Mozilla may offer new browser features only on secure websites

Non-secure HTTP sites will not get access to new browser features, Mozilla said

Mozilla is planning to gradually favor HTTPS (HTTP Secure) connections over non-secure HTTP connections by making some new features on its browser available only to secured sites.

The browser developer decided after a discussion on its community mailing list that it will set a date after which all new features will be available only to secure websites, wrote Firefox security lead Richard Barnes in a blog post. Mozilla also plans to gradually phase out access to browser features for non-secure websites, particularly features that could present risks to users' security and privacy, he added.

The community has to still agree on what new features will be blocked for non-secure sites. Firefox users could, for instance, still be able to view non-secure websites. But those websites would not get access to new features such as access to new hardware capabilities, Barnes said.

"Removing features from the non-secure web will likely cause some sites to break. So we will have to monitor the degree of breakage and balance it with the security benefit," he said, adding that Mozilla is already considering less severe restrictions for non-secure websites to find the right balance. At the moment, Firefox already blocks, for example, persistent permissions from non-secure sites for access to cameras and phone.

Mozilla's move follows the introduction of "opportunistic encryption" to Firefox last month, which provides encryption for legacy content that would otherwise have been unencrypted. While that does not protect from man-in-the-middle attacks like HTTPS does, it helps against passive eavesdropping and was welcomed by security experts.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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