Mozilla upgrades Firefox to v.35, streamlines video calling

Mozilla today released its newest browser, Firefox 35, which features a streamlined version of the plug-in-free Hello video calling service.

Mozilla today released its newest browser, Firefox 35, which features a streamlined version of the plug-in-free Hello video calling service and faster access to an app marketplace that has dreams of becoming the next Chrome Web Store.

Firefox Hello, which is based on WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications), an open-source API for in-browser audio and video communications sans specialized plug-ins like Adobe's Flash, debuted in December with Firefox 34.

Mozilla slightly streamlined the connect process in Firefox 35, giving visual and audio alerts when the other party joins the chat -- so that attention can be put elsewhere during a wait -- and letting users save and name video chats for reuse with the same participants.

Both parties must be running WebRTC-compliant browsers, which currently include Firefox, Google's Chrome and Opera Software's Opera on the desktop; Firefox, Chrome and Opera Mini on Android; and something called Bowser on iOS. Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and Apple's Safari do not yet support WebRTC, although Microsoft announced last fall it's backing the standard.

Other enhancements to Firefox 35 included new Share options -- tools for sharing URLs with services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others -- and in-browser access to Firefox Marketplace through the Tools menu or a toolbar icon.

Mozilla has been pitching developers on Marketplace as an alternative to what it sees as the closed or semi-closed mobile ecosystems dominated by Google and Apple. The apps run within Firefox on the desktop and on Android, or within Firefox OS, Mozilla's attempt to compete in the smartphone operating system space.

Marketplace wants to become the Mozilla version of, at the least, Google's Chrome Web Store, the Chrome browser and Chrome OS app distribution and sales center.

Firefox 35 also includes security patches for an unknown number of vulnerabilities; Mozilla has not yet published its technical descriptions for these fixes on its advisories website.

But Firefox on the desktop has taken a pounding in user share rankings of late, losing significant amounts and showing little sign of slowing. Last month, analytics firm Net Applications pegged Firefox with a 12% user share -- a rough estimate of the percentage of the world's users running the browser -- and the lowest since August 2006.

By Net Applications' acount, Firefox has lost more than a third of its user share in the last 12 months.

Irish metrics vendor StatCounter also showed a decline in Firefox's usage share -- analogous to browsing activity -- in the last year, but said it was a smaller decline of 5%.

In the zero-sum game of browsers, Chrome and IE have been the biggest beneficiaries of Firefox's drop.

Firefox 35 can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Mozilla's website. Current users' browsers will be automatically updated.

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