Firefox 14 Makes the Switch to HTTPS Google Search By Default

Firefox becomes the first browser to use HTTPS for built-in search

By on March 22nd, 2012 13:56 GMT

Mozilla is working on switching over to HTTPS Google Search by default in Firefox. What this means is that any search initiated from the Firefox search box, the AwesomeBar and, crucially, for search suggestions as well, will be done over a secured HTTPS channel rather than the open HTTP.

It's a big move since Firefox is a big source of Google Search traffic. With about a quarter of the web using Firefox, depending on the country, a lot of people will start doing a lot more searches via HTTPS.

Firefox has been holding back until now because Google wasn't quite ready to handle the traffic, it didn't believe the feature was mature enough. That is no longer the case, as SSL search is improving and going global, for all Google domains.

“We are currently testing the change to use SSL for built-in Google searches in our Firefox nightly channel. If no issues are uncovered, it will move through our Aurora and Beta release channels before eventually shipping to all our Firefox users," Johnathan Nightingale, director of Firefox Engineering, told Search Engine Land.

"This will include migrating the changes to our non-English version of Firefox, as well,” said, when I emailed Firefox about the posted change," he explained.

What this means is that Firefox 14 will use SSL search by default. But there are five more weeks before Firefox 14 makes it to the Aurora channel and 12 more before it goes stable.

Firefox uses Google Search in the AwesomeBar, in the search box and in the Firefox homepage. It also asks for suggestions in the search box, some partial queries are sent to Google even if users don't go through with their search.

With the switch over to SSL search, no one but Google and the user will know the query, there's no possibility of eavesdropping on open WiFi networks, or for websites to get referral data.

Another bonus feature of switching to the SSL search is that all searches are now done over SPDY, offering a significant performance boost. SPDY comes in particularly handy exactly in these types of cases, when queries are sent as they are typed and suggestions are constantly streamed back.

Google has been slowly switching over to its secured search engine, which uses HTTPS, for a few months now. The big switch was made last fall when the encrypted search became the default for signed-in users. But if users initiated the search from Firefox, the query would first be sent via an unencrypted channel. This will no longer be the case.

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