Firefox preps processor revamp under Project Electrolysis

Sleepy project hits nightly builds

Lightning

Mozilla looks ready to revamp its Firefox web browser so tabs and user interfaces can run in separate processes.

The feature has appeared in a nightly testing version of the browser and has been in lengthy development under Project Electrolysis.

Developer Dan Mircea says the feature is activated by default in nightly builds and will be part of a transition process so that affected developers whose add-ons rely on accessing web content directly can adapt with minimal shock.

"In current versions of desktop Firefox, the entire browser runs in a single operating system process. In particular, the JavaScript that runs the browser UI (chrome code) runs in the same process as the code in web pages," Mircea says.

"Future versions of Firefox will run the browser UI in a separate process from web content."

"In the first iteration of this architecture all browser tabs will run in the same process, and the browser UI will run in a different process. In future iterations, we expect to have more than one content process. It is expected to launch in the main Firefox stable version 42.

Developer Will Bamberg says the change will bring stability and security improvements.

"There are three main reasons for making Firefox run content in a separate process: performance, security, and stability, Bamberg says. "The goal is to reduce 'jank' -- those times when the browser seems to briefly freeze when loading a big page, typing in a form, or scrolling.

"In multiprocess Firefox, content processes will be sandboxed. A well-behaved content process won’t access the filesystem directly; it will have to ask the main process to perform the request."

Bamberg says "well-behaved" content processes needs to access much of the network and file systems. This would be much more restricted under the changes.

Mozilla has published a high-level technical overview of the project here. ®

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