Firefox: multi-process development stopped

November 18th, 2011 - 04:57 pm ET by J. G.

Mozilla’s Electrolysis project which aimed to provide better multi-process management in Firefox has been halted.

Firefox_Nouveau_LogoAdopted by Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, multi-process management isn’t a stranger to Firefox. It has been available in Firefox since version 3.6.4 for plugin execution (Flash, Silverlight, QuickTime) in a separate process. When a plugin is interrupted or locks up, this doesn’t affect the navigation.

Through their project looking at multi-processing, known by its code name Electrolysis, Mozilla wanted to take things a lot further than today. Their aim is to separate the user interface processes from the content (web page layout and formatting) so that the user interface is more reactive.

Multi-processing is also interesting as it prevents lock up’s, improves security (sandboxing for example) and performance through the user of processor cores.

Lawrence Mandel, Firefox’ product manager reminds us of these facts, but at the same time has announced that project Electrolysis will be taking a break (definitively?). There is no need to panic though, as Mozilla is looking to work on developing other initiatives that also have the aim of improving the browsers reactivity.

"Electrolysis requires an enormous amount of work. […] Converting an established product like Firefox from a mono architecture to a multi-process one requires a lot of work and coordination from numerous teams", writes Lawrence Mandel, who cites accessibility, the interface, extensions and graphics as examples.

A reasonable choice?
The choice has therefore been made that a long term project like Electrolysis shouldn’t take away resourced (and talented developers), with it preferred to concentrate on less heavy projects that are shorter in length.

Of course, Mozilla doesn’t have an endless supply of engineers like Microsoft and Google, so priority is being given to other fields like mobility and open web.

This doesn’t prevent popular and powerful tools from being made available, like Firefox which is currently the second most widely used browser in the world. The choice to put Electrolysis on the shelf is therefore probably the correct one, on the condition that other initiatives which are currently under development improve the performance of Firefox.

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