Firefox 20 ups HTML5 support, adds dev tools and per-tab Private Browsing

Mozilla's latest browser release unlocks HTML5 features and supports ARM processors for low-power smartphones

Mozilla has rolled out Version 20 of Firefox, offering new privacy enhancements for users and some goodies for developers, such as a handy toolbox, more unlocked HTML5 features, and support for getUserMedia for writing code to access users' cameras and microphones. Android users, too, benefit from the update through increased support for devices running on the less-powerful ARMv6 processors.

Privacy buffs will likely be most interested in per-tab Private Browsing feature, which lets you open a new window for an Internet session during which no site- or page-specific data -- such as history, passwords, downloads, or cookies -- is saved to your machine. You can then freely switch back and forth between private-session windows and the regular one.

Mozilla provides a fairly innocent example of a use case: a user browsing online for a surprise gift. But before you get carried away and decide to use a private window to surreptitiously download entire seasons of "Game of Thrones" at work, consider this important caveat to Private Browsing: "[It] doesn't make you anonymous on the Internet," Mozilla warns. "Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn't protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer."

Developers, too, reap new fruits from Mozilla's labor. Among them, the release includes the new Firefox Developer Toolbox -- first revealed last October -- which is designed to consolidate the various developer tools that clutter up the window into a single pane while providing "easy-to-remember ways to switch between tools," according to Mozilla.

Firefox 20 supports getUserMedia, part of the WebRTC specification, which allows devs "to quickly and easily write code that accesses the user's camera or microphones," according to Mozilla.

On the HTML5 front, Firefox now supports Canvas Blend Modes, allowing devs to define how they want Canvas to draw over an existing image to create different visual effects. Mozilla also has improved audio and video by enabling the HTLM5 playbackRate attribute. According to Mozilla software engineer Chris Pearce, "it means users can speed up playback of videos (and audio) so that you can for example watch presentations sped up and only slow down for the interesting bits."

Finally, Firefox 20 for Android adds support for devices running on ARMv6 processors, the low-power CPU on such smartphones as Samsung Galaxy Next, HTC Aria, HTC Legend, Samsung Dart, Samsung Galaxy Pop, and the Samsung Galaxy Q. "In September, Mozilla set to expand support for ARMv6 devices to bring an awesome Web experience to even more users. We are happy to say that now we are able to bring a better Web experience to close to 50 million more phones," according to the release announcement.

This article, "Firefox 20 ups HTML5 support, adds dev tools and per-tab Private Browsing," 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 business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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