Firefox 6.0 – Gray Colored URL in Address Bar

If you have upgraded to Firefox 6.0 recently, you might have noticed a change in your URL address bar.

Now, instead of the web address being in all black like you might have grown accustomed to over the past 10 years, the powers that be have decided it would be better to color all of the URL gray (except for the primary domain name, which still appears in black).

Firefox 6.0 Address Bar

I can see how this could be helpful to the ignorant masses who get scammed by phishing emails, but I’m a relatively intelligent internet user, and I have been browsing the net long enough to know what the primary domain name is in the URL without needing to have it colored different.

If you are like me and wish to set the address bar colors back to the way they used to be in prior versions of Firefox, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. In your Firefox address bar, type “about:config” (sans quotes), and press enter.
  2. In the filter search box, enter “browser.urlbar.formatting.enabled
  3. Right-click on the “browser.urlbar.formatting.enabled” line item in the listing and select “Toggle” to switch it to false

Firefox 6.0 Address Bar - about:config

Facebook Authentication and a Potential Security Risk

The idea of a “universal login” is not new by any means. Since the early days of the internet, many people have longed for the ease of having to only remember one login and password to access all of their favorite member-based sites.

Over the years, there have been a number of companies/organizations that have tackled this problem, and recently a couple of solutions have bubbled to the top in popularity. OpenID, Google Friend Connect, MySpaceID, and even the Twitter Login API have all been used as “universal login” methods which can be integrated with a web site.

None of these solutions, however, have even come close to the adoption rate boasted by the Facebook Authentication system. Practically everyone has a Facebook account these days, regardless of age, gender, education level, location, favorite web browser, email address, or internet provider! Facebook embraced this fact and built a nicely packaged authentication system which enables developers to integrate Facebook Authentication into pretty much any app or web site they can imagine. You can now find the Facebook universal login method in everything from iphone apps and desktop applications, to normal run-of-the-mill web sites.

This brings me to my point: Potential Security Risks

While logging into my Facebook account via all the different web sites and various applications which I use on a daily basis, I became acutely aware of a glaring security risk with the Facebook Authentication system. Basically, the way how Facebook instills a sense of security is via a recognizable blue bar which has a gray bar and diagonal stripes underneath it. This familiar imagery is displayed whenever you are asked to provide your Facebook login information. The idea that is consequently trained and reinforced in end-users’ minds is that the familiar imagery represents a genuine Facebook login screen. As such, if you are being asked for your Facebook information in a login popup, but the unique blue and gray bar is missing, you would immediately suspect that something was wrong.

Notice, however, that the Facebook URL is nowhere to be seen in the login popup. There is literally no easy way to verify where the contents of the login form are actually going. This is especially true in the countless iphone applications and computer programs which are making use of the Facebook Authentication system. A rogue developer could easily create a form which displayed the blue and gray bar, but that actually transmitted the login information somewhere else entirely (such as a database on their own server) before it sent the information to Facebook.

The exact same thing could be easily accomplished by any semi-competent web developer with 15 minutes worth of spare time. All they would have to do is make a mock-up copy of the legitimate Facebook login popup, but have it submit somewhere else entirely. The end user wouldn’t know the difference.

In summary: Facebook’s way of instilling a *false* sense of security via their blue/gray bar is totally flawed and easily exploited. They need to come up with some sort of method which enables end-users to verify the form’s authenticity before they enter their login information.

BrainFuel is Celebrating 10 Years

TenWow, that’s a little bit epic, if you ask me!

This whole site started 10 years ago today, with the first post being made to a simple little HTML file that I uploaded to my server. Initially, it was a simple little page that linked to interesting web sites, and then grew into a massive collection of thoughts, design inspiration, and articles.

Click here to see screenshots of what BrainFuel looked like over the years.

Some stats! There have been 3,121 posts in 17 categories over 10 years. More than 15,081 comments!

Yes, BrainFuel has been less of a priority for me personally in the last few years, as I’ve focused on business with Tornado, with working on a startup (it’s going to launch!), and getting married, and now expecting a baby in July.

I’d like to personally thank the people that have made this site what it is. Without you, BrainFuel would have been less-interesting, and probably gone offline. Special thanks to Kent Downer for contributing interesting posts, and for heading up the recent BrainFuel redesign. Thanks to Tom Chapin for interesting posts. Thanks to Ben Wood for his interesting posts and for managing multiple iterations of the site and for coming up with the name BrainFuel. There are also several others who have contributed posts over the years. Thank you!

I’ve had the opportunity to meet many very interesting people as a result of this site, and made friendships I treasure.

So, here’s to another decade of BrainFuel! Thanks for being a reader!

Helpful web tool: Placehold.it

Have you ever been working on a design and need to insert a placeholder image to show where a graphic will go? The typical process is something like this: open photoshop, create a new image, enter the size you need, change the background color, add some text and then save it. Here’s a handy web-based tool to replace that process: http://placehold.it/ .

Mundane task, done in less time, equals a happy designer.