Mozilla releases Firefox 26 Beta 1 and Firefox Aurora 27.0a2, concentrates on behind-the-scenes tweaks

 Mozilla has followed on from the recent release of Firefox 25.0 FINAL with the update of its two pre-release channels to Firefox 26.0 Beta 1 and Firefox Aurora 27.0a2 respectively.

Like version 25, version 26 has little in the way of visible new features other than that all plug-ins now default to "click to play" mode. Version 27 has no brand new features either, although some features -- notably optimized Windows 8 support -- remain exclusive to this build.

Firefox 26 Beta now defaults all plug-ins (with the exception of recent Flash plug-ins) to "click to play", which means the user is prompted to activate the plugin when it’s evoked. From here users can then trust the plugin and instruct Firefox to let it run automatically in future.

Other new features include support for script-generated password fields in the password manager, while the H.264 video codec is now supported in Linux with the appropriate gstreamer plug-in. MP3 decoding is now also supported in Windows XP.

Developers will be interested to see that the Social API now supports Social Bookmarking for multiple providers. Support for the CSS image orientation property has also been added along with a new App Manager that makes it possible to deploy and debug HTML5 webapps on Firefox OS phones and the Firefox OS Simulator.

Three specific fixes have also been implemented -- standalone images are now displayed according to the EXIF orientation information contained within a JPEG image, while page loading times have been improved by Firefox no longer decoding images that aren’t visible. Finally, the AudioToolbox MP3 backend for OS X has also been fixed.

Also released is Firefox Aurora 27.0. There are no major new features with this release -- the two slated by Mozilla, an optimized build for Windows 8 users and support for multiple services in the SocialAPI, were already presented in version 26, but failed to migrate across to the beta version.

The optimized build gives adventurous Windows 8 users a glimpse into the new Modern UI build of Firefox that will run alongside the desktop version in a similar vein to Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. As with these two browsers, Aurora must be the default browser before users can launch the Modern UI version via the Start screen.

Support for multiple services in the SocialAPI will allow users to receive notifications, chat and more from multiple integrated services.

One change in the new Aurora build is support for the SPDY 3.1 protocol (version 2.0 has been depreciated with this release). There are also numerous developer tweaks and improvements, from experimental support for CSS sticky positioning (which will only work in Aurora) to the addition of a new command -- all:unset -- for resetting style sheets. One notable fix is that Azure/Skia content now renders on Linux.

Firefox 26.0 Beta 1 and Firefox Aurora 27.0a2 are both available now as open-source, pre-release downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux. Also available is Firefox 25.0 FINAL for those wishing to run stable software.

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