Mozilla: Firefox 75 gets this new address bar, but we're pausing features over coronavirus

Mozilla has delayed new security features in case they break home users' access to services during the pandemic.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Firefox maker Mozilla has released version 75 of the browser with a revamped address bar and major search improvements. 

But while it won't change its regular browser release schedule as Google and Microsoft have done during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it is holding back new security and privacy features that affect site compatibility. 

Many of Mozilla's recent releases have tackled privacy and online tracking, but the focus on Firefox 75 is all about improving search for everyone who is remote working. 

It's also focused on maintaining backward-compatibility to ensure Firefox changes don't kill access to key websites, such as government services and video-conferencing apps. 

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However, Firefox 75 does bring search improvements via a larger address bar for searches, larger fonts, shorter URLs and search term suggestions. 

It's also been optimized for smaller laptop screens and there's a fix for Firefox on Linux to bring its address bar in line with Firefox for macOS and Windows 10. 

Also, Firefox is now available in Flatpak, an app distribution system for Linux machines that was built by developers from Red Hat, Endless Computers, and Collabora.

"On Linux, the behavior when clicking on the Address Bar and the Search Bar now matches other desktop platforms: a single click selects all without primary selection, a double click selects a word, and a triple click selects all with primary selection," Mozilla explains in release notes.   

Google and Microsoft have paused the releases of Chrome and Edge, respectively, due to "adjusted work schedules" and to avoid giving IT admins extra headaches during the coronavirus pandemic

But Mozilla's top Firefox engineers say its systems can tolerate the conditions because, "We've built empathy into our systems", which has allowed it to maintain its regular 2020 Firefox release schedule

"We often work with people in different timezones, whose regional culture is different. We've built empathy into our systems for handling difficult or unexpected circumstances," Mozilla says in a blogpost from Joe Hildebrand, Mozilla's VP of engineering on Firefox, and Selena Deckelmann, VP of Firefox desktop.  

"These strengths are what allow us to continue to make progress where some of our competitors have had to slow down or stop work."

Despite maintaining the release schedule, Firefox users might see a slow-down in new features given Mozilla's greater emphasis on backwards-compatibility and efforts to ensure new browser features don't disrupt access to work, government and health services online. 

Additionally, given the extra reliance on video-conferencing apps like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Teams, Mozilla has "prioritized fixing video-conferencing issues specifically in this time of greater usage".

"Going forward, we will continue to examine all new features and planned changes with closer attention paid to backwards-compatibility, and their potential for any user-facing issues," the pair said.

One security improvements it had planned for Firefox 75, it was making Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) 1.2 the default minimum version in WebRTC. 

It urged all sites using DTLS 1.0 to upgrade, but during the Firefox 75 beta Mozilla opted to re-enable DTLS 1.0 support because Jitsi, an open-source video-conferencing system, didn't yet support version 1.2. 

Notably, Google last month decided to skip Chrome 82 altogether, which was the version it would have dropped DTLS 1.0 support to.

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Mozilla lists several features, including planned security and privacy updates, that affect site compatibility, and which have now been postponed due to the pandemic forcing people to work from home.  

So, Firefox 76 is still scheduled for release on May 5, but there may be a shortage of announcements about new features, especially ones that have the potential to cause issues for users when accessing government websites or video-conferencing services. 

The main improvement for Windows 10 in this release targets graphics on laptops with Intel graphics cards.

"Direct Composition is being integrated for our users on Windows to help improve performance and enable our ongoing work to ship WebRender on Windows 10 laptops with Intel graphics cards," Mozilla notes. 

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