure from third parties. Additionally, users can be more confident they are communicating with the correct website.
While the majority of websites already support HTTPS, many often fall back to using the insecure and outdated HTTP protocol. Additionally, the web contains millions of legacy HTTP links that point to insecure versions of websites.
Mozilla is trying to push Firefox users to always use HTTPS. The HTTPS-Only Mode ensures that Firefox doesn’t make any insecure connections without your permission. Whether you click on an HTTP link or manually enter an HTTP address, Firefox in this mode will use HTTPS instead:
Firefox could soon enable HTTPS-Only Mode by default. The main obstacle preventing Mozilla from doing so now is that some HTTPS websites still serve resources such as images or videos over HTTP. As a result, they may malfunction or not look right in this mode (you can temporarily disable HTTPS-Only Mode for a given site by clicking the lock icon in the address bar).
Firefox 83 changelog
Firefox 83 also brings performance improvements (improved page load performance by up to 15%, page responsiveness by up to 12%, and reduced memory usage by up to 8%). Then there are the developer features, including Conical CSS gradients, overflow debugging in the Developer Tools’ HTML pane, WebRender across more platforms (Windows 7, Windows 8, and macOS 10.12 to 10.15), and pinch to zoom on desktop (Windows laptop touchscreens, Windows laptop touchpads, and macOS laptop touchpads). If you’re a web developer, check out the details here: Firefox 83 for developers.
For the full rundown, here’s the Firefox 83 for desktop changelog:
- Firefox introduces HTTPS-Only Mode. When enabled, this new mode ensures that every connection Firefox makes to the web is secure and alerts you when a secure connection is not available. You can enable it in Firefox Preferences.
- Pinch zooming will now be supported for our users with Windows touchscreen devices and touchpads on Mac devices. Firefox users may now use pinch to zoom on touch-capable devices to zoom in and out of webpages.
- Picture-in-Picture now supports keyboard shortcuts for fast forwarding and rewinding videos: use the arrow keys to move forward and back 15 seconds, along with volume controls.
- When you are presenting your screen on a video conference in Firefox, you will see our improved user interface that makes it clearer which devices or displays are being shared.
- Selecting a search engine at the bottom of the search panel now enters search mode for that engine, allowing you to see suggestions (if available) for your search terms. The old behavior (immediately performing a search) is available with a shift-click.
- When Firefox autocompletes the URL of one of your search engines, you can now search with that engine directly in the address bar by selecting the shortcut in the address bar results.
- We’ve added buttons at the bottom of the search panel to allow you to search your bookmarks, open tabs, and history.
- Firefox supports AcroForm, which will allow you to fill in, print, and save supported PDF forms and the PDF viewer also has a new fresh look.
- Our users in India on the English build of Firefox will now see Pocket recommendations in their new tab featuring some of the best stories on the web. If you don’t see them, you can turn on Pocket articles in your new tab by following these steps.
- For the recently released Apple devices built with Apple Silicon CPUs, you can use Firefox 83 and future releases without any change. This release (83) will support emulation under Apple’s Rosetta 2 that ships with macOS Big Sur. We are working toward Firefox being natively-compiled for these CPUs in a future release.
- This is a major release for WebRender as we roll out to more Firefox users on Windows 7 and 8 as well as on MacOS 10.12 to 10.15.
- Developers can use the scroll badge in the Page Inspector to Debug scrollable overflow. Selecting the badge highlights elements that are causing overflow and marks them with the overflow badge
- This release adds support for conic gradients in CSS, helping colors to smoothly transition as you spin around the center, rather than as you progress outward from the center.
- Screen reader features which report paragraphs now correctly report paragraphs instead of lines in Google Docs. (bug 1666998)
- When reading by word using a screen reader, words are now correctly reported when there is punctuation nearby. (bug 872397)
- The arrow keys now work correctly after tabbing in the picture-in-picture window. (bug 1620899)
- For users on macOS restoring a session with minimized windows, Firefox now uses much less power and you should see much longer battery life.
Mozilla releases new Firefox versions every four weeks. Firefox 84 is currently slated for mid-December.