April 17, 2015

Mozilla Releases Firefox 37: Native HTML5 Video Added, Changes Made to Security Features

Mozilla (NewsAlert) announced recently the release of Firefox 37. The latest version of the browser adds support for native HTML5 video playback and affects several security features.

One of the objectives of HTML5 is to reduce dependency on plugins. These add-ons function very much like a regular standalone program would, but are problematic in browser environments.

They can be resource hogs, crash frequently, and often provide an easy entry for security breaches. HTML5 has added media tags for native audio and video playback, thus eliminating many of these problems. It wasn’t until October 2014 that HTML5 became a final standard; browsers like Mozilla are catching up to adopt some of its specifications.

Support for the digital signature algorithm (DSA) has been removed, because as Mozilla technical evangelist Dietrich Ayala put it, “We removed support for DSA in certificates and TLS, because we found that almost nobody was using these.” Any site operator that used DSA to sign its certificates must get a new, non-DSA certificate if they want their site to work in Firefox 37.

The TLS that Ayala refers to is the transport layer security that provides secure communications over a network. Firefox 37 has disabled insecure TLS version fallback. As a result, some secure sites may not work in the browser. The onus is on the site operator to fix the problem, just as it is with DSA certificates.

Because of its leaner, more agile design, HTML5 is a great platform for mobile devices and systems running in the cloud. Plugins are no longer an option for mobile devices, a fact that one of the biggest plugin vendors, Adobe (NewsAlert), realized years ago. There will be some rough sailing for a few months as operators realize that their sites won’t work in the latest version of Firefox and other browsers, which are likely to duplicate those features. If it can eliminate the problem of some sites inexplicably hanging while visitors wait for them to load, then the short-term inconvenience of an upgrade will be well worth it. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino


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