Monday, February 3, 2014

New Firefox Sync has landed in Firefox Nightly

As you may know, the nightly channel of the web browser is currently at version 29. This will change in the next couple of days when all channels are upgraded a version.
The new Firefox Sync has already landed in Firefox Nightly while the old Sync is also still operational for the most part.
This may sound confusing at first, but it is not really the case.
If you use the old Firefox Sync, then you probably wonder how to switch to the new version, and what impact not switching to the new version may have on the synchronization functionality.
The old sync works just fine for now for the most part. You can still synchronize all of your devices with each other without making any changes. What you cannot do anymore however is add new devices that you want synced as well.
In addition, Mozilla will support the old sync technology only for a limited amount of time before it will stop support for it.
It is still possible to use the old sync at that point, but only if you are using a community supported self-hosted solution as explained here.

Setting up the new Firefox Sync

firefox sync

If you are not using the old Firefox Sync, skip the following step. Before you can configure the new Firefox Sync on your system, you need to unlink all of your existing Sync devices.
You do so with a click on the settings button, selecting Options, and then the Sync tab. Click on unlink this device to discontinue the old Firefox Sync on the system.
To create a new Firefox Sync account, do the following.
  • Click on the Settings button again and select Sign in to Sync.
  • Or, load about:accounts directly in the browser's address bar.
  • Click on the Get Started button displayed here.
  • You are asked to create a Firefox account by entering your email address, selecting a password, and your year of birth.
create firefox account
  • Here you can also check the "Choose what to sync" option to customize the data that gets synchronized by the browser.
  • A verification link is sent to the email address. The email is verified when you load that link.
  • If you have selected to customize the sync settings, you can do so on the next screen.
customize sync
  • Firefox Sync has been successfully set up after you hit the Start button.
The major change is that you do need to use an email address to set up the account. On the positive side of things, this means that you only need to use the email address and password to set up Sync on another device, instead of keys that the old Sync used to add devices to the process.
It does mean that Firefox users need to create a Firefox Account to use Sync, and while other browsers handle this in the same way, Chrome Sync requires a Chrome account for example, some users may not like the idea of using an email address to create such an account.
A Firefox Account is also required to use the Firefox Marketplace. Mozilla has additional account-related ideas that it may implement at one point in time.


  1. For me, the key selling point of old syncwas that Mozilla never stored my decryption key - or anything from which it could be derived.

    Please tell me this is still true (though it really doesn't sound like it is). Otherwise, my passwords are much less safe with new sync!

    1. Mozilla doesn't store your password. Your encryption key is derived from your password, but we don't ever see either of them. If you reset your password, you get a new key, so an attacker can't get access to your data.

  2. > In addition, Mozilla will support the old sync technology only for a limited amount of time before it will stop support for it.

    I hope it will at least be supported until the end of the current ESR support.

    Unrelatedly, what are rebranded builds (tor browser, icecat, iceweasel, waterfox, palemoon, etc.) supposed to do with a "Firefox account"?

    Also, does that mean the "heavy-crypto" option for sync is now gone in the new system?

    1. Current FxA doesn't address the use case of having non-derived keys. It's technically possible (after all, it's the same syncing code underneath), it's just something we haven't addressed yet. Look for that in a subsequent release.

    2. I'd be surprised if the overlap period were shorter than three months.

      Rebranded builds — well, we have a branded product called “Firefox Sync” right now.

      I'm as keen to see secondary keys as you are.

  3. I've selected to customize the sync settings. But Sync Selection popup didn't show up. How can i alter this settings now?

    1. Open Preferences and navigate to the Sync tab.

  4. Did you add an option to disable Sync completely? Or is still a pain to remove as it was with the previous Sync?

  5. What will happen with the Firefox 24 ESR build when Firefox 29 is released? Will people using the ESR version still be able to create new accounts on the "old" Sync system or will the new Sync code be back-ported into the v24 ESR build?

    1. there are no plans to implement Firefox Accounts in ESR 24 so when Accounts land in 29, users who have a machine in ESR 24 they should have Sync activated so it keeps working (Firefox Accounts is only mandatory for new Sync accounts).When the next ESR lands (I think that 31 is the one) that will have Firefox Accounts already implemented.

    2. Thanks. For people who download ESR 24 *after* 29 is released, will they still be able to create new accounts on the "old" Sync system or will everyone be locked out of creating new accounts on that system no matter what version of Firefox people are using? Has there been any decision on when they are going to fully shut down the old Sync system/servers for everyone?

    3. Yes, they will be able to create old accounts and they will be able to pair it if they have the Recovery Key from the old account. That doesn't change.

      There's no such thing as shutting down the old sync. Firefox accounts doesn't replace Sync, it only changes how you access Sync. The right question is if there's a decision when everyone will need to move to Firefox accounts (the login system) to keep using Firefox Sync (the service). And the answer is no. I've heard 30 and 31st...but my gut feeling is that it would be later than that. There's a bunch of stuff that needs clarity before the switch can happen.

      I'm sure you will hear about it as it becomes clear.