What's in the latest Firefox update? Mozilla looks over users' shoulders, suggests tools and add-ons

The newest update to Firefox, version 64, includes a built-in recommendation system that points to specific browser add-ons users might want based on how they're surfing.

Mozilla Firefox headquarters
Magdalena Petrova/IDG

Mozilla released Firefox 64 for Windows, macOS and Linux with an embedded recommendation system that spotlights features and suggests specific add-ons based on how users work the browser and where they steer it on the web.

Engineers also patched 11 vulnerabilities in Firefox. Two were marked "Critical," Mozilla's highest threat ranking. "Some of these bugs showed evidence of memory corruption and we presume that with enough effort that some of these could be exploited to run arbitrary code," Mozilla said in the advisory posted to the web.

Firefox 64, which can be downloaded here, updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose "About Firefox." The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or explains the refresh process.

Mozilla updates Firefox every six to eight weeks; the last time it upgraded the browser, to version 63, was Oct. 23, or seven weeks ago.

It's CFR, not CPR

Firefox 64 introduces what Mozilla calls "Contextual Feature Recommender," aka CFR, a feature currently available only to U.S. users running the browser in standard mode (not in Private Browsing mode). "CFR is a system that proactively recommends Firefox features and add-ons based on how you use the web," said Nick Nguyen, Mozilla's vice president of product strategy, in a Dec. 11 post to a company blog.

Essentially, CFR points out potentially-useful features and add-ons to Firefox users. At root, it's a way for Mozilla to make the case that its browser is more personalized and more productive than rivals such as Google's Chrome, which sports a market share seven times Firefox's and offers significantly more add-ons.

Nguyen cited examples such as tab pinning - a feature that permanently places some sites' tabs on the tab bar - that Mozilla might recommend a user. He also named three add-ons CFR could prescribe for those who spent substantial time on Facebook and YouTube, or who frequently called on Google Translate to interpret foreign-language websites.

Nguyen also swore that CFR sends no data to Mozilla, an important note in light of the organization's stance on user privacy. "The entire process happens locally in your copy of Firefox," Nguyen said.

All about tabs in the end

Firefox 64 also added some twists to tab management that let users grab, then perform an action on multiple tabs simultaneously. Users can now, for instance, select a stretch of tabs by pressing Shift as they click on the first and last tabs in the span.

A more flexible maneuver is available, too: Pressing Ctrl (Windows) or Command (macOS) while clicking allows users to select non-contiguous tabs. Once selected, the several tabs can be moved, bookmarked, pinned or deleted as a block.

Chrome already has this tab-handling capability, but others, including Apple's Safari and Microsoft's Edge, do not.

Firefox 64 now shows how much "energy impact" each tab represents when the user types about:performance in the address bar to bring up the browser's task manager. The page is in the midst of a revamp, and Mozilla engineers have said that memory consumption - another important metric for browsers - will be added in the next iteration.

Elsewhere in the browser, Firefox 64 dropped support for all Symantec-issued SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates. The move, which was triggered by a consensus among browser makers that Symantec and its partners had improperly issued certificates, violating the rule set by the CA/Browser Forum, a standards groups whose members include browser developers and certificate authorities.

Firefox's final step in its "distrust" process was originally supposed to take effect with version 63. But Mozilla delayed the ban, saying in October that too many sites had not switched to a different certificate supplier at the time. Instead, Mozilla gave Firefox 64 the honors.

The next upgrade, Firefox 65, should reach users on Jan. 29 according to the browser's release calendar.

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