Tuesday evening, Mozilla pushed out the fifth beta of its Firefox 4 Web browser. With this update, improvements to the browser’s audio, video, and security have been added.
Two weeks ago, the Beta 4 release of Firefox 4 included new features to help users get organized, Firefox Sync and Panorama. This release focuses less on giving users new features, and more on providing the tools for a better experience down the road.
First, Firefox 4 now features hardware acceleration in Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines with DirectX10-compatible hardware. This feature has existed since the very early builds of FF4, but only now is it included by default. What it does is utilize the Direct2D rendering system so the graphics hardware can speed up rendering of page content, such as text and images. Eventually, this will also be able to speed up compositing as well, but that is not ready in Beta 5.
Secondly, the new Audio API cuts open the HTML5 audio and video elements, so the raw audio data can be viewed and accessed. Developers will be able to use this data to create new in-browser audio experiences, some of which Mozilla showed off in an impressive demonstration today.
Finally, Firefox 4 Beta 5 now supports HSTS, or HTTP Strict Transport Security. This feature makes FF4 remember which sites utilize SSL, to prevent the vulnerability that occurs when users access an encrypted site through a non-encrypted version.
Mozilla’s Paul Rouget described it in the following way:
“If a web page provide has an https version but you access it through http, what happens? The http version of the Website re-direct you to the https, but you first talked to the non-encrypted version of the website. These behaviors can be exploited to run a man-in-the-middle attack.”
So now, sites that support HSTS can automatically redirect any request to their secure site.