Multi-process plugins come to Firefox

Published Date
16 - Dec - 2009
| Last Updated
16 - Dec - 2009
 
Multi-process plugins come to Firefox

The ability to run tabs, plugins and even extensions in separate process is one of the strongest points of Chrome. Nearly everyone might have experienced an unfortunate browser crash in the middle of a browsing session, and cursed some unstable website or plugin.

 
While Google Chrome surely does mitigate these disasters by limiting the crash to the offending page or pugin, the browser itself is prone to crashes too, which in the case of Chrome are made worse by the lack of a good session management system.
 
Just as Chrome took on support for extensions and themes to gain further parity with Firefox's features, now Firefox is fighting back by incorporating one of the most popular of Chrome's features. 
 
In the latest nightly version of Firefox released just yesterday, is a feature which allows for running plugins in separate processes. A simple change in the "about:config" page on the latest Firefox Nightly (Minefield) will now launch plugin process separate from the browser, and it would appear there will soon be support fro running tabs that way too.

 

From what it appears, Firefox will be using a lot of the same code Chrome uses to achieve this so as not to reinvent the wheel. Don't you just love open source! 
 
This is all part of the Electrolysis project which aims to bring out of process plugins and tabs to Firefox, and developers have been busy from quite some time testing the functionality, this seem to be the first time it has appeared on the Firefox nightlies.
 
If you want to test out this exciting functionality download a nightly build of Firefox from here, and set the dom.ipc.plugins.enabled property in your about:config to true. After a restart you will notice that your plugins load in a separate "mozilla-runtime.exe" process.
 
This functionality is fresh out of development and is still very very buggy! Some of the bugs might make Firefox unusable, such as the lack of support for plugins which are loaded from a path with spaces, i.e. all plugins but Flash (this will probably be fixed by tomorrow). Right now there is no indication that a plugin has crashed, and all the browser shows is a black box in place. There is also no way to restart the plugin after a crash, and you will have to restart the whole browser instead.
 
If you are indeed brave enough to test it though, do report bugs and crashes to help make this feature better faster.
 
HINT: Try forcefully "crashing" your plugins by killing the "mozilla-runtime.exe" if the damn things just wont crash when you need it!