Browser bonanza: What's new in Firefox 30, IE11, Chrome 35, and Safari 8

A steady stream of often small but useful enhancements and tweaks may have escaped your notice

Accelerating change is a truism of today's fast-paced world. It's also an apt description for the onslaught of browser updates. Whether your browser of choice is Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari, perpetual changes to technologies accessing the Internet -- and increasingly the apps we fire up daily -- dismay some users and delight others. More often, the steady stream of often minor tweaks and enhancements accumulate unremarked upon.

Firefox 30: Firefox, for one, is forever prompting users to upgrade to the latest version. Every six weeks, Mozilla drops a new release, and this week it was Firefox 30. In contrast to Firefox 29, which rolled out the Australis UI that completely revised Firefox's user experience, Firefox 30 delivers only minor tweaks to user features. Mozilla's release notes state that Firefox's sidebars button now enables faster access to social, bookmark, and history sidebars. Mac users can use Command-E to search a Web page for the current text selection. And the Android version of Firefox adds new quick-share buttons in the context menu.

Developers came in for the lion's share of changes in Firefox 30. These changes include added support for the GStreamer 1.0 framework for multimedia streaming and news that plug-ins, except those that have been whitelisted, will no longer be activated automatically. Mozilla also made various security fixes to the browser, including patches to "miscellaneous memory safety hazards."

Internet Explorer 11: Firefox was not the only browser suffering from memory woes; Microsoft's Patch Tuesday this week included fixes for 54 memory-corruption vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. But Redmond's browser upgrade pace is less dizzying than Mozilla's. Back in April, the company released an updated version of IE11 for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 that improves the browsing experience by syncing tabs, favorites, and browsing history across devices.

Microsoft also debuted IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1, which sports the InPrivate feature for secure browsing and a High Savings Mode that helps users manage data usage by reducing image downloads and only loading relevant page elements. The new mobile OS also lets users pin their favorite websites as live sites on their Start screen and does away with the six-tab limit on Windows Phone 8 that so annoyed users.

To provide more transparency in how it develops Internet Explorer, Microsoft launched a website to keep developers informed of the latest changes and plans for its browser.

Chrome 35: Developers were the primary target when Google released version 35 of its Chrome browser last month. The upgrade provided new JavaScript features, more developer control over touch input, and changes to improve stability and performance. The only change users might have noticed was the enabling of OK, Google voice search.

Google also announced it was experimenting with shortened URLs to better protect against phishing attacks that trick users into visiting malicious websites. But that development now appears to have been put on hold. Chrome team member Peter Kasting this week referred to the URL-shortening feature, known as Origin Chip, as "back-burnered."

Safari 8: Not everyone liked what Google was up to with Origin Chip, but if URL masking is important to you, you'll find it in Safari 8 on the forthcoming OS X Yosemite. That change follows in the footsteps of a similar move Apple made in Safari on iOS 7.

At WWDC last week, Apple also revealed that iOS 8 will greatly improve Safari on the iPad, providing a new tab view similar to what is currently available on iPhones; access to recently closed tabs; the new Sidebar view taken from OS X's Safari that gives easy access to bookmarks, reading lists, and shared links; and improved search -- including adding DuckDuckGo, with its no-tracking privacy policy, as a default search engine for Safari. Apple mobile users will also now be able to request the desktop version of a website -- something that's been available in Google's Chrome for a while now.

More important to developers is the fact that Apple will no longer restrict the use of its improved Nitro JavaScript engine to Safari, so Internet performance of third-party apps will not be crippled as before. That means Google's Chrome, for one, will now be just as quick as Safari on iOS -- guaranteeing that the pace of change will not abate any time soon and browser companies will continue to battle it out with new features in the ongoing browser wars.

This story, "Browser bonanza: What's new in Firefox 30, IE11, Chrome 35, and Safari 8," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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