Firefox 14 Beta Arrives with an Extra Shot of Security

Mozilla's new Firefox 13 browser may have just barely landed on users' PCs, but already forward-looking fans can check out the beta version of Firefox 14--and the Aurora version of Firefox 15, too.

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Most notable in Firefox 14 are new security features that “make it easier for users to control their Web experience,” according to the official announcement late last week on the Mozilla blog.

Several new features in the upcoming version of this popular free and open source browser are designed to make life better for users, in fact. The final version isn't expected until July, but here's a rundown of some key improvements you can expect.

1. HTTPS by Default

In the new Firefox 14 beta, HTTPS is enabled by default for Google searches to help protect users “from network infrastructure that may gather data, modify or censor search results,” Mozilla explained. This feature also stops third-party sites from gathering search data when you click on items on a search results page. “We look forward to supporting additional search engines as they enable SSL searches,” Mozilla wrote.

For sites with an EV certificate, Firefox 14 displays a green lock icon and the site owner's name (Click image to enlarge.)
2. A New 'Red Flag'

Also included in the latest Firefox beta is a new way to display the verified identity of a website in the browser's Awesome Bar, or URL field. Specifically, a globe icon positioned next to the domain indicates a site not using SSL encryption, while sites with SSL encryption include a lock icon and show “https.” Sites that have an Extended Validation (EV) certificate, meanwhile, are indicated by a green lock icon and include the name of the site owner. Sites with mixed http and https content show a gray triangle icon as a warning. Bottom line: a quick visual guide to the security level of the site you're visiting, making “spoofing” of secure sites much more difficult.

3. More Control Over Plug-ins

The upcoming Firefox 14 lets users control how plug-ins like Flash and Quicktime play through a new feature that can add a “play” button to all plug-in content; users can then simply click “play” to begin viewing immediately. “Future releases will include more specific customizations and a robust interface; for now, you can experiment with the feature by selecting plugins.click_to_play to 'true' in about:config,” Mozilla explained.

4. Better Lion Support

For Mac users, Firefox 14 now offers native full-screen support of OS X Lion 10.7, providing “a richer and more immersive browsing experience,” as Mozilla puts it.

5. URL Auto-Complete

Last but not least, Firefox 14's Awesome Bar now auto-completes URL domains as you type them, potentially making the process quicker than ever.

There are also a few key new features for developers in the Firefox 14 beta, including a pointer lock API and pseudo class lock.

And what of Firefox 15? The Aurora version of that software is now available as well. The most notable new addition there is native PDF support--a feature Google's competing Chrome browser has had for some time.

Neither of these new browser releases is designed for production purposes, of course, but if you're interested in checking them out, they're both available as free downloads for Windows, Linux, and Mac. Firefox 14 beta can be found in Mozilla's beta channel; the early Firefox 15 is on the Aurora page.

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