Trainspotting: Firefox in 2015

Trainspotting is a series of articles highlighting features in the lastest version of Firefox. A new version of Firefox is shipped every six weeks- we at Mozilla call this pattern "release trains".

The year is coming to a close, and even as the coals of 2015 fade to a soft orange, we've got Firefox releases to talk about! Here's a run-down of a few new tricks up the browser's sleeve, as well as a few of my favorite new features from this year.

Firefox 42 and 43 were released since our last Trainspotting post- you can check out 42's release notes here and 43's here.

"Use in Console" in Firefox 43

Let's start with something new and handy- sometimes it's useful to use Console to inspect or tweak an element you found in the Inspector. The traditional way is to use querySelector to find the element, or, in some browsers, the special $0 variable which refers to the element currently being inspected. (If you didn't know about $0, consider it a nice end-of-year bonus!). Starting in Firefox 43, you can now use the "Use in Console" command in the context menu to put that element into a temporary variable. Unlike $0, you can create multiple temporary variables in the Console and highlight other elements without losing your reference. An iterative improvement, but one that makes life easier.

New Privacy and Security Control Center in Firefox 42


You've always been able to check whether your connection to a website is secure by clicking in the address bar. Firefox 42 includes a redesign of this panel to make it easier to review the security of a website, as well as incorporate privacy settings and what permissions you've granted. It's a nice improvement to an interface that used to take many more clicks.

Easier Element Screenshots in Firefox 41

Right click on a node in the markup view.

This feature proved to be very popular! Firefox 41 added the ability to capture a part of the page from the Inspector with the “Screenshot Node” menu command.

BroadcastChannel in Firefox 38

A personal favorite API of mine- the ability for all open pages on a domain to broadcast messages to one another. Great for keeping app state in sync or event notifications.

// one tab
var ch = new BroadcastChannel('test');
ch.postMessage('this is a test');

// another tab
ch.addEventListener('message', function (e) {
    alert('I got a message!', e.data);

// yet another tab
ch.addEventListener('message', function (e) {
    alert('Avast! a message!' e.data);

Wrapping up 2015

It’s been a great year, and I’ve had a blast writing about notable new features in Firefox. If you want to learn more about how Firefox has grown and improved this year, read through the Trainspotting post archive.

See you in 2016!

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[Excellent talks] “OnConnectionLost: The life of an offline web application” at JSConf EU 2015

I spend a lot of timing giving and listening to talks at conferences and I want to point out a few here I enjoyed.

At JSConfEU this year Stefanie Grewenig and Johannes Thönes talked about offline applications:

I thoroughly and utterly enjoyed this talk. Not only because their timing worked really well and the handover from presenter to presenter went smoothly. I was most impressed to see an offline matters talk based on project/customer delivery data instead of the ones we normally get. Most offline talks explain the need, show the technology and ask for us to get cracking. This one got cracking and showed how things were done and what problems you run into.

The slides are beautiful, the storyline makes a lot of sense and at no time you feel condescended to. The talk also shows that some “impossible to use in production” technologies like DOM storage do work if you use them in a sensible fashion.

As a bonus – it has the cutest rhino at 11:55:

rhino cartoon

Double this with Nolan Lawson’s “IndexedDB, WebSQL, LocalStorage – what blocks the DOM?” and you learn a lot about local storage issues and solutions in a very short amount of time.

Thanks Stefanie, Johannes and Nolan. I feel cleverer now.

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Rock, Meats, JavaScript – BrazilJS 2015

BrazilJS audience

I just got back from a 4 day trip to Brazil and back to attend BrazilJS. I was humbled and very happy to give the opening keynote seeing that the closing was meant to be by Brendan Eich and Andreas Gal – so, no pressure.

The keynote

In my keynote, I asked for more harmony in our community, and more ownership of the future of JavaScript by those who use it in production.

Keynote time

For quite some while now, I am confused as to who we are serving as browser makers, standards writers and library creators. All of the excellent solutions we have seem to fall through the cracks somewhere when you see what goes live.

That’s why I wanted to remind the audience that whatever amazing, inspiring and clever thing they’ll hear about at the conference is theirs to take to fruition. We have too much frustration in our market, and too much trying to one-up one another instead of trying to solve problems and making the solutions easily and readily available. The slides are on Slideshare, and a video will become available soon.

About Brazil

There are a few things to remember when you are going to Brazil:

  • When people are excited about something, they are really excited about it. There’s a lot of passion.
  • Personal space is as rare as an affordable flat in central London – people will affectionately touch strangers and there is a lot of body language. If that’s not your thing, make it obvious!
  • You will eat your body weight in amazing meat and food is a social gathering, not just fuel. Thus, bring some time.
  • Everybody will apologise for their bad English before having a perfectly comprehensible conversation with you
  • People of all ages and backgrounds are into heavy music (rock, metal, hardcore…)

About the event

VR ride about the history of JavaScript

BrazilJS was a ridiculous attempt at creating the biggest JavaScript event with 1,300 people. And it was a 100% success at that. I am fascinated by the professionalism, the venue, the AV setup and all the things that were done for speakers and attendees alike. Here are just a few things that happened:

  • There was a very strong message about diversity and a sensible and enforced code of conduct. This should not be a surprise, but when you consider Brazilian culture and reputation (think Carnival) it takes pride and conviction in those matters to stand up for them the way the organisers did.
  • The AV setup was huge and worked fine. There were no glitches in the audio and every presentation was live translated from English to Brazilian Portuguese and vice versa. The translation crew did a great job and we as presenters should do more to support them. I will write a post soon about this.
  • Wireless was flaky, but available when you needed it. It is pretty ridiculous to assume in a country where connectivity isn’t cheap and over a thousand people with two devices each try to connect that you’d have a good connection. As a presenter, I never rely on availability – neither should you.
  • There was always enough coffee, snacks and even a huge cake celebrating JavaScript (made by the mom of one of the organisers – the cake, not JavaScript)
  • The overall theme was geek – as geek as it can get. The organisers dressed up as power rangers, in between talks we saw animated 90s TV series, there as a Virtual Reality ride covering the history of JavaScript built with Arduinos and there were old-school arcade machines and consoles to play with.
  • It was a single track conference over two days with lots of high-class speakers and very interesting topics.
  • As a speaker, everything was organised for me. We all took a hired bus from and to the venue and we had lunch catered for us.
  • The conference also had a minority/diversity scholarship program where people who couldn’t afford to come got a sponsored ticket. These people weren’t grandstanded or shown up but just became a part of the crowd. I was lucky to chat to a few and learned quite a few things.
  • The after party was a big “foot in mouth” moment for me as I kept speaking out against bands at those. However, in Brazil and choosing a band that covers lots of rock anthems, it very much worked. I never thought I see an inclusive, non-aggressive mosh pit and people stage diving at a JavaScript event – I was wrong.

action shot
Me, stagediving at the BrazilJS after party – photo by @orapouso

So, all I can say is thank you to everyone involved. This was a conference to remember and the enthusiasm of the people I met and talked to is a testament to how much this worked!

Personal/professional notes

BrazilJS was an interesting opportunity for me as I wanted to connect with my Microsoft colleagues in the country. I was amazed by how well-organised our participation was and loved the enthusiasm people had for us. Even when one of our other speakers couldn’t show up, we simply ran an impromptu Q&A on stage abut Edge. Instead of a sales booth we had technical evangelists at hand, who also helped translating. Quite a few people came to the booth to fix their web sites for Microsoft Edge’s standard compliant rendering. It’s fun to see when fixing things yields quick results.

Other short impressions:

  • I had no idea what a machine my colleague Jonathan Sampson is on stage. His talk in adventurous Portuguese had the audience in stitches and I was amazed by the well-structured content. I will pester him to re-record this in English.
  • Ju Gonçalves (@cyberglot) gave a great, detailed talk about reduce(). If you are a conference organiser, check her out as a new Speaker() option – she is now based in Copenhagen.
  • It was fun to catch up with Laurie Voss after a few years (we worked in Yahoo together) and it was great of him to point to his LGBTQ Slack group inviting people to learn more about that facet of diversity in our community.
  • It warmed me to see the Mozilla Brazil community still kicking butt. Warm, affectionate and knowledgable people like the ones you could meet at the booth there are the reason why I became a Mozillian in the first place.

And that’s that

Organisers on stage

Thank you for everyone involved. Thank you to everybody asking me lots of technical questions and giving non-filtered feedback. Thank you for showing that a lot of geeks can also be very human and warm. Thank you for embracing someone who doesn’t speak your language. I met quite a few people I need to follow up with and I even had a BBQ at the family of two of the attendees I met before I went to my plane back home. You rock!

Always bet on JavaScript cake

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Web Trends – 2015

Web Design Trends, Web Development and Web Business Trends for 2015

The Web Professional Trends series begins November 26, 2014 and continues through the first quarter of 2015. The first podcast in the series is with Brent Norris, director of IT at Green Collar Technologies will cover the latest trends for the Small Business Web professional managing multiple projects.

Additional podcast slated for December 2014 and into the New Year will cover a wide variety of Web professional topics including enterprise level Web Design Trends, Web Development Trends and Web Business Trends will include:

*Web Security
*Social Media
*Web Project Management
*Web Marketing
*Mobile Application Development
*Responsive Design
*Web and Content Marketing
*Linked and Big Data
*Managing your business (accounting, web hosting, tools etc)
*Web Standards
*Legal and Copyright
*Legal issues
*Web Server Admin (including hardware, security, network)

The series and interviews will be conducted and moderated by Brent Norris the series will explore trends, cutting-edge enabling technologies and strategies that aim to strengthen the role of the Web professional.

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Web Professional Trends 2015 with Brent Norris

In this 3 minute interview with Brent Norris, Sr. Technical Advisor at Webprofessionals.org and owner at Brent.fm we talk about Web Professional Trends for 2015 including the value to both the aspiring and practicing Web professional.

The series will cover a variety of Web design trends, Web development trends and Web business trends including Web marketing and social media.

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2015 Web Design Contest

Mark DuBois
Director of Education

As I look forward to another series of Web design contests as Director of Education for WebProfessionals.org, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect on why our organization is heavily involved with helping aspiring web designers and developers.

It is 2015, yet, there are a number of issues still being resolved. I encounter practicing professionals who have a limited view of web design and development (perhaps overlooking areas like mobile, accessibility or security). We aim to reinforce “best practices” in the next generation of web professionals and to encourage continuous learning. This is why we focus on a number of areas.

These include:

• Industry best practices in coding and documentation (this includes HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and server side code and the inter-relationships between these technologies),
• Making web pages accessible for all visitors to the site,
• Understanding search engine optimization and why it is important,
• Understanding emerging technologies (and their impact on our current practices),
• Understanding security vulnerabilities and how to best defend against them,
• Understanding current trends in design, workflow and more.

For purposes of this article, I want to focus on the first area – best practices in coding and documentation. In my opinion, every page should either be self-documenting and include necessary comments so I know what the original purpose of the page was, when it was created and when it was modified, who made the changes, and what the specific changes were at a minimum. Whether tools are used in the creation of pages or they are hand coded, there should never be any title of “untitled document.” Where possible, modern semantic markup relying on HTML5 should be employed. It is 2015, yet I see so many pages created with XHTML or older versions in mind.

Once the pages have been developed, they should be tested across multiple browsers and multiple devices. Whether we develop for mobile first or not is debatable, but we should test our work on mobile devices. We should understand that an exact look to all pages across browsers and devices is not possible, but we can code in a manner that we understand the limitations of some screen resolutions. We should focus on providing the best user experience regardless of platform.

I intend to provide a series of articles covering many of these topics in depth (and recruit others to include their perspectives and contribute articles as well). While they will be aimed at aspiring web professionals, I am hoping practicing web professionals will also find value.

From my perspective, I have run the state of Illinois Web Design contest for the past 15 years; I have helped with the national web design contest for 12 years and am also now involved with the international web design contest later this year in Brazil. There is a lot to each of these (including creating materials, coordinating and recruiting many individuals to serve in a variety of roles and being actively engaged during these competitions). At a minimum, my efforts alone have amounted to months’ worth of preparation. I believe that it is important to have a solid foundation and to keep abreast of emerging trends. I hope you now know why we focus on these areas in our web design contests and why I think this is worthwhile.

For additional information about the Web Design Contest visit the contest website.

I look forward to your comments.


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