Mozilla released Firefox version 48, which includes the long-awaited and much-delayed Electrolysis multi-process and sandboxing architecture. It also includes expanded protection against unwanted and uncommon downloads as well as some user experience improvements.
Mozilla has been working on turning Firefox into a browser that can handle one process per tab since 2009. It has been a long and painful road to make Electrolysis work in Firefox, in large part because Mozilla wasn’t written from the ground-up as a multi-process browser like Chrome was. Its add-on model also makes it difficult to have such an architecture without breaking everything.
The main benefit of Electrolysis right now is that it separates the browser UI from the content into two main processes. This feature means a heavier page shouldn’t slow down the whole browser anymore when it’s loading.
The second stage of the Electrolysis architecture will give each tab its own process so that a heavier tab can’t slow down other loading tabs, either. It should also increase security by sandboxing each tab.
Finally, in the third stage, Mozilla plans to put the add-ons into their own sandboxes as well, reaching parity with Chrome’s own sandboxing architecture.
Mozilla’s old add-on model, which isn’t very compatible with Electrolysis, is one of the reasons why the company is working on switching to the simpler Chrome-like extension model. It’s also why Firefox 48 will initially enable Electrolysis by default for only one percent of the users who don’t have any add-ons installed.
Over the next few weeks, Electrolysis should be enabled by default for 100 percent of all the users without any add-ons, which should be about half of the total Firefox 48 users. In versions 49 and 50, Mozilla will continue to gradually enable Electrolysis for users with Electrolysis-compatible add-ons as well.
To check whether your Firefox browser has Electrolysis enabled, Type “about:support” into the address bar. If Electrolysis is active, you’ll see “1/1 (Enabled by default)” under the “Multiprocess Windows” line item.
Eventually, Firefox should enable Electrolysis by default for all users, but that may be a few more Firefox versions away. Mozilla wants to give add-on developers enough time to adapt to the Electrolysis architecture so it won't break their add-ons for too many users.
Mozilla announced yesterday that it would adopt two new protections against potentially malicious downloads from the web, thanks to Google’s “Safe Browsing” service, which Chrome, Firefox, and Safari use.
The first protection is about blocking downloads of programs that could modify a user’s system without consent. Mozilla calls these “potentially unwanted software.” The second protection measure is against files that users do not commonly download, which means they represent a greater security risk.
Users can manually bypass all of these protections if they think the files they downloaded are safe. The user can also completely disable protections from the security options in Firefox 48 and beyond.
Mozilla said that it has made its “awesome bar” much better by showing more suggestions, as well as a wider view of them, which helps users to find what they’re looking for faster. When a website is in your bookmarks, it will also display with an icon alongside its URL.
The company redesigned its add-ons page as well, making it easier to install featured add-ons with a single click.
Firefox For Android Changes
A new version of Firefox for Android also came out today, which merges Reading List items into the Bookmarks panel to simplify things for users. This change also means that Firefox will sync Reading List items across devices. It also merged synced tabs into the History panel for the same reasons.
Mozilla brought a few improvements to how video works in the Firefox for Android browser, too. When you get a call while watching a video, the browser will auto-pause the video so you can make the call. The company also added a toolbar to manage audio controls and streamlined the touch controls on all video content.
You can download the new version of Firefox for the desktop from Mozilla’s website, while users can find the new Firefox for Android in Google’s Play Store.