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Firefox bakes instant messaging into latest version

The new version also adds some minor updates and bug fixes at a time when Firefox continues to trail Google Chrome among desktop browser users.

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Firefox keeps sprucing up its browser, but Internet Explorer and Google Chrome still lead the pack.

Firefox's desktop and Android browser have been spruced up with a few enhancements.

Released on Tuesday, Firefox 41 for the desktop now offers a built-in instant messaging feature via the browser's Firefox Hello feature. Introduced last October, Firefox Hello lets you initiate free video or audio chats with fellow Firefox users. The latest feature allows you to send and receive instant messages when video chatting with someone using the new version of Firefox for Windows, the Mac or Linux, Firefox developer Mozilla said in a blog posted Tuesday.

How do you tap into Firefox Hello? You should see a smiley icon in the upper right corner of the Firefox Navigation bar at the top. Click on the icon, and a conversation window pops up where you can invite someone to chat with. If the icon doesn't appear, browse to the Firefox Hello page and click on the button to Try Firefox Hello. You can also add the Firefox Hello button to your toolbar using the steps in this Firefox support page. Now you can kick off an audio or video chat with the other party, and exchange instant messages.

Mozilla continues to try to enhance Firefox with each new version. But the browser has seen better days in terms of overall use. Firefox has been mired at a distant third in terms of browser market share, according to web tracker NetMarketShare. For August, Firefox's share of browser traffic was 11.6 percent, placing it far behind No. 2 Google Chrome with a cut of almost 30 percent.

Mozilla has been striving to win back customers, introducing a Windows 10 version in August and telling people how to switch to Firefox as the the default browser. The company has also cooked up a version of Firefox for the iPhone and iPad in hopes of challenging Apple's Safari and Chrome. But Mozilla faces an uphill battle trying to win users away from such top rivals.

Firefox 41 also enhances the Firefox Accounts feature, which includes such services as Firefox Sync to synchronize your passwords, bookmarks and other data across Firefox on the desktop and Firefox for Android. The latest update allows you to personalize your Firefox Account profile by adding a photo.

Mozilla has also fine-tuned the Android edition of Firefox. You can now more easily and quickly run a search using any search provider, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the Search field and choosing the provider.

You can swipe to close tabs on tablets. The latest version for Android also helps you manage your bookmarks by detecting duplicates. And finally you can manually copy and paste your username and password from Firefox's Password Manage if they're not automatically filled in. The release notes for the new version of Firefox for Android lists all the new, changed and fixed features.