Firefox 3.0 may block sites fingered by Google

Internal discussions offer a glimpse of what's coming

Mozilla Corp. is considering adding a tool to Firefox 3.0 that would automatically block Web sites thought to harbor malicious downloads, but the company's security chief refused to spell out details, saying Mozilla is "not ready to talk about the feature."

Even so, there are numerous details to be found on a blog by a Firefox designer and in a back-and-forth discussion of the feature in Bugzilla, the management system that Mozilla uses to track changes in its software. Together, the two offer a behind-the-scenes look into Mozilla's open-source development process.

"Similar to how Firefox 2 blocks Web sites that are potentially going to try to steal your personal information, Firefox 3 will block Web sites that we believe are going to try to install malicious programs on your computer," said Alex Faaborg, a user experience designer in a blog entry last week. "Mozilla is coordinating with Google on this feature."

And in a Bugzilla entry that offers comments from Mozilla and Google employees -- including Chris Hofmann, Mozilla's director of engineering, and Mike Shaver, its director of ecosystem development -- information is even more free-flowing about malicious site blocking in the next major update to Firefox.

The discussion centers on how Firefox 3.0 will warn or alert users to a potentially malicious site. Faaborg mocks up a warning notice, then someone else offers up another option titled "Scarier error page." But at times the thread lingers on technical issues.

"If a site does not appear in the blacklist, but the response from Google says, 'This is a malware site,' will Firefox stop showing the page immediately and load this error page in its place?" asked Jesse Ruderman, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, San Diego, and a unpaid Firefox developer.

"I think the plan for malware is to only use the local lists so we don't have to slow down page load or unload a page (which would probably be too late anyway)," replied Tony Chang, one of the Google software engineers who works full time on Firefox.

"This is an example of how development goes on [at Mozilla]," said Window Snyder, the company's chief security officer. "This is a great example of working with the [open-source] community" in a give-and-take atmosphere where ideas are batted back and forth, she added.

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