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Firefox's massive overhaul moves to beta

Barring unforeseen events, big changes for Mozilla Firefox will be airborne in about six weeks.

Thursday's update moves Firefox 29 to beta, the final testing grounds where Mozilla can make stability and feature changes to the overhaul before it pushes it out to the public at large.

The new version of Firefox comes with a new interface, an easier way to customize Firefox, and an upgraded Firefox Sync that requires all current users to create new accounts and resynchronize their browsers, in exchange for getting simple user accounts with their end-to-end encryption. The new interface gives the browser a … Read more

Firefox 28 aims for easier media playback

Firefox 28 debuts with an emphasis on under-the-hood improvements to keep the browser in line with the latest plug-in-free media playback tools.

VP9 decoding and Opus support in WebM keeps Firefox current with the royalty-free codecs that power media playback in HTML5.

They're not exactly another nail in the coffin for Flash, since Firefox already offers broad HTML5 media playback support, but they do signal that plug-in-free codecs are maturing into broad usability.

Firefox 28 for desktops also gets a new volume control for HTML5 audio and video, and Mac OS X users get Notification Center support for Web … Read more

Unity's new weapon for devs: Porting games to Firefox

Mozilla has teamed up with Unity to run its games on the Web without plugins -- but with an add-on.

Announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the extension will ship later this year with the anticipated Unity 5.0. Powered by the Web graphics library WebGL and the JavaScript subset asm.js, the add-on update says more about game developers' faith in Firefox than anything else.

"We believe WebGL and asm.js will be driving the future of gaming on the Web. We're happy to see the platform mature and look forward to helping to … Read more

Mozilla levels up its browser gaming plan

Mozilla says that thanks to the upcoming Unreal Engine 4 from Epic, the Web is significantly closer to the goal of Web-based games that rock at the speed of native code.

Just in time for the annual Game Developers Conference to be held in San Francisco next week, the joint Mozilla and Epic project demonstrates Unreal Engine 4 running on the Web in Firefox without plugins. Unveiled Wednesday, the demos of Epic's Soul and Ninja Swing games running plugin-free in the browser at near-native code speeds reveal remarkable growth in 12 months.

Originally announced last year, the faster browser … Read more

Mozilla works to squeeze more life out of JPEG

JPEG, the decades-old image format, shows no signs of disappearing. That's why Mozilla announced a project Wednesday to try to shave another 10 percent off images compressed with the standard.

The non-profit organization behind Firefox announced a project called mozjpeg that aims to compress JPEGs more intelligently. Smaller file sizes means Web pages load faster, and Mozilla is deeply interested in improving the Web's performance.

"Photos can easily make up the bulk of the network traffic for a page load," said senior technology strategist Josh Aas in a blog post. "Reducing the size of these … Read more

To avoid Android pitfalls, Mozilla shoulders Firefox OS update burden

BARCELONA, Spain -- Mozilla will take over some responsibility for issuing Firefox OS updates that carriers today have, a move that could help users avoid the fate of Android phone owners saddled with older operating system versions.

"We are pushing that envelope," Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich told CNET. "We think we can get people on Wi-Fi upgrading through Mozilla."

That would mean a person could step into an Internet cafe then update the software as soon as Mozilla releases a new version or security fix, rather than waiting for a handset maker to build, test, … Read more

Hands-on with the bare-bones ZTE Open II Firefox phone

BARCELONA, Spain -- At MWC this year, ZTE introduced two ultra-budget Firefox handsets: the 4-inch Open C and the more compact ZTE Open II (the sequel to the original Open). Though no pricing or availability information has been released, the Open II is aimed at emerging 3G markets outside the US.

Design The Open II is a compact device that has a smooth, almost pebble-like construction. Its wide bezels give it a notably deep chin, which is accented by a single, circular home button.

Its aesthetic actually reminds me of a more playful Grand S, ZTE's flagship handset last … Read more

Firefox OS getting interface overhaul in coming months

BARCELONA, Spain -- Big changes are coming to Firefox OS over the next year as Mozilla moves the browser-based operating system away from its current Android-style functioning.

At the Mobile World Congress show here Sunday, the nonprofit organization showed what's in store for its mobile OS. Much of it's about the interface changes -- notifications, task switching, app discovery, search.

"With the new model, we're really simplifying and making what we think is the ultimate browsing experience," Josh Carpenter, the user experience leader for Firefox OS, said at a press event. Browsing on Firefox OS … Read more

Mozilla's $25 Firefox OS: It's real, and it works

BARCELONA, Spain -- An iPhone fanboy will sneer at it. A long-term Android user will have unpleasant flashbacks to the early versions of Google's operating system.

But Mozilla's $25 Firefox OS smartphone is real.

I toyed with a prototype Sunday at its debut at Mobile World Congress here, and I have to say, I'm impressed -- given the price.

It's missing things like WhatsApp, its screen is small and coarse, and it's slower to scroll and launch apps than the state-of-the-art phones from the last decade. It's not something a rich kid from New … Read more

Tizen chairman, ever the optimist, says smartphone will hit market in 2014

BARCELONA, Spain -- Tizen Association Chairman Ryoichi Roy Sugimara is very protective of his "baby."

That baby, of course, is the upstart operating system Tizen and, by extension, any device running on the platform.

In explaining the continued delay of a smartphone running on Tizen, Sugimara said the association and its carrier partners are carefully looking at the best market for a launch. Sugimara told CNET that a phone will indeed hit the market some time this year, although he declined to get more specific.

"You'll see a real commercial launch in some markets," he … Read more