First Look: Firefox 48

The latest stable version of Firefox packs major under-the-hood improvements.

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Credit: Pixabay
Firefox 48

Firefox, for years now, has been an also-ran in large chunks of the browser market – yet, in terms of its technology, has been catching up to the bigger players fast. Firefox 48 continues the process of making the browser more streamlined, robust and powerful. Take a look.

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Electrolysis

Chrome, Safari and now Microsoft Edge have all used multiple processes for some time to keep one crashed webpage or media object from taking down the whole browser session, and Mozilla’s Electrolysis feature finally brings that capability to Firefox. It’s being rolled out in stages, so you might not see a change right away – instructions on how to check are here if you’re curious.

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New Discovery pane

Mozilla has dramatically cleaned up the way users access browser-customizing add-ons with a new discovery pane, featuring a streamlined interface that bears some similarities to Chrome’s extensions page.

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WebRTC improvements, particularly for Linux users

WebRTC, the open VoIP protocol used in Firefox’s Hello chat service, got some improvements in version 48, including full-duplex support for GNU/Linux users, delay-agnostic AEC, support for ICE Restart and Update (allowing media streams to stay smooth even when changing connections) and more.

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Search bar

Mozilla has also revamped the central search bar to provide slightly richer suggestion info, thanks to a broader view and extra suggestions, along with smart icons that indicate whether something you’re searching for what might already be open in a different tab.

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Rust

Mozilla’s own Rust language has replaced C++ in Firefox 48’s media parser, leaving it less vulnerable to memory exploits, as long as you’re using the desktop version of the browser. Mozilla says that Android support for a Rust-powered browser is coming soon.

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Security improvements

Firefox 48 has the usual array of security enhancements common to most new versions of major browsers. This time it’s expanded scrutiny of uncommon downloads and potentially unwanted software, thanks in part to Google’s expansion of its Safe Browsing service, that makes the headlines, along with a better security user interface and more flexible configuration options.