On Tuesday, Mozilla announced the release of Firefox 69. This release comes with default blocking of third-party tracking cookies and cryptomining, for all users. The team has also worked on a patch to minimize power consumption by Firefox Nightly for macOS users, which will possibly land in Firefox 70. In another announcement, Mozilla shared its plans for implementing Chrome’s Manifest V3 changes.
Key updates in Firefox 69
Enhanced Tracking Protection on by default for all
Browser cookies are used to store your login state, website preferences, provide personalized content, and more. However, they also facilitate third-party tracking. In addition to being a threat to user privacy, they can also end up slowing down your browser, consuming your data, and creating user profiles. The tracked information and profiles can also be sold and used for purposes that you did not consent for.
With the aim to prevent this, the Firefox team came up with the Enhanced Tracking Protection feature. In June this year, they made it available to new users by default. With Firefox 69, it is now on by default and set to the ‘Standard’ setting for all users. It blocks all known third-party tracking cookies that are listed by Disconnect.
Protection against cryptomining and browser fingerprinting
There are many other ways through which users are tracked or their resources are used without their consent. Unauthorized cryptominers run scripts to generate cryptocurrency that requires a lot of computing power. This can end up slowing down your computers and also drain your battery. There are also fingerprinting scripts that store a snapshot of your computer’s configuration when you visit a website, which can be used to track your activities across the web.
To address these, the team introduced an option to block cryptominers and browser fingerprinting in Firefox Nightly 68 and Beta 67. Firefox 69 includes the option to block cryptominers in the “Standard Mode”, which means it is on by default. To block fingerprinting users need to turn on the “Strict Mode.” We can expect the team to make it enabled by default in a future release.
A stricter Block Autoplay feature
Starting with Firefox 69, the Block Autoplay will block all media with sound from playing automatically by default. This means that users will be able to block any video from autoplaying, not just those that autoplay with sound.
Updates for Windows 10 users
Firefox 69 brings support for the Web Authentication HMAC Secret extension via Windows Hello for Windows 10 users. The HMAC Secret extension will allow users to sign-in to their device even when it is offline or in airplane mode. This release also comes with Windows hints to appropriately set content process priority levels and a shortcut on the Win10 taskbar to help users easily find and launch Firefox.
Improved macOS battery life
Firefox 69 comes with improved battery life and download UI. To minimize battery consumption, Firefox will switch back to the low-power GPU on macOS systems that have a dual graphics card. Other updates include JIT support for ARM64 and Finder now shows download progress for files being downloaded.
Not only main releases, but the team is also putting efforts into making Firefox Nightly more power-efficient. On Monday, Henrik Skupin, a senior test engineer at Mozilla, shared that there is about 3X decrease in power usage by Firefox Nightly on macOS. We can expect this change to possibly land in version 70, which is scheduled for October 22.
If you are running @FirefoxNightly on MacOS you will see a huge decrease of its power usage by a factor of about 3x, e.g when loading web pages! It's all about making use of CoreAnimation for rendering now. There is more to come… So don't forget to get the latest Nightly!
— Henrik Skupin (@whimboo) September 2, 2019
Updates for developers
- Debugger updates: With this release, debugging an application that has event handlers is easier. The debugger now includes the ability to automatically break when the code hits an event handler. Also, developers can now save the scripts shown in the debugger’s source list pane via the Download file context menu option.
- The Resize Observer API: Firefox 69 supports the Resize Observer API by default. This API provides a way to monitor any changes to an element’s size. It also notifies the observer each time when the size changes.
- Network panel updates: The network panel will now show the resources that got blocked because of CSP or Mixed Content. This will “allow developers to best understand the impact of content blocking and ad blocking extensions given our ongoing expansion of Enhanced Tracking Protection to all users with this release,” the team writes.
- Re-designed about:debugging: In Firefox 69, the team has now migrated remote debugging from the old WebIDE into a re-designed about:debugging.
Check out the official release notes to know what else has landed in Firefox 69.
Mozilla on Google’s Manifest V3
Chrome is proposing various changes to its extension platform called Manifest V3. In a blog post shared on Tuesday, Mozilla talked about its plans for implementing these changes and how it will affect extension developers.
One of the significant updates proposed in Manifest V3 is the deprecation of the blocking webRequest API, which allows extensions to intercept all inbound and outbound traffic from the browser. It then blocks, redirects, or modifies the intercepted traffic.
In place of this API, Chrome is planning to introduce declrativeNetRequest API, which limits the blocking version of the webRequest API. According to Manifest V3, the declarativeNetRequest API will be treated as the primary content-blocking API in extensions.
Explaining the impact of this proposed change if implemented, Mozilla wrote, “This API impacts the capabilities of content blocking extensions by limiting the number of rules, as well as available filters and actions. These limitations negatively impact content blockers because modern content blockers are very sophisticated and employ layers of algorithms to not only detect and block ads, but to hide from the ad networks themselves.”
Mozilla further shared that it does not have any immediate plans to remove blocking WebRequest API. “We have no immediate plans to remove blocking webRequest and are working with add-on developers to gain a better understanding of how they use the APIs in question to help determine how to best support them,” Mozilla wrote in the announcement.
However, Mozilla is willing to consider other changes that are proposed in Manifest V3. It is planning to implement the proposal that requires content scripts to have the same permissions as the pages where they get injected.
Read the official announcement to know more in detail about Mozilla’s plans regarding Manifest V3.