What’s New in Firefox 8

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New browser releases used to be a major event. We tested the betas, evaluated the features and eagerly awaited the final version. Unless you’re using IE, those days are long gone. Few people know or care what edition of Chrome they’re running and Firefox is heading down the same road.

Firefox 8 was released on November 8, 2011 — just six weeks after version 7. You may have received an automatic update; if not, head over to getfirefox.com. The upgrade process is becoming smoother but you may encounter one or two add-on incompatibilities.

As usual, there are few obvious new features:

  • Speed has been boosted and you can reduce start-up times further by checking “Don’t load tabs until selected” on the Options “General” tab.
  • There’s a new Twitter option on the search bar which helps you find hashtags and @users. That said, it hasn’t appeared in my installation so it may depend on your locale or options. If necessary, you can install the Twitter search manually.
  • Android users can add home screen icons for bookmarked websites and applications.
  • The interface has received a few minor tweaks.
  • Developers can make use of Cross-Origin Resource Sharing which allows WebGL graphics and textures to be loaded from other domains.

However, the best new feature solves a major problem: atrocious add-ons. Firefox has thousands of extensions but not all are created equally. In addition, a number of unscrupulous software vendors bundle sneaky add-ons which are often hidden within installation settings or installed without the user’s consent. I’m looking at you Microsoft, Yahoo, Oracle, Nokia and anti-virus companies.

Companies claim their add-on aids browsing but few are genuinely useful. They often clutter the interface, hog memory or increase start-up times. In the worse cases, add-ons have an adverse effect on security or prevent uninstallation. Firefox is often accused of being a slow memory-hog; some criticism is justified but it often comes from users running numerous add-ons they didn’t authorize.

To prevent rogue extensions, Firefox 8 presents you with a list of add-ons when it first runs. Those not been authorized by the user are disabled by default:

Firefox add-on selection

If an extension is subsequently installed by other software, Firefox will disable the add-on and present a confirmation screen. The user must check “Allow this installation” to enable it.

Users have waited a long time for this feature to appear. While Mozilla cannot be blamed for the success of their add-ons system, it has been misused for too many years. I suspect extension authorization will do more to aid performance than many of the other enhancements.

Don’t delay updating: Firefox 9.0 is due on December 20, 2011.

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  • lukeB

    Thanks for the update. Those rouge (rogue) extensions are a menace.

  • Ashwan

    > To prevent rouge extensions

    How dare those extensions use red!? ;)

  • Jason

    Rouge? Shouldn’t that be rogue? And perhaps, in the “worst” cases.

  • Anonymous

    Has Mozilla fixed the memory issues? That is what I would like to know. I tried versions 4 to 7 and each one exhibited very high initial memory usage followed by a continuous and unreversed increase until the PC would freeze. In the light of that, which no other software has ever done for me, I was very loath to attempt to test Firefox with any extensions installed. I have begun to use Opera more frequently since then.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Firefox 7 improved memory usage considerably. I don’t think it’s a problem on Windows (Opera seems to use more), although I’m not sure about Mac performance.

      • Anonymous

        No, it certainly did not improve it, judging by my experience with it. Not in the least.

  • Richard

    I must be a bad developer as I’ve never heard of rouge extensions before. Are they ones that make cosmetic changes? ;)

  • http://www.carlosja.com CarlosJa

    I just updated to Firefox 8 because it was bugging the shit out of me. Now half my addons don’t work; It’s getting insane how FireFox keep coming up with new releases every few weeks.

  • http://www.myyehezkiel.tk yehezkiel

    wow 8 already…
    i still use firefox 7 now

  • http://itmitica.com/en/ IT Mitică

    “To prevent rouge extensions…”

    Are we to understand Firefox wants to put a stop to killer extensions? Or just wants to prevent those little pretentious french ones from stealing the spotlight?

    That said :) , as long as FF will have FB and NS it’s worth it.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Yes, very good. Dumb spell checker!

  • http://www.deluxive.se Christopher Anderton

    Add Adobe to that list. CS4 and the CS5 suites with Contribute installs a Firefox Extension/Plug-in that is kind of hard to uninstall (you need to poke around in some system folders).
    http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/questions/744847

  • Khalid

    I honestly still don’t get why Mozilla haven’t fixed the extension/addon issue.
    Obviously, Google, in starting from scratch had the opportunity to rethink extensions and make sure that upgrading(they, after all, started the six-week release cycle trend) didn’t break them. I would’ve thought things working as before would be a huge deal for Mozilla to get right, especially given the new release cycle.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Actually, the early versions of Chrome didn’t support extensions whereas Firefox did from the start. Chrome’s extensions are considerably simpler and have little interaction with the browser interface. That’s why you won’t find add-ons for tab management and similar.

  • The Schaef

    FF8 works well enough for me but I can’t say I’m a fan of the new release schedule. Releasing every six weeks makes sub-versions and minor updates obsolete. The .0 in 8.0 means nothing to me, and based on how little is being packed into what standards would suggest is a MAJOR revision is nothing to write home about.

    That wouldn’t bug me so much, except apparently devs need to recompile or something every time a new version comes out (my information is secondhand and kind of generalized), so constant updating means some apps are slow to catch up despite FF’s constant nagging me to upgrade. Apps that have not been updated in a while but would otherwise be stable would be broken and left in the dust for no good reason.

  • Michael M

    I think it’s great that Firefox keeps up and moves ahead. However I like to use the addons and every time they upgrade the browser I keep loosing more and more of my addons. Why don’t they have a team to keep up with the addons?

  • Laurie

    Just ugraded to FF8 and all my bookmarks are gone… no sign of them anywhere. Can’t even import them, the only date available is the day I upgraded, and I saved them on a regular basis.

    Years of internet browsing wasted. Have my forum passwords also been lost…. well I don’t know because I can’t get the sites without the bookmarks!

    What a load of ?£*^!