Feeds

Firefox alpha dons Flash flak jacket

Ditto 'elite' Jobsian beta testers

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Mozilla has pushed out a Firefox developer preview that runs Adobe Flash and other plug-ins as a separate process, hoping to prevent crashing plug-ins from crashing the browser proper.

The move comes as Apple Insider reports that Steve Jobs and cult have asked a group of "elite" testers to kick the proverbial tires on a new version of Safari that includes some sort of Flash crash protection.

Mozilla's new developer preview is the second "pre-release" version of the open source outfit's Gecko 1.9.3 rendering engine. Today's official Firefox offering - version 3.6 - uses Gecko 1.9.2.

You can download the new developer preview here.

The main addition to the platform is support for what Mozilla calls "out-of-process plug-ins," or OOPP. With OOPP, a shim layer executes the Firefox plug-in API, separating plug-ins from the system process where the core-browser executes. Mozilla has done "a fair bit of testing" with Flash and Silverlight, but it's designed to work with other plug-ins as well.

If a plug-in crashes, Firefox puts up a page that says as much and submits a crash report back to Mozilla. The plug-in then relaunches when you reload the page. According to a blog post from Mozilla's Benjamin Smedberg, the company made a conscious decision not to reload plug-ins automatically.

"Web page scripts often have state associated with a plugin," he writes. "If we reload the plugin without reloading the entire page, those scripts will have unexpected state and can get very confused. Overall, it causes fewer problems for the user to simply refresh the page."

Currently, OOPP is only available on Windows and Linux, but a Mac version will be available "soon," Smedberg says. "MacOS presents some unique challenges. The traditional drawing and interaction model for plugins is very difficult to do across processes. We are working on Mac support for multi-process plugins, and hope to have a preview of this work available soon."

OOPP is also planned from an upcoming update to Firefox 3.6 dubbed 'Lorentz'.

In addition to offering OOPP, the new developer preview includes tweaks to the Firefox SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine, including "improved" handling, faster closures, and "some support" for recursion in TraceMonkey, the SpiderMonkey extension that speeds performance by converting code loops into assembly code. Separately, Mozilla is developing a complementary extension called JaegerMonkey designed to improve performance when code can't be "traced".

Meanwhile, "elite" Apple beta testers tell Apple Insider that a new Safari 4.0.5 beta includes a "much improved" plug-in manager designed to reduce the number of crashes caused by plug-ins, including Adobe Flash. In January, during an Apple "town hall" meeting, Steve Jobs said that "Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash," launching an almighty war of words over Adobe's widely-used plug-in. Jobs will not allow Flash on either the iPhone or the imminent iPad.

Google's Chrome browser runs plug-ins as separate processes, and Mozilla has lifted Google code from the open-source Chromium project for its OOPP. The current Mozilla developer preview will eventually make its way to world+dog as Firefox 4.0. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.