Since the launch of Firefox Focus as a content blocker for iOS in December 2015, we’ve continuously improved the now standalone browser for Apple and Android while always being mindful of users’ requests and suggestions. We analyze app store reviews and evaluate regularly which new features make our privacy browser even more user-friendly, efficient and secure. Today’s update for iOS and Android adds functionality to further simplify accessing information on the web. And we are happy to make Focus for Android available to a new group: BlackBerry Key2 users.
On point: find keywords easily with “Find in page” feature for all websites
Desktop browsing without the “search page” feature? Unthinkable! On mobile, it is now also super simple to find the content you’re looking for on a website: Open the Focus menu, select “Find in page” and enter your search term. Firefox Focus will immediately highlight any mention of your keyword or phrase on the site, including the count of instances. You can then use the handy arrow buttons to jump between the instances.
“Find in page” applies to all kinds of websites, no matter if they’re optimized for mobile browsing or not. Why are we pointing this out? Many users are still not completely comfortable browsing the web on their mobile devices because mobile, non-responsive versions of their favorite websites may not have the full range of features, are confusing or simply less appealing simplified versions of the desktop page, reduced to fit the smaller screen. As of today, Firefox Focus enables users to display the desktop page in such cases. Simply choose “request desktop page” in the browser menu to browse the more familiar desktop version of your favorite website.
Find your search terms easily on mobile and desktop versions of your favorite websites
Make Focus your own — with Custom Tabs and biometric access features
Our intent with Firefox Focus is to give users the most comfortable browsing experience — by making them feel safe and protected, enabling them to enjoy intuitive navigation as well as an appealing design. A great example for how we ensure that is our support and continuous improvement of Custom Tabs. When opening links from some third-party apps, such as Twitter or Yelp, and when Focus is set as default browser on the respective device, Firefox Focus will display the corresponding page in the familiar look and feel of the original app, including menu colors and options. Now you can share this experience even faster with your friends. Just long press the URL to copy it to the clipboard for sharing or pasting elsewhere. Currently, this feature is available only to Android users.
iOS users will enjoy even more personalization with today’s version of Focus because they can now set Focus up to lock whenever it is backgrounded, and unlock only with a successful Face or Touch ID verification. This feature is common in banking apps, and provides another layer of security for browsing privacy by only allowing you, and no unauthorized user, to access your version of Focus.
Unlock Firefox Focus via Touch or Face ID to add another layer of security to your private browsing experience.
A shout out to BlackBerry users
Recently, the BlackBerry KEY2 – manufactured by TCL Communication – was introduced, representing the most advanced Blackberry ever. Bringing Firefox’s features, functionality and choice to our users no matter how they browse is important to us. So we’re proud to announce that Firefox Focus is pre-installed as part of the Locker application found on the BlackBerry KEY2.
This data protection application, integrated into the KEY2 user experience, can only be opened by fingerprint or password, which makes it the ideal solution for securely storing sensitive user data such as photos, documents and even apps — as well as the perfect place for Firefox Focus.
The latest version of Firefox Focus for Android and iOS is now available for download on Google Play, in the App Store.
We are very happy to announce the results of the 2018H1 Mozilla Research Grants. This was an extremely competitive process, with over 115 applicants. We selected a total of eight proposals, ranging from tools to fight online harassment to systems for generating speech. All these projects support Mozilla’s mission to make the Internet safer, more empowering, and more accessible.
The Mozilla Research Grants program is part of Mozilla’s Emerging Technologies commitment to being a world-class example of inclusive innovation and impact culture-and reflects Mozilla’s commitment to open innovation, continuously exploring new possibilities with and for diverse communities. We will open the 2018H2 round in Fall of 2018: see our Research Grant webpage for more details and to sign up to be notified when applications open.
Texas A&M University
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Predictively Detecting and Debugging Multi-threaded Use-After-Free Vulnerabilities in Firefox
Eduardo Vicente Gon?alves
Open Knowledge Foundation, Brazil
Data Science for Civic Innovation Programme
A Brazilian bot to read government gazettes and bills: Using NLP to empower citizens and civic movements
University of Washington
Human Centered Design and Engineering
Task-Appropriate Synthesized Speech
University of Cambridge
Trustworthy Technologies Initiative
Trust and Technology: building shared understanding around trust and distrust
University of Michigan
School of Information and Institute for Social Research
Learning and Automating De-escalation Strategies in Online Discussions
University of Central Florida
Department of Computer Science
A Community-based Approach to Co-Managing Privacy and Security for Mozilla’s Web of Things
Munmun De Choudhury
Georgia Institute of Technology
School of Interactive Computing
Combating Professional Harassment Online via Participatory Algorithmic and Data-Driven Research
Georgia Institute of Technology
College of Computing
Virtual Reality for Classrooms-at-a-Distance in Online Education
Many thanks to all our applicants in this very competitive and high-quality round.
Here’s a surprising fact: It costs money to watch video online, even on free sites like YouTube. That’s because about 4 in 5 videos on the web today rely on a patented technology called the H.264 video codec.
A codec is a piece of software that shrinks large media files so they can travel quickly over the internet. In browsers, codecs decode video files so we can play them on our phones, tablets, computers, and TVs. As web users, we take this performance for granted. But the truth is, companies pay millions of dollars each year to bring us free video – and the bills are only going to get bigger.
Today most video files can play on most devices, thanks to the ubiquity of H.264. How might this situation change? Let’s start with some facts and factors that govern the big business of web video.
Streaming video costs (a lot of) money. A lot of companies pay a lot of money to use H.264. They include software and networking companies; content creators and distributors like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube; and chip manufacturers like ARM. Where does the money go? To MPEG-LA, which represents tech innovators in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, and Holland.
Newer codecs are twice as efficient. In the business world, efficiency equals money. Better compression opens the door to two key business benefits: better video quality and lower bandwidth costs. Companies like Cisco, YouTube, and Netflix pay massive networking bills to send video files to your browser. Today, more than 70% of all internet traffic is video, and that percentage is predicted to top 80% in the next few years.
New codecs may cost ten times more. MPEG-LA’s next-generation HEVC/H.265 is more efficient than H.264. The downside is, it carries 23 patents and remarkably confusing terms, originally created for DVD players. Early estimates show licensing fees for H.265 could cost ten times more than today’s H.264. Who will absorb those costs? How much will companies like Netflix have to pass on in fee hikes to stay profitable?
With H.264, small players get a free ride. To help build momentum for the H.264 codec, Cisco announced in 2013 it would open-source H.264. Cisco offered H.264 binaries to developers free of charge, so small shops could add streaming functionality to their applications. Mozilla uses Cisco’s OpenH264 in Firefox. If not for Cisco’s generosity, Mozilla would be paying estimated licensing fees of $9.75 million a year. Now the question is: Will Cisco cover licensing fees for HEVC/H.265 as well? If not, what impact will royalties have on web development? How will startups, hobbyists, and open source projects get access to this crucial web technology?
A drive to create royalty-free codecs
Mozilla is driven by a mission to make the web platform more capable, safe, and performant for all users. With that in mind, the company has been supporting work at the Xiph.org Foundation to create royalty-free codecs that anyone can use to compress and decode media files in hardware, software, and web pages.
But when it comes to video codecs, Xiph.org Foundation isn’t the only game in town.
Over the last decade, several companies started building viable alternatives to patented video codecs. Mozilla worked on the Daala Project, Google released VP9, and Cisco created Thor for low-complexity videoconferencing. All these efforts had the same goal: to create a next-generation video compression technology that would make sharing high-quality video over the internet faster, more reliable, and less expensive.
In 2015, Mozilla, Google, Cisco, and others joined with Amazon and Netflix and hardware vendors AMD, ARM, Intel, and NVIDIA to form AOMedia. As AOMedia grew, efforts to create an open video format coalesced around a new codec: AV1. AV1 is based largely on Google’s VP9 code and incorporates tools and technologies from Daala, Thor, and VP10.
Why Mozilla loves AV1
Mozilla loves AV1 for two reasons: AV1 is royalty-free, so anyone can use it free of charge. Software companies can use it to build video streaming into their applications. Web developers can build their own video players for their sites. It can open up business opportunities, and remove barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, artists, and regular people. Most importantly, a royalty-free codec can help keep high-quality video affordable for everyone.
Source: Graphics & Media Lab Video Group, Moscow State University
The second reason we love AV1 is that it delivers better compression technology than even high-efficiency codecs – about 30% better, according to a Moscow State University study. For companies, that translates to smaller video files that are faster and cheaper to transmit and take up less storage space in their data centers. For the rest of us, we’ll have access to gorgeous, high-definition video through the sites and services we already know and love.
Today, we’re excited to announce the first Test Pilot experiments for your mobile devices. With these two experiences, we are pushing beyond the boundaries of the desktop browser and into mobile apps. We’re taking the first steps toward bringing Mozilla’s mission of privacy, security and control to mobile apps beyond the browser.
What Are the New Mobile Test Pilot Experiments?
Firefox Lockbox for iOS – Take your passwords everywhere
Are you having a tough time keeping track of all the different passwords you’ve made for your online accounts? How many times have you had to reset a password you forgot? What do you do when you’ve saved a password on your desktop but have no way to access that online account on your mobile device? Look no further, we’ve created a simple app to take your passwords anywhere you go.
With Firefox Lockbox, iOS users will be able to seamlessly access Firefox saved passwords. This means you can use any password you’ve saved in the browser to log into any online account like your Twitter or Instagram app. No need to open a web page. It’s that seamless and simple. Plus, you can also use Face ID and Fingerprint touch to unlock the app, so you can safely access your accounts.
Notes by Firefox for Android – Simple, secure, note-taking anywhere
Jotting down quick notes is something many of us do everyday to keep track of our busy lives. Whether you’re on your desktop at home or at the office, or on the go with your mobile device, we want to make sure you’re able to access those notes wherever you are.
Notes by Firefox is a simple, secure place to take and store notes across your devices – desktop AND mobile. Now Firefox account users have the option to sync notes from any Firefox browser on any Android smartphone or tablet. Plus, your files are encrypted from end-to-end,, which means that only you can read them.
Sync notes from any Firefox browser on any Android smartphone or tablet
How do I get started?
The Test Pilot program is open to all Firefox users and helps us test and evaluate a variety of potential Firefox features. To activate the new Lockbox and Notes extensions, you must have a Firefox Account and Firefox Sync for full functionality.
If you’re familiar with Test Pilot then you know all our projects are experimental, so we’ve made it easy to give us feedback or disable features at any time from testpilot.firefox.com.
We’re committed to making your web browsing experience more efficient, and are excited for the even bigger mobile experiments still ahead.
I’m thrilled to welcome Sunil Abraham as Mozilla Foundation’s new VP, Leadership Programs. Sunil joins us from The Centre for Internet and Society, the most recent chapter in a 20 year career of developing free and open source software and an open internet agenda.
During our search we stated a goal of finding someone with “deep experience working on some aspect of internet health; and a proven track record building high impact organizations and teams.” In Sunil we have managed to find just that. An engineer by training, much of Sunil’s research and policy work has deep technical grounding. For example one of his current projects is doing a human rights review of various Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards with Article 19. He has also founded and run two organizations: Mahiti, a non-profit software development shop; and The Centre for Internet and Society, a policy and technology think tank in Bangalore. Sunil is truly ‘of the movement’ and is perfectly positioned to help us build a strong cadre of internet health leaders all around the world.
Our global community is the linchpin in our strategy to grow a movement to create a healthier digital world. In this role, Sunil will head up the programs that bring people from around the world into our work — the Internet Health Report, MozFest, our fellowships and awards — with the aim of supporting people who want to take a leadership role in this community. In addition to a great passion for Mozilla’s mission and issues, Sunil also brings a tremendous amount of experience working on this kind of leadership development. He’s worked closely with Ashoka and the Open Society Foundation in developing leaders for many years. And, notably, the Centre for Internet and Society has been a home for many of the key players in India’s open internet space.
Sunil is starting out immediately as an advisor to Mozilla’s executive team and directors, working a few hours per week. He will move to Berlin and start full time in his new role in January 2019. We will be planning a community town hall to welcome Sunil to our community and give everyone a chance to connect with him. Look for more in September.
We are deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court 5-4 ruling which provides a legal basis for the Trump Administration to prohibit individuals from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela from entering the United States. We agree with the four dissenting Justices that the majority ignored key facts that overwhelmingly showed that this is a religious ban that “masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns.”
At issue is the Trump Administration’s third Executive Order on immigration, which differed from the original January 2017 and March 2017 orders by the removal of Iraq and Sudan, and the addition of three non-muslim majority countries. Five Justices held that the President has broad discretion to protect national security, and irrespective of Trump’s personal beliefs or statements, his action was justified because he consulted with other agencies and officials on whether people from certain countries posed security risks.
This was harshly criticized in the two dissenting opinions as a highly abridged account that ignores:
repeated anti-muslim statements without apology by Trump and some of the officials with whom he consulted;
public statistics showing that people eligible to receive a waiver under the very terms of the Order are being denied;
weak analysis and preparation done in the agency review;
lack of exemptions for people in need, such as asylum seekers; and
efforts to edit the Executive Orders to make them more justifiable based on territory than religion
Cumulatively, the dissenting justices believed there was enough evidence to hold the Executive Order unlawful. Unfortunately, history will not reflect that. Since Trump issued his first travel ban, Mozilla and 100+ tech companies filed several “friend of the court” briefs warning against its adverse consequences and reminding the Court of the importance of diversity.
The internet is built, maintained, and governed through a myriad of global civil society, private sector, government, academic, and developer communities. Travel across borders is central for their cooperation and exchange of ideas and information. It is also necessary for a global workforce that reflects the diversity of the internet itself.
Today’s opinion turns “a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals.” We will continue our fight to protect the internet. Countries may arbitrarily close their borders, but the internet must remain open and accessible to everyone.
Even though summer is here in the northern hemisphere, we’re not taking any breaks. Firefox continues our focus on making a browser that is smarter and faster than any other, so you can get stuff done before you take that much needed outdoor stroll.
Key highlights for this update include:
Add Search Engines: users can now more easily add custom search engines to the location bar in Firefox enabling quicker and more streamlined search functionality. Imagine searching an actor’s name, now with Firefox you can automatically search through IMDB in the location bar.
Tab Warming: speedier response times are now available when switching between tabs because Firefox is preemptively loading tabs when you’re hovering over them.
Retained Display Lists: access to the pages you frequently visit quicker, thanks to retained display lists. This new functionality locally remembers content that has been visited previously, so it doesn’t need to be reloaded each time you go to the site.
Accessibility Tools Inspector: ability for creators and developers to now easily make pages for users with accessibility requirements. Firefox is committed to a stronger, more accessible browser and this new tool supports that mission.
WebExtension Tab Management: Sometimes you’re listening to music in a tab, but you don’t really want that tab taking up space as you browse the web. In today’s new release, WebExtensions can now hide tabs as well as manage the behavior of the browser when a tab is opened or closed, so you can expect to see exciting new extensions that take advantage of these features in the near future.
For additional information on developer news in today’s update, visit here. For more details on all of today’s news, you can review our release notes here.
Check out and download the latest version of Firefox Quantum available here.
Virtual Reality (VR) content has arrived on the web, with help from the WebVR API. It’s a huge inflection point for a medium that has struggled for decades to reach a wide audience. Now, anyone with access to an internet-enabled computer or smartphone can enjoy VR experiences, no headset required. A good place to start? WITHIN’s freshly launched VR website.
From gamers to filmmakers, VR is the bleeding edge of self-expression for the next generation. It gives content creators the opportunity to tell stories in new ways, using audience participation, parallel narratives, and social interaction in ever-changing virtual spaces. With its immersive, 360-degree audio and visuals, VR has outsized power to activate our emotions and to put us in the center of the action.
WITHIN is at the forefront of this shift toward interactive filmmaking and storytelling. The company was one of the first to launch a VR distribution platform that showcases best-in-class VR content with high production values.
“Film is this incredible medium. It allows us to feel empathy for people that are very different from us, in worlds completely foreign to our own,” said Chris Milk, co-founder of WITHIN, in a Ted Talk. “I started thinking, is there a way I could use modern and developing technologies to tell stories in different ways, and tell different kinds of stories that maybe I couldn’t tell using the traditional tools of filmmaking that we’ve been using for 100 years?”
Simple to use
WITHIN’s approach is to bring curated and original VR experiences directly to viewers for free, rather than trying to gain visibility for their content through existing channels. Until now, VR content was mostly presented to headset users via the manufacturer’s store websites. So if you shelled out hundreds of dollars for an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you would see a library of content when you fired up your rig.
With its new site, WITHIN is making VR content accessible to everyone, whether they’re watching on a laptop, mobile phone, or headset. The company produces immersive VR experiences with high-profile partners like the band OK Go and Tyler Hurd. It also distributes top-tier VR experiences, like family-friendly animation and nature shows, with 360-degree visuals and stereoscopic sound.
“We aim to make it as easy as possible for fans to discover and share truly great VR experiences,” said Jon Rittenberg, Content Launch Manager at WITHIN.
The key to reaching a vast potential audience of newcomers is to make a platform that is simple to use and easy to explore. Most importantly, it should work without exposing visitors to technical hurdles. That’s a challenge for two reasons.
First, the web is famously democratic. Companies like WITHIN have no control over who comes to their site, what device they’re on, what operating system that device runs, or how much bandwidth they have. Second, the web is still immature as a VR platform, with a growing but limited number of tools.
To build a platform that ‘just works’, the engineers at WITHIN turned to the WebVR API. Mozilla engineers built the foundation for the WebVR API with a goal to give companies like WITHIN a simpler way to support a range of viewing options without having to rewrite their code for each platform. WebVR provides support for exposing VR devices and headsets to web apps, enabling developers to translate position and movement information from the display into movement around a 3D scene.
Adapting content to devices
Using the WebVR specification, the company built its WITHIN WebVR site so it could adapt to dozens of factors and give new viewers a consistently great experience. In an amazing proof-of-concept for VR on the web, the company was able to optimize each streaming experience to a wide range of platforms and displays, like Vive, Rift, PSVR, iOS, Android, GearVR, and Oculus Go.
“The API really helped us out. It gave us all the pieces we needed,” said Jono Brandel, Lead Designer at WITHIN. “Without the WebVR API, we could not have done any of this stuff in the browser. We wouldn’t have access to VR headsets.”
The WITHIN WebVR site does a fantastic job of adapting its VR content to a range of devices. The site can identify a visitor’s device and push content suited for that device, making it easy on the end user. The majority of visitors to WITHIN’s VR site arrive on a Cardboard device that works with their smartphone. That delivers a basic experience: 3D stereoscopic visuals with some gyroscopic controls.
Headset users get the same content with higher resolution visuals and binaural audio, which brings life-like sound effects to VR experiences. The VR content can also adapt to different head and hand tracking inputs, and supports common navigational tools in popular headsets. Folks visiting via a browser can view VR content just as they would play a 3D, interactive game or watch a 360-degree video online.
To get this level of adaptive support took quite a bit of work behind the scenes. “We have a room filled with a ton of devices: smartphones, computers, and operating systems. We’ve got everything,” Brandel said. “It’s really cool that one code base supports all of these platforms.”
A more capable web platform
The web is a great platform for creating and experiencing VR. It’s easy to share content broadly, across continents and cultures. And it’s simple to get started building 3D experiences using free tools like A-Frame, invented by Mozilla engineers with help from a talented and dedicated open source community.
“We’re excited to see such big platforms making a bet on WebVR,” said Lars Bergstrom, Director of Mixed Reality at Mozilla. “As new devices reach more people, we expect the WebVR specification will continue to grow and evolve.”
Mozilla and WITHIN are also collaborating to make the open web platform even better for VR distribution. The two companies are working together on a series of experiments to make WebVR versions of popular players as capable as native applications, using tech standards WebGL and WebAssembly.
The goal is to make it simpler for content creators to push their stories and games to the web, without having to do a lot of coding work. The two companies are exploring how to use Unity’s popular gaming platform to streamline the publication to the web, while still delivering performance, stability, and scale for immersive experiences.
Today, we’re announcing new features in Firefox for iOS to make your life easier. Whether you’re a multi-tasker or someone who doesn’t want to waste time, we’re rolling out new features to up your productivity game.
Taking your file downloads on the go
For those times when you need to leave the office but want to read that file during your commute or at a later time, we now provide support for downloading files to your mobile devices. First download them to your device, then access and share it in the main menu where you’ll find a folder with all your downloads.
Easy to download
A folder with your downloads
One-Stop Place for Saving your Links
Did you ever come across an article that catches your eye but don’t have time to read it right away? We’ve added a one-stop menu to give you choices on what to do with the link. You can open it directly in Firefox, add it to your bookmark or reading list to peruse at your convenience, or send it to another device that’s linked to your Firefox account.
A one-stop menu with choices
Are you Synced?
You’ll get the answer quickly now that we’ve made it easier to see whether your mobile device is connected to all your devices where you use Firefox. Click on the menu button listed prominently at the top of the application menu. From there, you’ll see if you’re synced, and if you aren’t you’ll have the option to do so. If you don’t have a Firefox Account, you can sign up directly here.
From the top of the app menu you’ll see if you’re synced or not
Firefox continues to bring convenience to iOS users. To get the latest version of Firefox for iOS, visit the App Store.
Over the last three months, Mozilla has been a vocal critic of Facebook’s practices with respect to its lack of user transparency. Throughout this time we’ve engaged with Facebook directly about this and have continued to comment publicly as the story about Facebook’s data practices evolves.
Mozilla Corporation recently received two termination notices from Facebook about work that we did with them in the past. These appear to be part of Facebook’s broader effort to clean up its third-party developer ecosystem. This is good – we suspect that we weren’t the only ones receiving these notices. Still, the notices, and recent reporting of Facebook data sharing with device makers, prompted us to take a closer look at our past relationships with the company and we think it is important to talk about what we found.
At a high level we found that Mozilla Corporation had two agreements with Facebook initiated in 2012 and 2013 respectively. No information from Facebook was transferred to Mozilla Corporation in either situation but there were permissions granted to Mozilla Corporation in the agreements with respect to user data. In fact, in one case, our engineers noticed the overly broad access and requested that Facebook limit it. Here are some additional details:
In 2012, Mozilla Corporation had an agreement with Facebook that was intended to make it easier for individuals using Facebook through the Firefox browser to interface with the Facebook application. The relationship was part of our work on the Social API, an effort to integrate social experiences more seamlessly into the browser. As part of that agreement, Facebook was able to display web pages, including users’ data appearing on those pages, in specialized locations in the Firefox browser. This means that data was sent directly to the browser client, and none of the users’ Facebook information was shared with Mozilla Corporation. You can find more publicly available information about this integration here.
The 2013 agreement related to our now-defunct mobile operating system, Firefox OS. When users began using a Firefox OS device, they were given the explicit option of importing their Facebook contacts onto that device. Again, none of the users’ Facebook information was shared with Mozilla. When users disconnected their Facebook account, they were given the option of removing their Facebook data from the device. You can see in our public bug tracker that our team actually asked Facebook to remove some data access permissions because “we shouldn’t request permissions we don’t need.”
While these agreements have remained in effect, the work on these projects had already ended. We finished deprecating the Social API in 2017. Mozilla stopped development of Firefox OS in 2015, although any Firefox OS devices still in use today may retain access until Facebook shuts down that access in accordance with their termination notice.
We are bringing this to your attention because we want to be clear that our products technically had access to Facebook’s APIs and because we want to explain what was done with that access. We encourage other companies to review their relationships with Facebook and to be transparent about what those involved. That level of transparency is what is needed today to build a healthier, more trustworthy Internet that puts users first.