Firefox 23 beta introduces better security and sharing

Firefox 23 beta is available to download, offering better protection against man-in-the-middle attacks and a new Share button.

The next version of Mozilla Firefox for desktop is available in beta, introducing increased protection against man-in-the-middle attacks and eavesdroppers.

Firefox 23 beta introduces mixed content blocking to reduce the vulnerability of "secure" websites that are served via HTTPS.

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When a user visits a page served over HTTPS, their connection with the server is authenticated and content sent between their computer and the server is encrypted via Secure Socket Layer.

This encryption offers protection against people tampering or listening in to the communication. However, if elements of the HTTPS page are sent unencrypted over HTTP, they can be used to intercept information or tamper with the page.

Active content, such as JavaScript or CSS, served over an unencrypted connection can be used to intercept data sent to or alter the secure parts of the page sent via HTTPS.

To help prevent this tampering, Firefox 23's mixed content blocker will block this unencrypted active content on pages where elements are sent via HTTPS.

New social features

The release also sees the introduction of a new Share button, which will let users share content on social networks with one click.

With this release all website owners will also be able to push information to users through Firefox's Social API, which allows sites and networks to be integrated with the browser.

The Social API allows updates from social networks and websites to be displayed in a side panel in the browser, and elsewhere in the UI. The feature was announced last year and offers integration with Facebook and a number of other providers.

Also included in the new release is support for the new scrollbar style in Mac OS X 10.7 and later.

Other improvements allow users to switch to a new search provider across the entire browser and DXVA2 being enabled on Windows Vista+ to accelerate H.264 decoding.

Additional new features for web devs include a network monitor that displays a timeline of network activity on a site and support for the HTML5 range input type, which can be used to create sliders to pick from a range of numbers.