Feeds

Firefox 21 ships with performance-profiling Health Report

Phones home with stats on startup, crashes, and more

Security for virtualized datacentres

The Mozilla Foundation has shipped the latest version of its Firefox web browser with a new Health Report feature that monitors browser behavior and optionally submits usage statistics back to Mozilla to help reduce crashes and other problems.

According to a blog post by VP of Firefox engineering Johnathan Nightingale, the initial Health Report includes just a few basic stats about the browser's operation, such as how long it took to start up, how long it has been running, and how often it crashed.

But Nightingale says Mozilla plans to add additional statistics to the report in the coming weeks, and that as trends emerge among multiple users, Firefox developers will be able to produce better support information for the browser and even allow it to heal itself from common problems.

Users of Firefox version 21.0 or later can examine their browser's current Health Report by accessing it from the Help menu. More controversially, however, the browser is also configured to periodically submit its usage information back to Mozilla by default.

That phoning-home behavior can be easily disabled via a switch on the report itself, but Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker hopes most users will leave it on. Not only will the Health Report help Mozilla improve Firefox, as she wrote in a 2012 blog post, but it can also provide individual users with data that can help them help themselves.

"We've designed [the Health Report] to provide useful information to you about your experience," Baker explained. "For example: is a particular add-on causing performance to degrade? Will starting a new Firefox profile help improve performance?"

  Screenshot of Firefox Health Report

If sharing this kind of data gives you the heebie-jeebies, you'll want to switch off the Firefox Health Report

According to Baker, the Health Report uses data "in a privacy-centric way," and that it doesn't gather any personal information.

Firefox developer Gilbert Fitzgerald likened it to the sensors inside modern cars, which aggregate data from a vast number of cars in order to deliver better driving experiences.

We'd sooner compare it to the similar data-gathering functions found in various modern desktop software, including most of the other major browsers and applications such as Microsoft Office. But hey, why waste a car analogy when you can find one?

Users who do decide to disable the data-sharing feature will still be able to check their own Health Reports, their data just won't be sent to Mozilla to join the rest of the pool.

In addition to the Health Report, Firefox 21 includes a number of other new features, mostly minor. The Social API now supports more providers than just Facebook Messenger. The Do Not Track UI has been added to include an option that says "Tell sites that I want to be tracked" (yes, really).

In addition, a couple of new developer tools have been added, as has support for some new HTML5 elements. And then there are the usual performance improvements. A full list of the changes can be found in the release notes.

Otherwise, if you're ready to dive in, the new version is available via the Firefox auto-update beginning on Tuesday, or new users can download it from firefox.com. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.