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Firefox browser includes innovative features developed by Seneca College

David Humphrey, Seneca Professor and lead on the Firefox/Seneca project, presenting at the Mozilla Summit.

Mozilla's Firefox is one of the most used web browsers worldwide: it accounts for over one-fifth of all web browser usage. Being a favourite of the open source community, Firefox is always being upgraded and improved, and the students and faculty at Seneca have contributed to the effort as well.

Ever since the Mozilla Foundation released Firefox 4, new releases of Firefox have featured groundbreaking technology developed by Seneca students, graduates, and faculty. As a result of Seneca’s on-going partnership with the Mozilla Foundation, Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT) played an integral role in the creation of key features in various releases of Firefox. The team developed the world's first web audio API, implemented the much requested web-gaming feature known as Mouse/Pointer Lock for 3D interfaces, implemented captioning for web video in the form of WebVTT, and worked on countless bug fixes and other features.

The audio API the Seneca team developed allows programmers to manipulate and create audio that can be synced with the rest of the webpage in ways previously not possible on the web. The sound can be incorporated directly into the HTML5 code with no need for a plug-in. This functionality could be used, for example, to improve accessibility of online content for people with disabilities. The work has now spawned a standardization process at the W3C to develop a standard for such audio APIs in other browsers.

The Mouse/Pointer Lock feature that was added to Firefox allows users to create an infinite scrolling area. As a user scrolls, more content is loaded, allowing a user to scroll indefinitely without running into an edge. Examples of this sort of technology can be seen when scrolling on Facebook or Google Maps, and is often used in 3D games—an important direction for the web.

The CDOT students also contributed to the advancement of HTML5's media implementation through work on WebVTT. The WebVTT standard describes a way for non-programmers to write captions, subtitles, and other textual cues for a media element. In the browser, users can view or listen to the media and also see (or hear) this content. It's very important for accessibility on the web and for allowing international use of media.

The efforts of the Seneca students are not only impressive in their own right, but they also contribute to the open source community and the Mozilla Foundation’s mission, which is to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the value of a free and open Web, where its users are encouraged to also be creators and developers. The contributions of the Seneca students will help to deliver technology that will revolutionize what it means to interact with your web browser.