2011-12-13

Firefox Electrolysis project put on hold

Update 2012-02-02: Servo: a vision for the future of Firefox

One of Chrome’s greatest features is that it has one process per tab. In May 2009, Mozilla announced the Electrolysis project whose goal is to give Firefox the same feature. Mozilla now says that they are putting the project on hold, because it was too ambitious.

The advantages

Quoting “goals for multi-process firefox” by blizzard:
  • Performance: main concern – keeping the user interface responsive
  • Support for multi-core machines
  • Predictable memory behavior: multiple processes allow limited “restarts” inside firefox
  • Crash protection: plugins are already sandboxed in Firefox and “the number of crashes caused by content is relatively small – on the order of 1-2 crashes per 100 users per day”. But even being protected from those crashes is worth it, especially as Firefox occasionally takes down the whole system.
  • Sandboxing for security
One of the killer features of Chrome’s per-tab processes is that there is a task manager that allows you to find out which tab is consuming excessive processing power.

Why Electrolysis was stopped

Quoting Lawrence Mandel:
On Nov. 4, 2011, we held a public call to evaluate options for improving Firefox responsiveness including the multi-process Firefox initiative (code name Electrolysis, also known as e10s). The outcome of this discussion was a decision to put the Electrolysis initiative on hold for the foreseeable future and focus on other initiatives aimed at improving responsiveness in the browser.
I do understand the reasons: Electrolysis was a huge undertaking and Mozilla being a small company, it makes more short-term sense to spend its resources on smaller initiatives that improve Firefox responsiveness. It is an understandable and reasonable decision, yet I can’t help but be disappointed.

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