Firefox 59 Speeds Loading Times, Improves Privacy

The Mozilla Foundation has launched Firefox 59, building on the speedy Quantum rendering engine it launched last November.

“We launched an entirely new engine in November, made significant improvements to graphics rendering in January, and are continuing to post performance gains and add features with this release,” Mozilla said in the new browser’s release notes.

The desktop version improves page load times and adds faster rendering for Mac computers, as well as adding tools for annotating and cropping Firefox screenshots and arranging sites on the Firefox Home page.

The Android version adds support for sites that stream video using the HLS protocol and allows Firefox to integrate with the Android Assist feature. That means users can now set up their device to launch a Firefox search when they long-press its home button.

Notification requests blocked

A new desktop preferences setting allows users to stop sites from asking if they can send notifications.

The same setting blocks requests for the device’s camera, microphone and location, while still allowing trusted sites to use those features.

Other updates include better pen and touch screen pointer input and a change to Private Browsing Mode that removes path information from referrers, making it more difficult to track users.

Computer security firm Sophos said Mozilla has shown initiative in trying to weed out features that might be used to invade users’ privacy.

Privacy features

Sophos researcher Mark Stockley noted that an upcoming release, version 62, is set to disable developer interfaces that can give websites access to information from ambient light and proximity sensors in mobile devices.

He said the ambient light features could be abused to disclose user information such as browsing history, while the proximity interface could be used as a way of tracking users.

“To their credit, developers at Mozilla seem keen to get ahead of these potential privacy issues and have nipped these leaky sensor APIs in the bud, before they’ve become widely used or abused,” Stockley wrote in a blog post.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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