Archive for the ‘browsers’ Category

Microsoft culls secret Flash whitelist after Google points out its insecurity

February 20th, 2019
Microsoft culls secret Flash whitelist after Google points out its insecurity

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

In 2017, Microsoft changed its Edge browser so that Flash content would be click-to-run (or disabled outright) on virtually every site on the Web. A handful of sites were to be whitelisted, however, due to a combination of Flash dependence and high popularity.

The whitelist was intended to make it easier to move to a world using HTML5 for rich interactive content and to limit the impact of any future Flash vulnerabilities. At the same time, the list would still allow sites with complex Flash-dependent content to keep on running. If only a few trusted sites can run Flash content by default, it should be much harder for bad actors to take advantage of Flash flaws. A similar approach was adopted by other browsers; Google, for example, whitelisted the top-10 Flash-using sites for one year after switching Chrome to "click-to-run."

But Google figured out how Edge's whitelist worked (via ZDNet) and found that its implementation left something to be desired. The list of 58 sites (56 of which have been identified by Google) including some that were unsurprising; many of the entries are sites with considerable numbers of Flash games, including Facebook. Others seemed more peculiar; a Spanish hair salon, for example, was listed.

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Posted in browsers, EDGE, flash, microsoft, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Opera shows off its smart new redesign that’s just like all the other browsers

February 14th, 2019
Both the new dark view and light view look good.

Enlarge / Both the new dark view and light view look good. (credit: Opera)

Opera has unveiled a new look and feel for its browser. Expected to ship in version 59 and codenamed "Reborn 3" (R3), the new appearance adopts the same square edges and clean lines that we've seen in other browsers, giving the browser a passing similarity to both Firefox and Edge.

The principles of the new design? "We put Web content at center stage," the Opera team writes on its blog. The design is pared down so that you can browse "unhindered by unnecessary distractions." Borders and dividing lines have been removed, flattening out parts of the browser's interface and making them look more uniform and less eye-catching. The new design comes with the requisite dark and light modes, a welcome trend that we're glad to see is being widely adopted.

Being Web-centric is not a bad principle for an application such as a browser, where the bulk of the functionality and interest comes from the pages we're viewing rather than the browser itself. At first blush, I think that Opera has come up with something that looks good, but it does feel like an awfully familiar design rationale.

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Posted in browsers, opera, redesign, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

With experimental “Never slow mode,” Chrome tries to stop Web devs making it slow

February 6th, 2019
The word SLOW has been painted on a street for the benefit of drivers.

Enlarge / Google wants less of this. (credit: Vegansoldier / Flickr)

Since Chrome's very first release, performance has been one of Google's top priorities. But Google is against a competing force: Web developers. The Web of today is a more-complex, bandwidth-intensive place than it was when Chrome was first released, which means that—although Internet connections and the browser itself are faster than they've ever been—slow pages remain an everyday occurrence.

Google engineers have been developing "Never Slow Mode" in a bid to counter this. Spotted at Chrome Story (via ZDNet), the new mode places tight limitations on Web content in an effort to make its performance more robust and predictable.

The exact design and rationale of Never Slow Mode aren't public—the changelog for the feature mentions a design document but says it's currently Google-internal. But taken together, that design and rationale will ensure that the browser's main thread never has to do too much work and will never get too delayed. They will also ensure that only limited amounts of data are pulled down over the network. This should make the browser more responsive to user input, lighter on the network, and a bit less of a memory hog than it would otherwise be.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, Chromium, google, HTML, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Firefox taking a hard line against noisy video, banning it from autoplaying

February 5th, 2019
No red pandas were harmed in the making of this image, I promise.

Enlarge / No red pandas were harmed in the making of this image, I promise. (credit: Aurich / Getty)

Last year, Chrome introduced changes to try to prevent the persistent nuisance that is pages that automatically play noisy videos. Next month, Firefox will be following suit; Firefox 66, due on March 19, will prevent the automatic playback of any video that contains audio.

Mozilla's plan for Firefox is a great deal simpler, and a great deal stricter, than Chrome's system. In Chrome, Google has a heuristic that tries to distinguish between those sites where autoplaying is generally welcome (Netflix and YouTube, for example) and those where it isn't (those annoying sites that have autoplaying video tucked away in a corner to startle you when it starts making unexpected sounds). Firefox isn't doing anything like that; by default, any site that tries to play video with audio will have that video playback blocked.

Firefox users will be able to grant autoplay audio permission on a site-by-site basis.

Firefox users will be able to grant autoplay audio permission on a site-by-site basis.

Firefox users will be able to override this block on a site-by-site basis, so those sites where autoplay is inoffensive can have it re-enabled. This permission is automatically extended to sites that have previously been granted access to microphones or webcams, so that audio and video communications apps built using WebRTC will work as expected. Firefox will also allow muted video to play back automatically.

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Posted in browsers, development, Firefox, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

TIL: Firefox has a little-known feature to spare your blushes on the new-tab page

January 7th, 2019
That "Top Sites" section should never contain anything too embarrassing.

Enlarge / That "Top Sites" section should never contain anything too embarrassing.

For many of us, our browsers' new-tab pages are something of a liability. Whichever browser you use, they all follow a fairly similar style: a bunch of boxes linking to the sites that we use and visit regularly. This is great when your regular sites are Ars, Gmail, and Twitter. But all too often, sites of a less salubrious nature find their way onto our new-tab pages, disclosing to the world our dirty habits when nobody's watching. While we can, of course, clean up our new-tab pages by Xing out the buttons for the offending sites, a moment of inattention can all too easily expose our pornographic predilections to the world.

But one browser is working to protect our secrets: Firefox. A redditor spotted (via Techdows) that Firefox contains code to spare your blushes. The browser contains a hard-coded list of adult site domains, and if one of your most-visited sites is one of those domains, it will automatically be hidden from the new-tab page. As long as your porn viewing is reasonably mainstream, you never need to worry about Firefox spilling the beans.

It turns out that this isn't actually a new feature. Much like Chrome's advanced tab management capabilities, it's an old feature that's been newly spotted. Mozilla added the code to the browser about four years ago. It wasn't actually created to prevent potential new-tab page embarrassment; rather, it was to aid Firefox's commercialization efforts. Mozilla experimented with having sponsored content on the new-tab page, allowing companies to pay to have their sites promoted in those buttons. Many advertisers don't relish the thought of having their precious brands juxtaposed with Internet filth, so the Firefox developers added the blacklisting capability to try to prevent porn from appearing alongside sponsored content.

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Posted in browsers, Firefox, Open Source, Privacy, Tech | Comments (0)

Chrome’s getting a dark mode on Windows to match the one for macOS

January 3rd, 2019
Chrome's dark mode.

Enlarge / Chrome's dark mode.

Chrome 73 is going to include support for macOS 10.14's dark mode, with an alternative color scheme for its user interface that cuts the brightness. It's now clear that a Windows version of the same is in development, though it seems to trail the macOS version.

A bug report was spotted by Techdows, and preliminary work has been started to bring Windows its dark mode. Unlike its macOS counterpart, which should track the operating-system mode, the Windows dark mode currently has to be forcibly turned on with a command-line switch. Adding "--force-dark-mode" to the command line of current builds of Chrome 73 makes everything dark.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The macOS work has top priority (P1). The Windows work is only P2 (originally P3), surprisingly suggesting that it's less important, enough though Chrome has far more Windows 10 users than it does macOS users. Development of the Windows theme was at least, for a time, hindered by one of the developers not having a Windows laptop to use.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, dark mode, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Google isn’t the company that we should have handed the Web over to

December 17th, 2018
The word

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

With Microsoft's decision to end development of its own Web rendering engine and switch to Chromium, control over the Web has functionally been ceded to Google. That's a worrying turn of events, given the company's past behavior.

Chrome itself has about 72 percent of the desktop-browser market share. Edge has about 4 percent. Opera, based on Chromium, has another 2 percent. The abandoned, no-longer-updated Internet Explorer has 5 percent, and Safari—only available on macOS—about 5 percent. When Microsoft's transition is complete, we're looking at a world where Chrome and Chrome-derivatives take about 80 percent of the market, with only Firefox, at 9 percent, actively maintained and available cross-platform.

The mobile story has stronger representation from Safari, thanks to the iPhone, but overall tells a similar story. Chrome has 53 percent directly, plus another 6 percent from Samsung Internet, another 5 percent from Opera, and another 2 percent from Android browser. Safari has about 22 percent, with the Chinese UC Browser sitting at about 9 percent. That's two-thirds of the mobile market going to Chrome and Chrome derivatives.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, EDGE, Firefox, google, microsoft, Mozilla, Open Source, standards, Tech | Comments (0)

Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

December 4th, 2018
Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Windows Central reports that Microsoft is planning to replace its Edge browser, which uses Microsoft's own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine, with a new browser built on Chromium, the open source counterpart to Google's Chrome. The new browser has the codename Anaheim.

The report is short on details. The easiest thing for Microsoft to do would be to use Chromium's code wholesale—the Blink rendering engine, the V8 JavaScript engine, and the Chrome user interface with the Google Account parts omitted—to produce something that looks, works, and feels almost identical to Chrome. Alternatively, Redmond could use Blink and V8 but wrap them in Edge's user interface (or some derivative thereof), to retain its own appearance. It might even be possible to do something weird, such as use Blink with the Chakra JavaScript engine. We'll have to wait and see.

Since its launch with Windows 10, Edge has failed to gain much market share. The first iterations of Edge were extremely barebones, offering little more than a basic tabbed browser—no extensions, little control over behavior. Early releases of Edge were also not as stable as one might have liked, making the browser hard to recommend. Three years later on and Edge is greatly—but unevenly—improved. The browser engine's stability seems to be much better than it was, and performance and compatibility remain solid (though with the exception of a few corner cases, these were never a real concern).

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Posted in browsers, chrome, EDGE, microsoft, standards, Tech, Web, Windows | Comments (0)

Firefox 63 blocks tracking cookies, offers a VPN when you need one

October 23rd, 2018

Firefox 63, out today, includes the first iteration of what Mozilla is calling Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), a feature to improve privacy and stop your activity across the Web from being tracked.

Tracking cookies store some kind of unique identifier that represents your browser. The cookie is tied to a third-party domain—the domain of the tracking company, rather than the site you're visiting. Each site you visit that embeds the tracking cookie will allow the tracking company to see the sites you visit and, using that unique identifier, cross-reference different visits to different sites to build a picture of your online behavior.

Firefox has long had the ability to block all third-party cookies, but this is a crude solution, and many sites will break if all third-party cookies are prohibited. The new EPT option works as a more selective block on tracking cookies; third-party cookies still work in general, but those that are known to belong to tracking companies are blocked. For the most part, sites will retain their full functionality, just without undermining privacy at the same time.

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Posted in browsers, cookies, Firefox, Mozilla, Privacy, Tech, tracking, Web | Comments (0)

Vivaldi 2.0 review: Meet your ideal browser—if you’re willing to invest time

October 19th, 2018

Vivaldi

The Web browser is likely the most important piece of software on your hardware, whatever that hardware may be. In fact, whenever a new bit of hardware arrives that somehow lacks a way to browse the Web, invariably one of the first things enthusiasts will do is figure out a way to run a browser on it.

Despite their ubiquity, though, there remains very little difference between common Web browsers. Most people seem to get by with whatever was installed by default, and no wonder. Modern browsers like Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera are largely indistinguishable both in appearance and features—why bother with one over the other?

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