Opera Browser Introduces Free Integrated VPN

Norwegian internet browser Opera now includes a free, unlimited VPN natively, meaning that its users “don’t have to download VPN extensions or pay for VPN subscriptions to access blocked websites and to shield your browsing when on public Wi-Fi,” according to the official announcement.

Opera’s blog post reads:

According to Global Web Index*, more than half a billion people (24% of the world’s internet population) have tried or are currently using VPN services. According to the research, the primary reasons for people to use a VPN are:

  • To access better entertainment content (38%)
  • To keep anonymity while browsing (30%)
  • To access restricted networks and sites in my country (28%)
  • To access restricted sites at work (27%)
  • To communicate with friends/family abroad (24%)
  • To access restricted news websites in my country (22%)

According to the research, young people are leading the way when it comes to VPN usage, with almost one third of people between 16-34 having used a VPN.

The in-browser VPN is only available as part of the most recent developer version, but set to arrive in the release version following successful testing and refinement.

Opera’s in-browser VPN follows its native ad-blocker, released as part of its last developer version last month, in an effort to centralise its user’s needs in one package.

Opera 38 developer version can be downloaded here.

RuneScape Relaunched With New Game Engine

Many will remember playing RuneScape, the game being a popular favourite way back before large multiplayer online games flooded the video game market. From the village of Lumbridge to the battlegrounds of Castle Wars, players levelled and traded all within their browser for the past fifteen years, but that is all to change with the games relaunch, featuring new game engine and all.

Using a new visual engine and game client, RuneScape will no longer be played in your browser, instead sitting on your computer awaiting your adventures. The new adventure isn’t going to just change its location with a wide range of technical improvements including support for DirectX12 and Windows 10.

The graphics are clearly on a whole different level to the pixels and blocks that once strained your eyes as you mined for copper and tin, with new draw distances, water effects and dynamic lighting and shadows now welcoming you into the world on a whole new level.

Jagex isn’t stopping with the new game client, with Jagex promising further enhancements to the game’s visuals, including the inclusion of volumetric lighting, improved animations, and higher-resolution textures.

I remember starting back on RuneScape many years ago, and the new graphics definitely look to bring the urge to boot it up again to the surface. If you’re interested you can download the new game client here.

Chrome 50 Will Finally Drop Windows XP Support

One of the prices of great success is that they never go away even when you want them to. Microsoft has been dealing with this problem ever since they dropped Windows XP support back in 2014. Now, 2 years later and 15 years since launch, the OS is still very popular and ahead of all OSX computers combined. In what is happy news for Microsoft, Google is dropping Windows XP support with Chrome 50.

When Microsoft first took Windows XP off support, Google and Mozilla both promised their respective browsers would continue to support the OS for a year. After extending the deadline for a year, Google has decided enough is enough. Moving forwards, Chrome won’t install on Windows XP and things like sync and account sign in might not work even with current Chrome installations  once Chrome versions advance enough.

For those you who still insist on using Windows XP and want to browse, there is still Firefox 45 which supports the OS. How long Mozilla will continue supporting the OS remains to be seen. Given the fact that you’re running an unsupported OS, though, running an unsupported browser is likely the least of your worries. Perhaps, one day XP will truly die, at least for network connected devices.

US Newspapers Threaten Legal Action Against Brave Browser Over Ad Blocking

The Brave Browser was created to offer a more streamlined user-experience by automatically blocking intrusive adverts and software which tracks user history. This allows pages to load faster and reduces the possibility of your PC being subjected to malware. Unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with a large number of major US newspaper publishers and they’ve now decided to threaten Brave Software with legal action. Seventeen publishers produced a letter to Brave Software’s founder and CEO, Brendan Eich which reads:

“Your plan to use our content to sell your advertising is indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website [emphasis in original],”

Clearly, the publishers are unhappy that the Brave Browser replaces their adverts with the company’s own alternatives. They feel it’s effectively stealing and allowing them to make money from other people’s content. If Brave decided to resist the demand, the publishers are prepared to take legal action:

“We stand ready to enforce all legal rights to protect our trademarks and copyrighted content and to prevent you from deceiving consumers and unlawfully appropriating our work in the service of your business,” the letter stated. “We reserve the right to seek all remedies for this infringement, including but not limited to statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work. We believe your planned activities will also constitute unfair competition and misappropriation under relevant federal, state and common law. By engaging in Brave’s plan of advertising replacement, Brave is liable for breach of contract, unauthorized access to our websites, unfair competition, and other causes of action.” 

According to Computerworld, Brave’s ad revenue model works by:

“Brave will scrub websites of most of their ads and all tracking, then replace those now-empty slots with ads it sells. Seventy percent of the revenue from Brave’s ad sales would be shared with publishers (55%) and users (15%). The latter will be able to turn that money — in Bitcoin form — over to their favorite sites or keep it. Brave will retain 15%, with the remaining 15% going to advertising partners.”

Do you think the Brave Browser employs a fair business strategy?

Nintendo Copyright Claim Removes 3D Zelda Tribute

Nintendo’s attitude towards their dedicated fan-base paying homage to the company’s previous works is nothing short of appalling. They’ve consistently launched copyright claims against YouTuber hobbyists simply trying to showcase what made their favourite games so special. Instead of admiring this level of passion, the company feels the need to flag anything which uses their intellectual property. In some cases, this makes sense if the game is episodic and people can watch a playthrough instead of purchasing it through legitimate channels. However, Nintendo is applying this kind of behaviour to NES, SNES and other classics to push their own overpriced Virtual Console store.

Only three days ago, a new project came to fruition designed to honour the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. This allowed players to enjoy the game through a web browser and looked absolutely stunning. Sadly, Nintendo didn’t approve and believed this infringed on their intellectual property. It’s clear that the creation breaches copyright, but it’s just a small team trying to share the magic of the Zelda series. The project creators, Scott Lininger and Mike Magee announced the news on zelda30tribute.com which reads:

“Nintendo asked us to remove this site for copyright infringement. I guess Zelda30Tribute was a little too pixel perfect. We’re sad about that, but we get it. We started this project because we love Nintendo and the joy they have given us throughout the years. From the start of development, we knew this result could potentially happen. Nintendo has every right to protect their IP. No complaints from us, we had a blast working on this tribute and made some friends along the way.”

Of course, Nintendo are well within their rights to protect intellectual property. On the other hand, it comes across very poorly given the game’s age. Furthermore, it’s a terrible way to treat loyal fans showcasing their creative abilities. Nintendo desperately needs to adapt to the modern world and encourage community content as a way of indirect marketing.

Play a Voxel Powered Zelda Recreation in Your Browser

Been looking for an excuse the replay the original Zelda? Well, we’ve got a great one for you! A team of Zelda fans has taken the classic RPG and rebuilt it in 2.5D to celebrate 30-years of the franchise. No doubt this is one of those “play it before Nintendo shoot it down” scenarios, so it’s best to get playing while it’s still alive.

Zelda30Tribute is playable directly in your browser, meaning you don’t have to hang around to get in on the action. What’s really cool, however, is that the game is created using Voxels, giving it a really unique visual appearance. Unfortunately, it is still a work in progress, so only three dungeons are ready right now, and if Nintendo kill it, it’s likely you’ll have to dig a little deeper on the web to find future builds, but they’ll certainly be out there.

You can hit up Zelda30Tribute at the official website here, and be sure to let us know what you think of it in the comments section below.

What was your favourite Zelda game? Would you like to see it getting a modern remake or are you happy with it the way it is?

Microsoft’s Edge to Test Browser Extensions

In this day and age, people enjoy customizing their experience with everything. The same goes for their experience when browsing online and with the likes of Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome offering countless extensions Microsoft’s latest browser, Edge, seems to be lacking the feature. That looks to change with Microsoft looking to test browser extensions for Edge soon.

The revelation comes from a change on their Edge extensions website, giving us an idea about now just what’s going to happen with their extensions but also what the first three will be.

First up will be a translation tool, followed by an extension for Reddit and finally an extension based on mouse gestures. If this doesn’t interest you the next part may, with the extensions compatible with Chrome as well.

Given their recent decision to end porting of apps from Android to Windows phones, the ability to use the same app’s on Edge and Chrome could entice people to explore the browser a little more, even if it does come with Windows 10.

Using extensions may have to wait though with the feature looking to be inserted into a future insider preview meaning that those of you who want to keep running a “stable” operating system may have to stick to Firefox or Chrome for that personal web feeling.

Gaming in Your Browser is About to Get Interesting With WebAssembly

WebAssembly, it may be something that most of you have never really heard of, but it’s going to have a huge impact on the way we use or web browsers. WebAssembly is a compiling technology, which is capable of bringing browser output closer to that of native machine code; not even the best JavaScript compilers come anywhere near it in terms of performance.

Luke Wagner, a Mozilla developer, helped reveal the new additions as Mozilla Hacks this week, while also confirming the availability of WebAssembly ports of Unity’s Angry Bots. The game can now be played on a Chrome, Firefox, Edge and even Safari will be joining the party soon enough.

Below you’ll find a video released by Microsoft that shows the Angry Bots running in Edge using the Chakra engine via WebAssembly.

‘Despite being an early implementation, the demo starts-up significantly faster than just using asm.js as the WebAssembly binaries have a smaller file size and parse more quickly than plain JavaScript that needs to be parsed in the asm.js case.’ said Chakra Program Manager Limin Zhu.

The new format for native web applications supports all the functionality enabled by the asm.js JavaScript subset. Rather than replace Java, it’ll simply expand on what was already possible seamlessly, while allowing more direct access to processor instruction sets, and many other benefits.

‘Two upcoming changes will also significantly improve the developer experience. A standard textual representation of WebAssembly will enable developers to view the source of a WebAssembly binary like any other web script or resource. In addition, the current placeholder Wasm object will be redesigned to provide a more powerful, idiomatic set of methods and properties to instantiate and introspect WebAssembly modules from JavaScript.’ said V8 Java, while announcing their collaboration with WebAssembly.

So what does this mean for most users? Not much in technical terms, but it’s already leading to faster performance, more features and more functionality for or browsers and web applications, which is certainly no bad thing.

Chrome Extension Caught Stealing Bitcoin

The Bitcoin exchange portal Bitstamp warned users over the weekend that a Google Chrome browser extension had been caught stealing Bitcoin and users should avoid the BitscoinWisdom Ads Remover extension that at the time still was available in the Play store. The good news is that Google since banned the app from the store, but you’ll probably still need to remove it from your browser yourself if you were a user of this extension.

The Chrome extension was caught stealing Bitcoin when users made transfers. The extensions malicious code would redirect payments made to their own Bitcoin address instead of the intended target without the user noticing anything until it was too late. What Bitstamp discovered was later confirmed by Bitcoin app developer Devon Weller.

The method used to steal your Bitcoin is essentially very easy. Bitcoin addresses, sometimes referred to as wallets, use a very long string in order to identify themselves. That’s something that is both hard to remember and difficult to enter. After all, it’s about money and you wouldn’t want to send that to the wrong destination. QR codes can solve this with ease as you’ll just have to scan a code presented with your smartphone that contains a Bitcoin app and you’re good to go. This is what the malicious browser extension took advantage of by simply replacing displayed Bitcoin QR codes with their own in the displayed website.

On further investigation, Devon Weller discovered that the code only targeted users of the Bitstamp, BTC-E, and Hashnest Bitcoin services.

This isn’t the first time that the same extension has been caught doing so. Back in July last year, Reddit users reported similar issues with the same extension. We can only hope that it is gone for good now. This also shows that you should be very careful what browser extensions you install, they might do more harm than good.

Opera Browser Adds Native Ad-Blocking

While internet browser Opera isn’t quite the technical powerhouse it used to be, the Norwegian company has announced that it is adding native ad-blocking to the software. The feature is included in the latest developer edition of the browser – but deactivated by default – and the company believes its native system is more effective than third-party apps, and that blocking ads will speed up page loads by up to 40%, on average, with some sites potentially seeing speed improvements of up to 90%.

“If there were no bloated ads, some top websites would load up to 90% faster,” Opera’s Senior Vice President for Global Engineering Krystian Kolondra writes in a post on the official Opera blog. “Today, we wanted to share with you a native ad-blocking technology in our Developer channel for Opera for computers. “Native” means unmatched speed vs extensions, since the blocking happens at the web engine level.”

“We are the first major browser vendor to integrate an ad-blocking feature, but this development should be a no surprise to anyone given the rising popularity of ad-blocking software and even Apple allowing it on its platform,” Kolondra adds.

The move is sure to be controversial, with sites such as Forbes and The New York Times blocking their content for users of ad-blocking software, but Kolondra says that Opera is only serving the desires of its users.

“Advertising fuels the internet, allowing for many services to be free for users,” Kolondra  writes. “But, as our new research shows, most webpages today are significantly slowed down by bloated ads and heavy tracking. We don’t accept it – we want the web to be a better place for us all, as users.”

Play Your NES Games In 3D Thanks To This Emulator

Back before the likes of the Playstation and the Xbox, there was the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES for short. With classic games like Megaman and Super Mario Bros. bringing hours of enjoyment for anyone who played them. The classics can come back with the help of an emulator that lets you play your favourite NES games in 3D.

When it comes to playing old games these days, there is a tear down the middle. Some believe that the old games don’t have enough to keep up with the latest releases, stating that everything from the graphics to the gameplay missing everything that makes them fun. Others believe that a classic is a classic no matter what you do, it would seem that Geod Studios are a company who want to be somewhere in between.

Geod Studios have released a new emulator, titled 3DNES, which not only lets you play the classic Nintendo games but with the added bonus of 3D effects.

The emulator in question can be played from your web browser (provided that you are using Firefox) and means that childhood favourites like Megaman, Dr. Mario and even Castlevania are enjoyable in a whole new light.

Having grown up with these games, you can’t help but appreciate them and the fun they helped create, back then and even now. Giving them the 3D treatment is a nice twist, and is made all the better by the fact it’s been done right. Here’s hoping that Nintendo will take note and support this project!

FBI Release Browser Game to Combat Extremism

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently been working on a site to educate children against extremism. Named “Don’t Be A Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism“, the site intends to inform youths of the tactics employed by extremist elements and how to avoid falling prey to them.

With the ongoing efforts to prevent ‘radicalization’ and the prevention of those who would join terrorist elements for travelling abroad to join them, this sounds like a good idea to let kids be aware of the risks from extremists before it is too late. Covering many topics from the basics of what violent extremism is and how they make contact to being aware of their propaganda, use of symbols and ‘groupthink’.

Now, this may seem like a great font of knowledge for the young, however, there is a dark stain on this site, namely the free browser-based game “The Slippery Slope to Violent Extremism.” The game looks like a bad mix of classic colourful blocky games and 3D graphics, seeing the player direct a running goat with the left and right arrow keys to avoid green and grey blocks, supposedly meant to represent extremists. Hitting a block results in the goat exploding into countless small blocks, which is not very hard due to the incredibly imprecise controls in the game. Clearing of each level ‘rewards’ you with distorted logic text, using phrases such as “Our group is under attack;” “Our violent acts will result in a better future;” and “The enemy is responsible for this injustice.” All very bland stock phrases that could be taken from anywhere.

The FBI claims the site is not intended to refute every single thing done or said by violent extremists, instead aiming to teach children how to apply their critical thinking skills in the face of extremism, or in their words: “We’re saying, ‘Don’t be a puppet,’—in other words, don’t just blindly accept what violent extremists tell you or you could end up being controlled and manipulated by people who want you to hurt or kill innocent people.” The site was to have originally gone live in November last year but was sent for reworking after a preview group felt it focused too much on Islamic extremists.

Get a Sneak Peak at Chrome’s New Material Design Makeover

It is no secret that Google is planning to polish the UI of their popular web browser, to bring it in-line with the company’s material design aesthetic. As it turns out, the facelift could be here sooner than thought, with the latest stable version of Chrome featuring several optional features that allow some of the tweaks to be enabled early.

The changes aren’t drastic, with the majority of the browser’s minimalist UI being very similar. Overall, icon borders have been thinned down and the bookmark icons have been switched from their old yellow ‘folder’ look to plain gray icons. The old ‘hamburger’ button used to view the menu has also been switched to 3 vertically arranged dots with a more dynamic visual when opened and closed. The address bar has also seen a reduction in its font size, along with a darker, more obvious icon for sites being securely accessed via HTTPS.

Other parts of the browser have taken more significant changes, looking far more similar to the Material-style interface used in the Android operating system. The downloads menu separates each download as a card, with more obvious links for showing the download’s location and an ‘X’ button being present to remove the card. The settings menu’s overhaul brings in new fonts and colour to the page, with all of the settings being present on one page and links allowing the user to easily find the correct section. The toggle buttons and drop-down menus will also be instantly familiar to an Android user. Chrome’s PDF viewer has also been a part of the overhaul, with a new top bar and a set of circular buttons, both of which remain hidden until mouse movement towards them occurs.

To try out these changes for yourself, head to chrome://flags in the browser and set the following drop-down boxes to Material: “Material design in the browser’s top chrome,” “Enable material UI for PDF,” and “Enable Material Design downloads.” Meanwhile, the preview for the Material Design settings menu can be found at chrome://md-settings.

While these changes to Chrome are still in development and thus, still subject to change, it is nice to see Chrome home getting a facelift after so long. These aren’t the only changes planned for Chrome either, with a dark theme for incognito browsing, similar to that of the mobile version and a new video player interface. All of these changes and more could be ready to go live for as soon as Chrome 50, only two stable versions away.

Oracle is Killing Off Java

Outdated browser plugin Java is finally being pulled, Oracle has announced. Java will be slowly phased out, beginning with a deprecation of the plugin starting with JDK 9. The advent of HTML5 means that buggy and insecure browser plugins, such as Flash and Java, are no longer required, with Google Chrome already suspending use of Java last year. Adobe has made a similar move, rebranding Flash and shifting toward HTML5.

“By late 2015, many browser vendors have either removed or announced timelines for the removal of standards based plugin support, eliminating the ability to embed Flash, Silverlight, Java and other plugin based technologies,” Oracle’s announcement on its blog reads. “With modern browser vendors working to restrict and reduce plugin support in their products, developers of applications that rely on the Java browser plugin need to consider alternative options such as migrating from Java Applets (which rely on a browser plugin) to the plugin-free Java Web Start technology.”

“Oracle plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9. This technology will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release,” the post continues. “Early Access releases of JDK 9 are available for download and testing at http://jdk9.java.net. More background and information about different migration options can be found in this short whitepaper from Oracle.”

Microsoft Edge Browser is Storing Private Browsing Data

With the jump to Windows 10, Microsoft also hoped to say goodbye to their old Internet Explorer browser, one often berated by the tech savvy. In Edge, they included many features that were already staples among rival browsers, one such feature being the InPrivate browsing mode. It has come to light, however, that InPrivate may not be as private as it seems.

Researcher Ashish Singh found that the history of websites visited while using the InPrivate mode can be found by examining the WebCache file on the user’s hard drive. In fact, the browsing history of InPrivate can be found in the same “Container_n” table that stores browsing history from conventional tabs. As a result, if an attacker were able to access the table, they would be able to access the entire browsing history of a user, whether their browsing was done InPrivate or not. Singh wrote in Forensic Focus that “The not-so-private browsing featured by Edge makes its very purpose seem to fail.” The fact remains that this process would be difficult to perform by a regular user or attacker, and anyone wishing to uncover this ‘private’ browsing history would likely need to be skilled in the field and have local access to the target’s hard drive.

Edge is far from the first browser to employ a private browsing mode that is not fully secure and private browsing does often not ensure security. Private browsing features are a privacy feature first-and-foremost, and that one cannot fully protect against the most dedicated of attacks is perhaps unsurprising. The Verge has reported that Microsoft is investigating the results of Singh’s research into Edge “and we are committed to resolving this as quickly as possible.”

New Windows 10 Update is Crashing Games

The latest build of Windows 10 Insider Preview was released last week, but the update is causing PC game crashes and wireless card issues, Microsoft has admitted. Build 111022, which was made available to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring on 21st January, introduced the newest version of Microsoft Edge, but known issues with the update reported so far extend beyond the browser.

Microsoft has revealed the following known issues on the Windows Blog:

  • When we went live with last week’s PC build, Insiders discovered a bug where the cache for Insider Hub wasn’t properly refreshing – preventing new content from showing up in a timely manner. We’ll include known issues with our blog posts as well as in Insider Hub until the bug is resolved.
  • Some PC games will crash switching from windowed mode to full screen, upon game resolution change, or upon launch due to a bug in Windows graphics stack. We have observed this with The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, and Metal Gear Solid V but it may occur with other titles as well.
  • With this build (and with the last build), applications such as Narrator, Magnifier, and third-party assistive technologies may experience intermittent issues or crashes. If you rely on screen readers or other software, you should not use this build. This issue will be fixed with the next build.
  • You might see a WSClient.dll error dialog after logging in. We’re working on a fix for this but as a workaround, you can run the following in Command Prompt with administrative rights: schtasks /delete /TN “\Microsoft\Windows\WS\WSRefreshBannedAppsListTask” /F
  • While attempting to update to this build, your PC may show a message that your wireless card is not compatible with Windows 10. The workaround is to visit the support page for your PC or wireless card and install the newest driver that is available.
  • The Connect button does not show up in Action Center.

Vivaldi Browser is the True Successor to Opera

Many internet users, myself included, were disappointed by the death of the Opera browser. It was my primary browser for nearly a decade, as it was for many other smart internet users, but it only ever held around 5% of the browser market share.

While, admittedly, I found the latter iterations of the browser to be bloated, sluggish, and prone to memory leaks, at its peak, Opera was the fastest, safest, and most customisable browser available. Sadly, in an effort to become more commercially viable, Opera dropped its innovative Presto engine, opting instead for Google’s Blink rendering engine, effectively making the browser a stripped-down version of Chrome. The Opera logo remained, yes, but the browser we knew was now dead.

Thankfully, Opera co-founder and former CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, in partnership with fellow former Opera employee Tatsuki Tomita, has picked up the baton his former company dropped to launch Vivaldi, a high-end browser designed to appeal to heavy internet users and former Opera fans and one which intends to form strong bonds with its community.

While Vivaldi, like modern Opera, utilises the Chromium engine rather than its own custom engine, it manages to have its cake and eat it, too: it is as though Vivaldi has taken the modern Opera and included the rich features of the old Presto version, effectively telling its predecessor, ‘this is how you do it.’

As Von Tetzchner told Ivan Minic last year, “When it comes to drafting a completely new engine, there is a very good reason why no one has done it in the last 15 years. It is an extremely difficult and complicated process, and it takes extreme amounts of work in order to be compatible with all other standards.”

While Vivaldi is desktop-only at present – “we started with a desktop version because it was a starting point from Opera,” Von Tetzchner said – there are plans afoot for a mobile version for tablets and smartphones.

Von Tetzchner sold his shares in Opera back in 2014 – three years after leaving the company over its new strategy – to launch Vivaldi, and the move looks to have paid off. I’ve been using the Beta 2 build of Vivaldi – which launched on 17th December, 2015 – for the last couple of weeks, and it is everything I could have hoped for, delivering the Opera I knew back in 2009 in the form of a decidedly modern, beautiful browser interface.

Vivaldi Beta 2 for Windows, Mac, and Linux can be downloaded from the Vivaldi website.

How Bad Are Adobe Flash Bug Repair Stats?

It’s safe to say Adobe flash did not have the best of years, from crashes, hacks, crashes, vulnerabilities and, yes more crashes, many in the industry doubt whether this will be the year Adobe finally pulls the plug. It seems the ill-fated Flash player is constantly being fixed, but, how often does it need to be patched from the many bugs?

Well, it turns out it’s quite a lot if you take into account official data on the subject, according to the information, “Adobe have repaired Flash Player 2015 a total of 316 Bugs”. This works out at almost 1 bug a day, or to be more precise; Adobe has fixed 1 bug every 1.15 days. Prominent industry figures have been somewhat sarcastic to the point whereby they have suggested Adobe is able to only rest on a “Sunday” before continuing to fix Flash again and again.

To place this into perspective, Adobe fixed 12 bugs in Flash on average per month in 2014, worse still, “the fourth quarter of 2015 saw the repair scale reach up to 113 bugs” Oh, there is more, recently Microsoft found that Flash crashed almost any browser on Windows 10 after conflicting security patches were pushed to users.

The implementation of Flash on many websites is also declining, once it used to be the standard, but stats have shown that in 2010, 28.5% of websites used Flash, today it is less than 10%.

Will Flash make it through 2016?  Not on this evidence.

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Mozilla Release 64bit Firefox

Nearly a decade after the idea was first floated around, Mozilla is finally releasing an official 64bit version of their popular browser. This confirms earlier speculation that the new flavour of the Firefox was going to drop soon. It’s also about 9 months since the first beta version of 64bit debuted and after various forks have already moved to 64bit. With this move, Mozilla brings their browser a bit closer to rival Chrome which had its first 64bit version released back in 2014.

While 64bit support us undoubtedly the biggest feature to come with Version 43, the new version does come with a big drawback. As part of the transition from the supposedly insecure and unstable NPAPI, 64bit Firefox won’t support any plug-ins just yet. Silverlight and ironically, Flash are still supported for now. Even with all the problems with Flash, Mozilla still knows Flash is needed everywhere for now.

This release marks the end of cycle of cancelled and rebooted attempts to get 64bit support. With this, the next major change will be the release of Electrolysis, where it will adapt the multi-process nature that Chrome has been using for ages. Whether or not this will be enough for the browser to shore up flagging usage remains to be seen.

Download the latest version of Firefox here.

Microsoft Edge Has the Same Security Holes as Internet Explorer

Hopes were so high. After years of being the butt of every browser joke for its poor performance and woeful security, Microsoft announced that its ailing browser Internet Explorer was being replaced by Microsoft Edge with the release of Windows 10. But a recent investigation by Woody Leonhard of InfoWorld has revealed that the security holes in Internet Explorer have been carried over to Edge.

“With Microsoft Edge, we want to fundamentally improve security over existing browsers and enable users to confidently experience the web from Windows. We have designed Microsoft Edge to defend users from increasingly sophisticated and prevalent attacks,” Microsoft declared back in May.

I was an early convert to Edge, for its sheer speed alone, after obtaining my free upgrade to Windows 10 in July, but I soon started to sour on it for its rudimentary design and lack of extension support. I left both Edge and Windows 10 behind within a month, reverting back to my original copy of Windows 7. A timely decision, it seems.

Leonhard looked at the most recent patch for Edge, released on Tuesday (8th December), including an examination of its list of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). The patch included updates for both Internet Explorer (MS15-124) and Microsoft Edge (MS15-125). 11 of the security holes patched in IE also had to be patched in Edge, while 4 CVEs in IE were also present in Edge. In addition, the official cumulative CVE list for Microsoft Edge has 14 entries, 13 of which have also been identified as issues for Internet Explorer.

Mozilla Describe Thunderbird Client as “a Tax” on FireFox Development

Mozilla’s Thunderbird e-mail client is often overlooked and hasn’t received any major updates since 2012. Nevertheless, I still find it quite useful and think it’s a pretty good piece of software to organize multiple e-mail accounts. Clearly, Mozilla is right to focus on Firefox development as a large quantity of people view their e-mails on mobile devices or through a web browser. While Mozilla has ceased active development of Thunderbird it still appears to be having a detrimental effect. For example, Mozilla’s chairperson, Mitchell Baker said in a memo published on the company’s public governance forum:

“Many inside of Mozilla, including an overwhelming majority of our leadership, feel the need to be laser-focused on activities like Firefox that can have an industry-wide impact. With all due respect to Thunderbird and the Thunderbird community, we have been clear for years that we do not view Thunderbird as having this sort of potential.” 

“Given this, it’s clear to me that sooner or later paying a tax to support Thunderbird will not make sense as a policy for Mozilla.”

“The current setting isn’t stable, and we should start actively looking into how we can transition in an orderly way to a future where Thunderbird and Firefox are un-coupled.”

Baker’s comments here suggest that any resources or support going into the Thunderbird project will end fairly soon. From the wording, it’s clear they don’t want to just abandon it and looking for other alternative strategies. It makes sense to focus on Firefox especially with the huge competition from Google and Microsoft. To put this into perspective, I personally use Thunderbird to manage one personal and two business e-mails. I would be sad to see it go as it’s easy to use, and quite functional.

Mozilla Launches Firefox For iOS

Mozilla’s hesitance to offer their Firefox web browser on iOS devices stems from a bitter disagreement with Apple in 2013. During this period, Apple imposed hefty restrictions which prohibited Mozilla, and other browser makers to use their own rendering engine. As you might expect, Mozilla was outraged by these demands and believed they were completely unfair. However, with the soaring popularity of iOS, Mozilla has changed their approach and accepted Apple’s terms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoAtBKmNUEY

Firefox is now available on iOS devices and incorporates a number of useful features including Intelligent Search, and Virtual Tabs. Firefox Accounts also allows you to easily sync passwords, internet history, and auto-complete forms on various systems. Private Browsing is another essential component which provides enhanced protection against data snooping. User privacy is such an important aspect of any modern browser and at the heart of Firefox’s ethos.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt the browser will make any serious impact on iOS as most people just use Safari. There are some exceptions who prefer Chrome, but I can see Firefox’s adoption being in the minority. Nevertheless, it’s a great piece of news if you prefer the Firefox desktop browser and want to continue that experience on an Apple device.

Which browser is your favourite and why?

Google Dropping Chrome Support for XP, Vista and OSX 10.8

Even when Microsoft dropped public support for Windows XP last year, many large organizations continued to pay for extended support. Not surprisingly, Google also continued to support Windows XP for their popular Chrome browser. That’s set to finally end though next year in April 2016; that marks the 2 year anniversary since Microsoft officially dropped XP support.

Originally set to end at the same time as Microsoft’s support, the cut-off date ended up getting extended twice. First, it was extended for 1 year till this April. When that deadline neared, Google ended up relenting and continued to support the aging OS till the end of the year. Now finally and for real this time, the support will end after an additional 5 months have been tacked on.

In other news, Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8 will all lose support in April as well. This is also long after Apple has given up on these systems. Ironically, Vista will also lose support the same day as XP will, despite being released a full 5 years later than the venerable OS. This also comes despite that fact that Windows Vista will be supported by Microsoft till April 2017. This speaks to the lack of popularity of the much-maligned OS that was eventually patched to near Windows 7 levels of usability.

eFast – The New Way Malware Could Target Your PC

In a departure from most malware and adware, which attack and harass their targets by seizing control of their browsers, new adware “eFast Browser” takes things one step further, instead replacing existing browsers with its own. This browser, when used by the target, opens them up to all the attacks and annoyances of typical adware and malware, from pop-ups and pop-unders, downloads of more malware and tracking of information; all in all a very scary package.

According to reports, when eFast infects a PC, it seeks to deceive the user into believing it is in fact another version of Chrome. By removing the existing installation of Chrome, setting itself as the system’s default browser and associating itself with common file extensions from html to jpeg and url types such as http and ftp; it steps clean into the shoes of the user’s old browser. Completing the deception, it sports an icon very similar to Chrome itself and being built based on the open-source Chromium. With all of this, to a less tech-savvy target, it could easily be too late before they realize things are as wrong as they are.

These look familiar somehow…

There is a silver lining to this, as the developers of modern browsers can feel assured that their efforts to ensure the security of their browsers has been effective, with it seeming easier to attack by circumventing and replacing the browsers than to attempt to subvert the existing browser.

Are you concerned that this type of attack could become more commonplace and be applied to more software than just your browser, or do you think it will potentially be even easier to resolve than an infected desirable program? I’m just hoping that I won’t be seeing eFast anytime soon when family ask me for PC repairs.

AdBlock Has a New Owner and No One Knows Who

Popular Chrome and Safari browser extension AdBlock has been quietly sold, and no one seems to know who the new owner is. Yesterday, users of AdBlock – rebranded from its former guise as AdBlock Plus – may have seen a pop-up announcing that, in contravention of the entire principle of the extension, that advertisers were now able to buy themselves on to the AdBlock whitelist, through EyeO’s acceptable advertising, allowing their adverts to circumvent the block. A footnote at the bottom of the post, though, revealed that AdBlock is under new ownership. The name of the new owner was not revealed.

https://twitter.com/aahaworth/status/649702548358701056

Requests submitted to AdBlock, asking for the name of the new owner, have been met with a flat refusal, with the company revealing that the buyer wishes to remain anonymous. All the company was willing to reveal is that former CEO Michael Gundlach was no longer with AdBlock, the tool he created.

Couple the lack of transparency with the new policy of allowing rich companies to pay for their adverts to be forced upon AdBlock users, and we have a company that, within the space of a day, has done everything it can to erode the trust of its users.

Thank you The Next Web for providing us with this information.

Mozilla Releases Firefox 41 Containing Integrated IM Functionality

Mozilla has officially unveiled the latest version of Firefox which incorporates an intriguing messaging service called, ‘Hello Beta’. According to Mozilla, this is the world’s first communication tool embedded into a browser which allows users to send and receive messages during a video call. The company said about this latest venture:

“Firefox Hello Beta, developed with our partner Telefónica, is the global communications system built directly into a browser and it will now let you send and receive instant messages when you’re in a video call in Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux.”

While this might be true, I’m fairly certain other browsers have implemented something similar a long time ago. Also, many users might feel that this could make Firefox take up more system resources and become rather bloated. It’s certainly an interesting addition, but I highly doubt many people are going to use it for an extended period. There has been some confusion regarding this announcement and to clarify, this only works during video calls.

Ideally, I’d love to see Firefox adopt a simple layout without unnecessary features and optimizing RAM usage to make for the most efficient browser out there.

Which browser do you use?

Firefox 41 for Windows, Mac, Linux is now available for download and we’ve included a direct hyperlink for your convenience.

Mozilla Deploys Built-in Firefox Ads

Mozilla has implemented its long-proposed but negatively-received Suggested Tiles feature within Firefox, which effectively inserts Mozilla-approved ads into the browser. First vaunted back in February 2014, Suggested Tiles was put on hold after a negative reaction from Firefox users. Instead of putting the idea to bed, though, Mozilla has quietly deployed it with as little fanfare as possible, presumably hoping users don’t notice.

Mozilla revealed in May 2015 that it hadn’t entirely binned the proposal, with Darren Herman, Mozilla’s VP of Content Services, saying, “Suggested Tiles represents an important step for us to improve the state of digital advertising.”

Suggested Tiles, which has been rolled out to Firefox browsers for the past few weeks, not only shows sponsored links, it tracks user interaction with the browser, sending that raw data to its Disxo analysis engine, which is then converted into a high-level aggregate report that it sends to advertisers. Mozilla claims that is not getting paid for featuring the ads.

“Since early August,” Herman went on to explain, “we have been delivering promoted content provided by our first wave of partners including Yahoo, a number of top tier news titles including Fortune Magazine and Quartz, and mission-oriented partners such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

“With Suggested Tiles, we want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting users’ privacy and giving them control over their data,” he added.

According to Mozilla, Suggested Tiles records and stores the following user data:

  • Language preference
  • Tile ID
  • How many times the Tile was displayed
  • Where in the grid of tiles a Tile was displayed
  • What interaction the user has with a Tile:
  • “Rolled over”
  • “Hovered over”
  • Pinned
  • Blocked
  • Clicked
  • Moved

“This data is associated with an IP address and is stored for a maximum of seven days, while Mozilla reports on the performance of the Tile. Then the IP address is removed from the data which is then archived. Mozilla does not create a profile of an individual over time,” a Mozilla representative said.

Will this move scare away the remaining Firefox users, or put off people considering migrating to Firefox?

Thank you ZDNet for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.