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Mozilla Firefox 8: What's New

Firefox users can now search Twitter more effectively and worry less about unauthorized add-ons.

Firefox 8 Beta: Visual Tour
Firefox 8 Beta: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Mozilla updated Firefox for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android Tuesday, with only a handful of new features in keeping with its recently adopted rapid-release cycle.

The desktop version of Firefox has reached version 8, though version numbers no longer mean what they once did. Firefox, like Google Chrome, gets updated every six weeks, a reflection of the breakneck pace of browser development. This has caused some problems among Firefox's enterprise users, but Mozilla has revived its enterprise working group to address corporate concerns more effectively.

Safari and Internet Explorer continue to be revised less often, in keeping with the more leisurely pace at which desktop software has traditionally been released.

The new version of Firefox adds Twitter as a search option. Users can select Twitter in the search query box to restrict queries to tweets. This option is now available in the English, Portuguese, Slovenian, and Japanese versions of Firefox.

Asked whether Mozilla is receiving payment from Twitter for the service's inclusion in Firefox, a company spokesperson said, "the specific details of the partnership are not being released." Mozilla makes most of its revenue from a search deal with Google.

[Find out more about the state of Web apps and HTML5. Read Google And Microsoft Explore HTML5's Future.]

Mozilla has also added a feature to enhance security and privacy: Firefox is now disabling add-ons installed by third parties without permission and asking the user to choose which should be enabled. It seems that not every third-party add-on explicitly seeks permission to be installed from the user, and Mozilla aims to rectify the situation.

The latest version of Firefox also adds support for a WebGL security feature: cross-origin resource sharing (CORS), which provides a secure method for loading textures from other domains. WebGL, a technology that brings hardware-accelerated graphics to the browser, has been under a cloud since Microsoft--which prefers its DirectX graphics technology over WebGL--declared it a security risk. WebGL matters to Google and Mozilla because it can help Web apps render 3-D graphics just as fast as desktop apps.

Firefox for Android also brings a new master password feature. It allows users to encrypt and save their usernames and passwords for other mobile Web apps in Firefox and to rely on the single master password.

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