Firefox 69 is out: Flash squeezed out, tracking protection on by default

Firefox 69 brings its Enhanced Tracking Protection to all 100 million Firefox users.

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Mozilla today releases Firefox 69, bringing the next phase of retiring Adobe Flash, default protection against web trackers, and more blocks on autoplaying content. 

Mozilla has now published its release notes for Firefox 69, confirming the key changes it's been teasing throughout the year. 

First up, Firefox 69 is one step closer to killing off Adobe Flash for good, which will happen along with Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Chromium-based Edge in December 2020. 

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Firefox 69 disables Flash by default and similarly to Chrome 76, released in July, the Mozilla-made browser will make it more of a hassle to enable Flash. Users won't be able to choose which sites can play Flash content automatically and will need to activate it for each site on each visit.    

This version removes the 'Always Activate' option for Flash content. "Firefox will now always ask for user permission before activating Flash content on a website," Mozilla says in its release notes

Mozilla started making its Enhanced Tracking Protection – a blocker on invasive third-party scripts – on by default in June, but that was limited to new users. The feature was in Firefox with the release of version 63, last October. In Firefox 69 it will be on by default. 

"Currently over 20% of Firefox users have Enhanced Tracking Protection on. With today's release, we expect to provide protection for 100% of ours users by default," said Marissa Wood, vice president of product at Mozilla. 

Users will see a purple shield icon in the address bar when Enhanced Tracking Prevention is working. 

Mozilla has fleshed out an anti-tracking policy, recently outlining the types of tracking it will target with the system. It wants to curb techniques that are used to build profiles of a user's browsing activity. 

The enhancements to tracking protection mean that by default the 'Standard' setting will block third-party tracking cookies and crypto miners.  

The optional 'Strict' setting also blocks fingerprinting techniques in addition to things it blocks in 'Standard' mode, including known trackers compiled by Disconnect.me, third-party tracking cookies, and cryptominers.   

Mozilla is also developing an Enhanced Tracking Protection Report, which displays a bar chart of the types of trackers and how many of them it's blocked over the past week. The new report appears to be arriving in Firefox 70.   

Firefox 69 is also getting a new option to block any video that automatically starts playing, even the ones that don't play with sound. 

Users with the en-US Firefox will see a new 'New Tab' experience that pushes more curated content from Mozilla-owned Pocket. 

And Windows 10 users on the May 2019 Update should see more passwordless options, thanks to Firefox's support of the WebAuthn HmacSecret extension via Windows Hello. 

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Firefox on Windows 10 should start to offer hints for setting appropriate content process priority levels. These settings will optimize processor time to focus on current tasks rather than background tasks. Existing Firefox users will be able to launch Firefox faster now with a new shortcut on the Windows 10 taskbar. 

Mozilla has some big battery saving plans for macOS users in the pipeline, but Firefox 69 will also deliver some benefits too. 

"macOS users on dual-graphics-card machines (like MacBook Pro) will switch back to the low-power GPU more aggressively, saving battery life," Mozilla notes. 

Additionally Finder on macOS now displays a download progress for files being downloaded. 

Mozilla hasn't disclosed security fixes for this release yet, but notes it addresses multiple vulnerabilities. 

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