October 26, 2006

Firefox 2 releases privacy storm

Link: Firefox 2 releases privacy storm

Filed under: Internet, Security, Webmaster, Google, Browsers, Firefox, Companies by Brian Turner


The much anticipated Firefox 2.0 was launched by the Mozilla Foundation yesterday - and immediately generated a storm of protests over privacy issues.

Key to privacy concerns is that Mozilla have set up their long-awaited phishing protection feature on Firefox 2.0 - but to use it properly, you have to send Google a record of every single website you visit.

A cookie will record all your behaviour data when using Firefox and provide the information free to Google, who can then use that information for their own commercial purposes.

Although, the feature does require an explicit opt-in, it’s an unwelcome trade-off for many Firefox users, who believe that there is no reason to tie-in phishing protection with providing free data to a billion-dollar multinational.

The concerns may be damaging to the Mozilla Foundation - who have long had a close relationship with Google - and who became a “for-profit” business last year.

The provision of free tools and services simply for the purposes of collecting user data has become a habit with Google in recent years, and especially raised privacy concerns - not simply on the data collection, or how it may be used - but also how it may be collected by government agencies.

However, the overall situation is that Google are probably not actually doing anything in terms of data collection and retention than many other major Internet Service Providers are already doing.

Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL, Amazon, and telecoms companies already store and retain vast amounts of private and often personally identifiable data, via their own service provisions, which are then used for commercial purposes.

The simple truth is that online privacy is already a mess, and that internet users are simply are often not allowed to determine how their personal data may be collected, used, or processed.

While privacy issues online have yet to reach a Tipping Point, it’s clear that the latest collaboration with Google by Mozilla, may be seen to be a million-dollar company selling out its users for profit.

October 2, 2006

Firefox faces serious security threat

Link: Firefox faces serious security threat

Filed under: Security, Browsers, Firefox by Brian Turner


IMPORTANT: Turned out this story was a fraud. There are no security flaws, and Six Apart - who sponsored the defamation - are trying to play the whole embarrassing mess down as a “prank”.

The increasingly popular Mozilla Firefox browser has been found to have a critical security flaw when handling Javascript.

Javascript is a scripting language commonly used on websites, such as for displaying content menus, login boxes, and recently within the new AJAX development language.

While previous flaws have been found in how Internet Explorer handles Javascript, this flaw is specific to how Firefox handles the scripting language.

Not only that, but according to one if it’s discovers, Mischa Spiegelmock, it would be impossible to patch - Mozilla would have to completely rewrite how it handles Javascript.

Mischa Spiegelmock also claims to have identified another 30 security flaws in Firefox, which is bound to be bad news for surfers who believe that Mozilla’s Firefox browser is safe to surf with.

However, despite the recent announcement and risk to users, sheer demographics show IE use is more prevalent, and therefore more likely to be targeted by malicious users.

September 20, 2006

Torpark browser released to protect privacy

Link: Torpark browser released to protect privacy

Filed under: Browsers, Firefox, Software by Brian Turner


A new browser named Torpark has been released, which claims to offer greater privacy protections online.

Torpark is a modified version of the increasingly popular Mozilla Firefox browser, and connects to the internet via an extensive network of servers and routers set up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The browser was developed by Hacktivismo - an international coalition of hackers, human rights workers, lawyers and artists.

Platinax decided to run a test, and the results were certainly interesting - for a start, search engines were forced to deliver “natural” results instead of results tailored towards the country you were searching from.

However, Torpark proved to significantly reduce surfing speed, and definitely has an impact on the speed on which web pages load via the EFF servers.

Overall, though, if privacy is a concern then hopefully Torpark can deliver much better than the disappointing release of Browzar, which exchanged privacy for advertising.

September 1, 2006

New Browzar offers private surfing

Link: New Browzar offers private surfing

Filed under: Microsoft, Browsers, Firefox by Brian Turner


UPDATE: Browzar stands accused of being AdWare, and Techcrunch accuses it as being nothing more than a simple shell to IE which forces Overture ads on its own users.

A new internet browser named Browzer has been released, which is built to specifically protect the privacy of users.

Browzar states that it will strip all surfing history and records automatically, leaving no trace on your PC of where you have visited.

Additionally, it also claims to remove all cookies from a website once you move away from it.

It comes at a time when privacy issues are a rising concern on the internet, and can only be a welcome development for many internet users.

Additionally, it also comes at a time when statistics show that Internet Explorer is fast losing it’s hold on the browser market, with countries such as Germany showing only a 55% use.

Browser statistics for the UK are currently recorded as follows:

    1. Microsoft IE 86.23%
    2. Mozilla Firefox 11.65%
    3. Apple Safari 1.30%
    4. Opera 0.53%
    5. Netscape 0.15%

while the global trend shows the following averages:

    1. Microsoft IE 83.05%
    2. Mozilla Firefox 12.93%
    3. Apple Safari 1.84%
    4. Opera 1.00%
    5. Netscape 0.16%

Overall, privacy protections and additional browser choices can only be a good thing.

However, with Browsar released only as a beta, it remains to be seen if it can not only do the job it’s expected to do, but also compete for real placement among the competing browsers.

September 30, 2005

IE market share holds steady against Firefox

Link: IE market share holds steady against Firefox

Filed under: Browsers, Firefox by Brian Turner


According to web analytics company WebSideStory, Firefox’s success in gaining market share from Internet Explorer is beginning to falter. The company says that Firefox, an open source browser, has increased its market by just one percentage point over the last five months - from 6.75 per cent in April to 7.86 per cent in September. When Firefox was released, in November 2004, it initially gained one percentage point in market share per month.

Internet Explorer is now maintaining its market share after losing ground to Firefox in the period immediately after the browser’s release. WebSideStory, which monitors usage figures from thousands of websites, estimates IE’s market share at 88.46 per cent in September, only slightly down on 88.86 per cent in late April. The gains Firefox has made in the last five months are largely at the expense of browsers such as Opera and Apple Safari.

In an inteview with ‘Information Week’, Geoff Johnston, an analyst with WebSideStory said: “It looks like Firefox has hit the push-back point. We always knew there was a finite number of early adopters out there and a finite number of Microsoft haters who would switch to something new”.

June 9, 2005

Firefox sees extensive use in Europe

Link: Firefox sees extensive use in Europe

Filed under: Firefox by brian_turner


The use of Internet browser, Firefox, continues to grow across Europe, although growth has slowed.

According to French Web metrics firm XiTi, Firefox accounted for 14.08% of browsers used to access a large sample of Web sites that use its measurement software. This is a significant increase from 13.31% in April and 11.6% in March.

XiTi, which claims to monitor over 148,000 Web sites, identified Finland as the largest Firefox user, with over 30% of Web surfers using it; Germany followed with over 24% and Hungary was third with 22%.

Chris Hofmann, director of engineering for Mozilla, the company which produces Firefox, said “The numbers produced by XiTi resemble data from a variety of sources that we’ve seen”. However, he was surprised at the market share in Finland.

WebSideStory, a US Web metrics company, showed that, in Germany, 22% of surfers used Firefox. WebSideStory’s data also reflected the slowdown in adoption rates which has affected Firefox this year.

The slowing growth rate may be due to a number of factors -

  • It is easier to increase market share by 10% per month when starting from a low level. There have now been over 60 million downloads of various versions of Firefox, making a similar percentage growth harder to achieve.
  • Mozilla’s original selling point for Firefox - that it was more secure than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser – has been damaged by security problems.

Mozilla said that it was unconcerned about the market share data and that it had not noted a slowdown.

May 17, 2005

Greasemonkey plays havoc with web

Link: Greasemonkey plays havoc with web

Filed under: Firefox by brian_turner


Greasemonkey, a Firefox extension which allows users to load custom scripts that modify a specific website anytime they visit it, is allowing Firefox users to tamper with the web. Users have added a delete button and search folders to Gmail and have even removed Reuters stories on the Michael Jackson trial from online newsreader Bloglines.

Greasemonkey was written by Aaron Boodman in December 2004. Users have submitted scripts for over 115 websites and 60 scripts that work across the web. Many of the scripts block ads, but more advanced scripts can link websites, eg adding links on a Yahoo Maps page to Google Maps. One script targets Amazon pages and tells you if a book is available in your local library.

A potential problem for Greasemonkey users is that they could reveal passwords if they install scripts from untrustworthy sources. The increasing use of Greasemonkey could also lead to some companies trying to disable it on their sites, or to sue users or scriptwriters.

January 25, 2005

Firefox developer moves to Google

Link: Firefox developer moves to Google

Filed under: Google, Browsers, Firefox by brian_turner

Firefox project development manager, Ben Goodger, announced in the simply titled Changes that he is now employed by Google - but that he will continue work on Firefox.

The move will inflame continued speculation that Google are planning to release their own browser based on Mozilla technology.

A Firefox 1.1 release is expected to be a general bug fix and security upgrade. However, Ben Goodger also refers to Firefox versions 1.5 and 2.0 that he is working on, which could very well be the formats that introduce specific Google features, not least Google search, and various features of Google’s existing toolbar for Internet Explorer.