All posts tagged ‘Metro’

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer 10: Touch-Friendly and Securely Sandboxed

By Peter Bright, Ars Technica

Microsoft is continuing to show off new features coming in its Internet Explorer 10 web browser, with a couple of posts describing its touch-friendly Metro interface and its enhanced security.

The current trend in browser design, led by Google Chrome, is to scale back the browser’s interface so that it takes less and less of the screen, devoting more room to the web content itself. Windows 8′s Metro design similarly removes window chrome to put the focus on content.

Metro Internet Explorer 10 is the logical conclusion of this trend: Most of the time it has no visible interface at all, leaving only the webpage visible. Its app bar, displayed by swiping from the top or bottom of the screen or right clicking the mouse, contains tabs, the address bar, and so on.

The Metro version of Internet Explorer feels slick and comfortable using both touch and mouse and keyboard interaction. Particular highlights are the tile-based favorites view and the tab thumbnails, both shown to good effect in Microsoft’s post.

Internet Explorer 9 introduced some particularly taskbar-oriented features: support for pinning sites to the taskbar, and the ability for those pinned sites to create custom options in the Jump list. In Windows 8, sites can be pinned to the Start screen to make them instantly accessible. Sites pinned this way can even update their tile to show status notifications — much in the way that “real” apps can do. However, the Jump lists are tucked away, only available from within Internet Explorer.

One concern that this chromeless look raises is that of differentiation; Metro-style versions of both Chrome and Firefox are being developed, and it’s hard to see how they might look any different.

Security-wise, Internet Explorer 10 will include a new Enhanced Protected Mode. Protected Mode is the name Microsoft gives to its sandboxing technique. The current version, introduced in Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista, creates a separate, low-privilege process for running JavaScript and rendering HTML. This low-privilege process has no write access to most of the file system. This means that even if there is a security flaw in the browser, the attacker cannot write malware to the hard disk.

Sandbox protection of this kind isn’t perfect — there are various techniques for escaping from the sandbox and increasing privileges — but it serves as another measure attackers have to defeat if they want to exploit users.

Enhanced Protected Mode further reduces the rights that each low-privilege process has: Not only do they not have write permission to the file system, they also lose read permission. This makes the sandbox even harder to escape, but it comes at a cost: It breaks virtually all current plugins.

The Metro browser is already plugin-free, but the desktop browser is not. Enhanced Protected Mode won’t be the default on the desktop (though this will be an option) to ensure that plugins remain compatible. If Enhanced Protected Mode is enabled, then any attempt to use an incompatible plugin will result in a prompt to disable the mode for that tab, to allow the plugin to work.

With the systemwide anti-exploitation features that Internet Explorer 10 is also using, it’s shaping up to be the most secure Internet Explorer ever.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Browsers

Firefox to Get a ‘Metro’ Makeover for Windows 8

Mozilla is breaking ground on a new effort to update the Firefox web browser for Microsoft’s coming Windows 8.

Firefox for Windows 8 was announced earlier this year and will support both the traditional desktop Windows environment and the new Metro interface designed for tablets and other touchscreen devices.

While Apple’s App Store rules don’t allow Firefox to run on iOS devices, Mozilla has already created a tablet-friendly version of Firefox for Android and is now hoping to do the same for Windows 8.

According to the team already at work on Firefox for Windows 8, Firefox will take a hybrid approach to Windows 8′s dual desktop and Metro modes. The desktop and Metro options aren’t the only way to develop for Windows 8; there is in fact a third path — “Metro style enabled desktop browsers.” These hybrid apps can be run as desktop applications or as Metro apps. The hybrid approach means that Firefox will work as it always has for those that choose to ignore Metro, but will also fit in with Metro for those that prefer it.

There’s another reason for choosing the hybrid route — Metro style enabled desktop browsers have the ability to run outside of the Metro sandbox. Metro style enabled desktop browsers have access to most of the Win32 API and the entire new WinRT API.

As Mozilla developer Brian Bondy writes in a recent blog post, taking the hybrid approach will give Firefox more power: “We can build a powerful browser which gives an experience equal to that of a classic Desktop browser.”

That doesn’t mean that everything with Firefox 8 for Windows will be smooth sailing though. For example, the current rules for the Metro environment allow for only one browser in Metro mode. That means that if you don’t set Firefox to be the default browser then it can’t be used in Metro mode. Given how few users change the default settings, most may never even realize that Firefox can run in Metro mode.

Bondy also points out that it remains to be seen whether or not Microsoft will let a hybrid Firefox in the coming Windows Store since it won’t technically be a Metro application. Other unknowns include whether or not Firefox for Windows 8 will work with the ARM-based version of Windows 8 or whether that will require another port.

For more details on just what it will take to create Firefox for Windows 8, be sure to read through Bondy’s post.