Firefox 63 released with 'always-on' tracking protection

Starting with Firefox 63, Mozilla's Tracking Protection feature is now enabled for all users.

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Mozilla today started rolling out Firefox 63 to its userbase. This release comes with many new features, but the biggest is the overhauled Tracking Protection feature that Mozilla first added to Firefox a few years back.

Initially, Tracking Protection worked by blocking ad trackers during Private Browsing sessions only. The feature was expanded in subsequent years to also block scripts associated with social buttons, analytics services, fingerprinting attempts, and for a short while, even some in-browser cryptocurrency-mining services.

The feature got a significant boost with the release of Firefox 57 when Mozilla also gave users the ability to enable Tracking Protection all the time, not just Private Browsing sessions.

With today's Firefox 63 release, Mozilla has kept a promise it made earlier this year in May when it pledged to revamp the feature and enable it by default for all users.

Rebranded as Enhanced Tracking Protection or Content Blocking, this feature works by blocking all "trackers," as defined by the Disconnect.me blocklist, which Mozilla has been using since the feature's earliest days.

In a blog post today, Mozilla also said that it plans to take the Tracking Protection feature to the next level with the ability to block not only JavaScript code, but also cookie files.

This option is already available in Firefox 63, but Mozilla plans to turn it on for everyone starting with Firefox 65, scheduled for release in January 2019.

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With today's deployment of its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature, Firefox now joins the ranks of Opera and Chrome as browsers that ship with default settings that block ads and online trackers.

But this isn't the only new thing in Firefox 63. Today's release also includes more:

  • The build infrastructure of Firefox on Windows has been moved to the Clang toolchain, bringing important performance gains.
  • The Firefox theme now matches the Windows 10 OS Dark and Light modes.
  • WebExtensions now run in their own process on Linux.
  • Firefox now warns about having multiple windows and tabs open when quitting from the main menu.
  • Firefox now recognizes the operating system accessibility setting for reducing animation.
  • Firefox 63 comes with search shortcuts for Top Sites. Amazon and Google appear as Top Sites tiles on the Firefox Home (New Tab) page. When selected these tiles will change focus to the address bar to initiate a search. Currently in the US only.
  • Firefox for Android supports Picture-in-Picture mode.

Besides these new additions, it is also important to note that starting with this release, Mozilla has also removed the "Never check for updates" option from the Firefox settings panel.

From now on, users will only be able to select from the "Automatically install updates" and "Check for updates but let you choose to install them" update settings.

This doesn't mean that Firefox is preventing users from blocking updates. Users can select the second option and opt not to install updates until they're ready.

The full Firefox 63 for Desktop changelog is available here, while the Firefox 63 for Android changelog is here. The changelog for the new web API technologies added to Firefox 63 is available here. A review of new developer tools added to Firefox 63 is available in a separate blog post here. Firefox 63 also includes fixes for 14 security bugs.

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