The new Firefox synchronizer

Configuring the Browser

The new synchronization environment requires the user to run at least Version 29 of Firefox. Because it's not possible for both sync processes to function simultaneously with a browser, users running an older version of Firefox must either switch over or work in parallel mode with two separate Firefox profiles. The steps for setting up this type of environment are described in the "Using Firefox Profiles" box.

Using Firefox Profiles

Firefox profiles make it possible to operate a browser with different settings in one user account. For example, a user can have a setting for "Private" and another for "Work." The profile saves all of the settings, bookmarks, cookies, and history. You can call up the profile manager with:

firefox -Profile-Manager -new-instance

In the dialog boxes that appear, you can set up a new profile and also designate a default profile. However, there is no easy way in Firefox to duplicate a profile. Duplication is done by copying individual files manually from the old to the new profile. When testing the sync server is the only task at hand, you should export the old bookmarks from the old profile via the bookmark administrator and import these into the new profile.

If you have more than one profile, then you can select a profile at startup, either via a dialog as described previously or by supplying it as a command-line argument:

firefox -P work -new-instance

You will only need the -new-instance parameter when a Firefox instance is already running.

To change over to the new method of synchronization, select Edit | Preferences and then open the Sync tab. Here, you should close the connection to the old server. Things will then proceed as if there had never been a sync connection. A Mozilla account is required to use synchronization. You can create an account via the option Create Account (Figure 2). However, the creation of an account immediately initiates synchronization with a Mozilla server, so you will have to act to prevent this.

Figure 2: You need to create an authentication account with Mozilla before using the Firefox synchronization function, even if you store data on your own server.

Your first step toward preventing immediate synchronization will be to call up the pseudo URL about:config in the address bar and type services.sync.tokenServerURI in the search field (Figure 3). If the value doesn't already exist, use the right mouse button to open the Preference Name column and select New | String from the context menu. Otherwise, you should select the entry by double-clicking and then adjust its value to that associated with public_url/token/1.0/sync/1.5 where public_url is as defined in your syncserver.ini file (e.g. "").

Figure 3: It is necessary to communicate the URL of your personal sync server to Firefox via the about:config dialog so that Firefox can use the sync server.

Registering with Mozilla

As indicated above, registration with Mozilla's authentication server is a prerequisite to synchronization. A link to the registration process is in the Sync tab of the settings. Here you will be asked to enter your email address and a password of choice. If you want to connect an additional computer and already have an account, then you should start the connection process by logging in at Already have an account? Sign in..

Once you have registered, Mozilla will send an email to the address you have provided. The message contains a link that, when clicked, will permanently activate the account. Synchronization starts once login has been completed successfully. Mozilla will replicate all settings on each new browser you use to log in to your Mozilla account.

None of your data is sent to Mozilla when you log in. Instead, the data goes directly in encrypted form to your sync server. The login server merely confirms to the sync server that there has been a successful user login. Nonetheless, the process is a little troublesome in that third parties can determine that you are using Firefox.

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