Firefox to get added stability with multi-process browsing

Multi-process browsing is quite handy; it is already enabled in Google's Chrome browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8, and it means that each page runs in a separate process which leads to added security and stability, because if one page goes bad, it doesn't affect the others. This new feature is now coming to Firefox users in the future, through a project Mozilla is calling Electrolysis, according to Ars Technica.

A prototype has already been assembled featuring said project, and a list of Mozilla's benefits can be found below, taken from this blog post:

  • Increased stability: if a plugin or webpage tries to use all the processor, memory, or even crashes, a process can isolate that bad behavior from the rest of the browser.
  • Performance: By splitting work up among multiple processes, the browser can make use of multiple processor cores available on modern desktop computers and the next generation of mobile processors. The user interface can also be more responsive because it doesn't need to block on long-running web page activities.
  • Security: If the operating system can run a process with lower privileges, the browser can isolate web pages from the rest of the computer, making it harder for attackers to infect a computer.

Mozilla had explored the possibilities of this in the past, tossing ideas around the developer community, but apparently it didn't go anywhere until Microsoft and Google implemented it into their respective browsers. However, it won't be an easy task at all to get Firefox working this way. Here's the current plan on what to do to tackle it, taken again from the previously linked blog post:
  • Sprint as fast as possible to get basic code working, running simple testcase plugins and content tabs in a separate process.
  • Fix the brokenness introduced in step one: shared networking, document navigation and link targeting, context menus and other UI functions, focus, drag and drop, and probably many other aspects of the code will need modifications. Many of these tasks can be performed in parallel by multiple people.
  • Profile for performance, and fix extension compatibility to the extent possible.
  • Ship!

A screencast has been posted by Firefox developer Chris Jones, which you can download here in the .ogg format. It shows the functioning prototype of the browser, and demonstrates that when a page crashes, only the content disappears and the user interface remains just swell. He said, "Notice that only the 'content' disappears when the page crashes; the user interface itself keeps running as if nothing happened. This is a big step forward. With Firefox protected from buggy pages and plugins, more fun is possible. This video shows me pressing a 'Recover' button that relaunches the page that just crashed. There are many more possibilities for recovering from these errors, and I'm excited to see what our user interface folks cook up."

Please note that the team is currently working on Windows and Linux versions of this new feature initially, as apparently they are more comfortable in those environments, and a Mac version will come later once they work around difficulties. Be sure to keep an eye on this, Firefox users, because it will certainly improve your browsing experience.

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36 Comments

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Something that I always have liked about firefox (and I just assumed that it was cause it was one process) was that if I log into a website in one window, when I open another window of Firefox, I will be in the same session. Will that still apply?

I hope there will be a way to disable this. Because some older PC's can't Handel this as it multi process browsing uses a crap ton of ram.

I'm glad to see that this will be working it's way into Firefox. It's definitely a worthwhile addition. It's really a shame though that this didn't go anywhere when it was originally discussed within Mozilla. They come up with some really great ideas, but they don't make it out of Mozilla Labs. The colored tabs used in IE now were originally a Mozilla Labs project, but it hasn't made it into Firefox...

The colored tabs have been made available through a plug-in.

And I agree, this is an update I certainly look forward to!

they have to change entire profiling system first. places will hardly be compatible with multi-processing browsing. in any way - it's still very long time to see it on firefox, as it will hardly be released before 2011.

I really wish they would release an official x64 version for Windows. Unfortunately, Mozilla has been falling behind on bringing out new features.

E.Fahd said,
"Better late than never."

- The kind of things you'll NEVER read when talking about IE. NEVER.


Rubbish. IE8's html standards compliance is better late than never.

Since iv been using firefox before version 1 on lots of different machines with lots of tabs always open iv had it crash about 3 times in all, im not sure what sites people who say they crash alot go on 0_o anyways im not that intrestested in this feature.

each page runs in a separate process which leads to added security and stability

HAHA... Yea, right. So running in separate process means more security and stability, HA-HA... Probably a good (and well programmed) sandbox would be more than enough.

Is FF a little late? Yes. Does I really care? No. FF is a great browser and not everyone can be early to get things implemented. Better late than never.

techbeck said,
Is FF a little late? Yes. Does I really care? No. FF is a great browser and not everyone can be early to get things implemented. Better late than never.

Did you say "Better Late Than Never" when IE did not have features like tabs or bash it?

one big issue too is that multi-process browsing really sucks up memory-- and personally i think IE performs terribly no matter how many cores your cpu has or how many processes it breaks itself into. chrome, i think, would run fast on one core or 20 cores, probably would be even faster if it was single process. either way neither of them have any of the features that i need in a browser, so i use firefox :)
can't wait for multiprocess browsing but it hardly seems a necessity now. and yeah, ive used chrome enough to watch one tab take down the entire browser several times, not impressive, especially after sitting through all those awful ads -- oh yeah, and NO ADBLOCK in ie or chrome or safari, no noscript, bah.

It doesn't suck up that much more memory. With Chome the task manager shows each separate process and how much more memory it uses. However, it doesn't take into account that all of those processes are sharing quite a bit of the same memory so that memory usage is getting reported more then once.

its a nice feature, only crash 1 tab:) also having the tabs run on seperate cores is nice, should lower cpu usage a little, make it a little smoother on dual and quad cores.

Didn't Mozilla throw out this idea a long time ago. Seems like the other browsers picked it up and then marketed it as unique and impressive feature.

Raa said,
Im happy enough with Chrome and IE8. Bit late to get into the action Firefox. lol.

Except Firefox is a far better browser than IE8, and a more complete (if somewhat slower) browser than Chrome. Firefox was also the first (of the three) to make other features available (tabs, useful add-ons, etc), so your usually inaccurate comments carry little weight.

For some reason, I seem to remember a while ago, when this feature was first requested, there were reasons given for why Mozilla wasn't interested in pursuing this feature...

soldier1st said,
i bet opera will follow suit.

No, they wont. For a while anyway. They have said they didn't see the need of this yet.

The next engine will possible have this though, Opera 11/12.

It does seem incredible that two other major browsers makers have developed, tested and released versions of their browsers with this technology months before Mozilla ever start working on the idea.

Is it me, or has Mozilla gotten lazy recently? They used to be at the forefront of new features, now they just seem to be coasting along, being content to just maintain their market share with little or no innovation.

If you two actually read the article, you wouldn't be posting that.

Mozilla had explored the possibilities of this in the past, tossing ideas around the developer community, but apparently it didn't go anywhere until Microsoft and Google implemented it into their respective browsers.

meriam said,
If you two actually read the article, you wouldn't be posting that.

Ah, so it was a "ME2" situation...

JHH said,
I don't want to see anyone accusing Microsoft of "stealing ideas" ever again.

Microsoft doesn't steal ideas, it copies ideas--badly.

I guess we'll see this in ff4 with a host of other neat things like instant extension install and finalized html5. Probably around this time next year. It took them a year to go from 3.0-3.5, so I guess in about a year till FF4.0

They already have an experimental HTML 5 parser checked into the trunk / Firefox "3.6" (placeholder version) now, so that sounds likely. However, Ars mentioned the process separation is such a big effort, that it may not even be there in time for Firefox 4. I'm inclined to agree since it hasn't even entered their public roadmap plans nor builds for Namoroka yet, but we'll see. On the other hand, Ars reported it'll be developed in parallel with Namoroka, so maybe that work will later on periodically synchronized to the trunk, like TraceMonkey sometimes was for Firefox 3.5. *shrug*