Ex-Microsoft Intern: Google Deliberately Crippled Edge Browser

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Allowing any one company too much control over the internet and the long-term development of web standards has always been a bad idea. It didn’t work well in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the de facto standard, and it isn’t likely to be a particularly great outcome in 2018, either, now that Chromium has emerged as the single dominant player in browsing. According to a former Edge intern/developer, Microsoft has given up on its own EdgeHTML engine because it couldn’t keep up with the ways Google kept breaking major websites to disadvantage it.

In a post at Hacker News, JoshuaJB (identified via Neowin as Joshua Bakita), in response to a post theorizing that Google could exploit its dominance by integrating preferential support to boost Google app performance at the expense of other platforms or products, writes:

This is already happening. I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up. For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.

Now while I’m not sure I’m convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced — and they’re the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.

And this is only one case.

The irony of defending Edge and Microsoft after years of decrying the way Redmond has shoved everyone towards using Edge at every opportunity is not lost on me. Neither is the irony of defending Microsoft in general. The company’s hostility towards open source development and its fondness for monopoly may have faded somewhat in recent years, but they’ve scarcely been forgotten.

stupid-ad-2

What we needed was a happy medium between “One browser rules the Earth” and “Your browser is malware.” Image by Thurrot.com

But I don’t need to stick up for the way Microsoft pushed people to use Edge to see the danger in giving any single company too much control over standards and practices. We don’t know if the story above is actually true — as of this writing, it hasn’t been independently confirmed. But it’s not hard to believe, and we’ve seen historical examples of how this kind of monopoly can work against companies that attempt to create alternatives. IE6 dominated the internet to such a degree that websites were often programmed to perform well in Internet Explorer, even when this broke standards or failed to conform to best practices. Competing browsers that attempted to implement standards correctly would then fail to work with IE6 pages.

Ars Technica gives another example of how Google has designed sites like YouTube to favor its own approach, to the detriment of other browsers.

As another example, YouTube uses a feature called HTML imports to load scripts. HTML imports haven’t been widely adopted, either by developers or browsers alike, and ECMAScript modules are expected to serve the same role. But they’re available in Chrome and used by YouTube. For Firefox and Edge, YouTube sends a JavaScript implementation of HTML imports which carries significant performance overheads. The result? YouTube pages that load in a second in Chrome take many seconds to load in other browsers.

The fact that Chromium is open source won’t ultimately matter much if one company still represents the overwhelming force behind its development and the associated development of future web standards. In mobile, Apple still has some sway, thanks to Safari on the iPhone. But Mozilla Firefox, with its 9 percent market share, is now the only bulwark against Chrome’s total domination of the desktop browser market.

Now Read:

Firefox 54 Could Very Well be Mozilla’s Best Browser

There was a time when Mozilla’s Firefox browser was the browser of choice for those who refused to use Internet Explorer. Unfortunately for Mozilla, the browser has been playing second fiddle to Google Chrome since 2011.

How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

.no-js #ref-block-post-11149 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/firefox-optimization-tips.jpg”); }

How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

Your web browser of choice is truly the gateway into accessing the global Internet. The web has been…Read more

Now, the company is looking to regain the throne that Google took from it with the release of Firefox 54, and if the company is to be believed, the latest version of Firefox would be Mozilla’s finest yet.

The key to Firefox 54’s superiority lies in its speed. After years of relying on a single process to run all the tabs in a single browser, Mozilla has finally decided to adopt the “multiple process” technology that browsers like Chrome, Edge, Safari and many others have been using.

Codenamed Electrolysis or E10s, this technology will allow Firefox 54 to use up to four processes to run web page content across all open tabs. In practice, this would allow Firefox 54 to run faster while crashing less frequently.

runs faster and less crashing

In addition to better performance, Firefox 54 also has the honor of being the browser that consumes the least amount of RAM when compared to a number of other browsers running on Windows 10, macOS and Linux. This particular bit of info would be good news to those who have aging machines.

using the least of ram

Besides the major performance boost, Firefox 54 will also be introducing some minor changes to the browser’s features. A full list of changes can be found here.

10 Firefox Plugins For A Safer Browsing Experience

.no-js #ref-block-post-15177 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/firefox-security-plugins.jpg”); }

10 Firefox Plugins For A Safer Browsing Experience

Mozilla’s Firefox browser is a user-friendly and feature-rich browser, with around 35% of all web users using it…Read more

Firefox 54 Could Very Well be Mozilla’s Best Browser

There was a time when Mozilla’s Firefox browser was the browser of choice for those who refused to use Internet Explorer. Unfortunately for Mozilla, the browser has been playing second fiddle to Google Chrome since 2011.

Now, the company is looking to regain the throne that Google took from it with the release of Firefox 54, and if the company is to be believed, the latest version of Firefox would be Mozilla’s finest yet.

The key to Firefox 54’s superiority lies in its speed. After years of relying on a single process to run all the tabs in a single browser, Mozilla has finally decided to adopt the “multiple process” technology that browsers like Chrome, Edge, Safari and many others have been using.

Codenamed Electrolysis or E10s, this technology will allow Firefox 54 to use up to four processes to run web page content across all open tabs. In practice, this would allow Firefox 54 to run faster while crashing less frequently.

runs faster and less crashing

In addition to better performance, Firefox 54 also has the honor of being the browser that consumes the least amount of RAM when compared to a number of other browsers running on Windows 10, macOS and Linux. This particular bit of info would be good news to those who have aging machines.

using the least of ram

Besides the major performance boost, Firefox 54 will also be introducing some minor changes to the browser’s features. A full list of changes can be found here.

Firefox Focus – Mozilla’s very own minimalist private browser

Browsing the internet privately is made easy these days as many internet browsers come with their own version of “Incognito” mode. However, enabling this private browsing session requires one to dig through the browser’s settings. In an attempt to provide a private browsing appearance right from the get go, Mozilla has brought its Firefox Focus browser online.

How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

.no-js #ref-block-post-11149 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/firefox-optimization-tips.jpg”); }

How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

Your web browser of choice is truly the gateway into accessing the global Internet. The web has been…Read more

Currently available only on iOS devices, Firefox Focus is a browser that is built around privacy. From the moment you boot up the browser on your device, Firefox Focus is set to block ads, analytics and social trackers by default. All of these settings can be toggled on and off via a slider found in the menus.

firefox focus block ads

If that isn’t enough for you, you can set Firefox Focus to block additional content trackers and even disable a website’s custom web fonts, so you get to browse the website faster. The trade off for doing so is that you might risk breaking site compatibility.

To take the whole privacy shtick a step further, Firefox Focus comes with an “Erase” button located at the upper right hand corner of the browser. Tap it and Firefox Focus will immediately erase your current browsing history, leaving other people none the wiser about your browsing habits.

firefo focus

While Firefox Focus’ dedication to privacy is admirable, the browser itself is rather rough around the edges. Features that are standard on other browsers such as multiple tab browsing isn’t available on the current build of Firefox Focus.

Despite the general “early-build” feel that the browser has, Firefox Focus is an interesting browser to have when privacy is of utmost importance. While the browser itself won’t be competing against the likes of Safari or Chrome just yet, if Mozilla decides to properly support Firefox Focus, the browser may prove to be a worthwhile addition to your iOS device in the long run.

10 Coolest Hidden Firefox Settings You Should Know

.no-js #ref-block-post-27666 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/hidden-firefox-settings.jpg”); }

10 Coolest Hidden Firefox Settings You Should Know

There are plenty of settings that Firefox offers besides general ones you can find in the Options menu.…Read more

Firefox Focus – Mozilla’s very own minimalist private browser

Browsing the internet privately is made easy these days as many internet browsers come with their own version of “Incognito” mode. However, enabling this private browsing session requires one to dig through the browser’s settings. In an attempt to provide a private browsing appearance right from the get go, Mozilla has brought its Firefox Focus browser online.

Currently available only on iOS devices, Firefox Focus is a browser that is built around privacy. From the moment you boot up the browser on your device, Firefox Focus is set to block ads, analytics and social trackers by default. All of these settings can be toggled on and off via a slider found in the menus.

firefox focus block ads

If that isn’t enough for you, you can set Firefox Focus to block additional content trackers and even disable a website’s custom web fonts, so you get to browse the website faster. The trade off for doing so is that you might risk breaking site compatibility.

To take the whole privacy shtick a step further, Firefox Focus comes with an “Erase” button located at the upper right hand corner of the browser. Tap it and Firefox Focus will immediately erase your current browsing history, leaving other people none the wiser about your browsing habits.

firefo focus

While Firefox Focus’ dedication to privacy is admirable, the browser itself is rather rough around the edges. Features that are standard on other browsers such as multiple tab browsing isn’t available on the current build of Firefox Focus.

Despite the general “early-build” feel that the browser has, Firefox Focus is an interesting browser to have when privacy is of utmost importance. While the browser itself won’t be competing against the likes of Safari or Chrome just yet, if Mozilla decides to properly support Firefox Focus, the browser may prove to be a worthwhile addition to your iOS device in the long run.

10 Coolest Hidden Firefox Settings You Should Know

There are plenty of settings that Firefox offers besides general ones you can find in the Options menu. Many of these advanced settings can be found on specific browser pages that use the about: protocol. In this article, I’m going to show you 10 less-known Firefox settings that can come useful in your everyday workflow.

When you visit any of the about: pages in the list below, and are prompted with a warning message, just click either the OK or the I’ll be careful, I promise! button — whichever one you encounter.

1. Perform DNS Lookup

You can perform an in-house DNS lookup (finding the IP address of a domain) in Firefox.

Type about:networking into the URL bar, and press Enter. On the upcoming page, click “DNS Lookup” in the sidebar menu, type the domain name, and click Resolve to see its IP address(es).

DNS Lookup
2. Block Auto-Refresh

Sometimes web pages come with Refresh HTTP headers that make pages refresh frequently.

If you want to stop that from happening, go to about:preferences#advanced, and under the subtitle Accessibility, check the checkbox labeled “Warn me when websites try to redirect or reload the page”.

Auto-Refresh Setting
3. Search As You Type

Pressing Ctrl+F opens an in-page search-box in Firefox that allows users to search for a string in a webpage. But it’s possible to spare the key combo pressing and start searching as you start typing.

In the “Accessibility” section of the about:preferences#advanced page check the checkbox labeled “Search for text when I start typing”.

Search As You Type setting

From now on, when you start typing, and the cursor isn’t in a text input field on the page, Firefox will immediately start looking for the text on the web page.

4. Unmap Backspace Key

To prevent being surprised by someone trying to sneakily backspace their way into your browser history, you can replace the backspace action with one that scrolls the page up on pressing Backspace, scrolls it down on Shift + Backspace. You can also configure the Backspace key not to give any action at all.

Go to about:config, and type browser.backspace_action into the search bar. The default value of this browser setting is 0.

Unmap Backspace Key setting

Double-click on it, and change it to 1 for mapping scrolling action to the Backspace key, or change it to 2 for unmapping it from any action.

5. Move Around With Cursor Keys

Reading a long article or story online, and want more control while jumping line? You can use the cursor for in-text navigation.

Under “Accessibility” on the about:preferences#advanced page, check the option “Always use the cursor keys to navigate within pages”.

Move Around With Cursor Keys setting

Besides the default arrow cursor, a blinking text cursor will also appear on websites. You can move it around by using the arrow keys.

6. Paste On Middle Click

Got a mouse with a middle button? Use it to paste text from the clipboard into text fields on web pages.

Go to about:config, and type middlemouse.paste into the search bar. The default value is false, double-click on it, and change it to true.

Paste On Middle Click setting
7. Customize Print Header & Footer

When you print a web page in Firefox, it uses a default layout. At the top-left corner of the print page there’s the title of the web page, at top-right the URL, at bottom-left the page number of total pages, and at bottom-right the date-time.

You can change this arrangement, for instance you can add something to the center of the header or footer, remove some of the default info altogether, or replace them with your custom text.

On the about:config page, there are six settings for the customization the print header and footer:

  1. print.print_headercenter
  2. print.print_headerleft
  3. print.print_headerright
  4. print.print_footercenter
  5. print.print_footerleft
  6. print.print_footerright
Print Header Custom Setting
Print Footer Custom Setting

You need to type the name of the setting from the above list into the search bar on the about:config page in order to change its value. The value can be any of the following strings, or your custom text:

  1. &D – Date-time
  2. &P – Page number
  3. &PT – Page number of total pages
  4. &T – Title of the web page
  5. &U – URL
8. Change Default Colors

You have the option to change the default background, text, and link colors in Firefox.

Go to about:preferences#content, click on the Colors… in the “Fonts & Colors” section, and select the new colors.

Color Setting
9. Filter Awesome Bar Links

Awesome Bar, the location bar of Firefox shows a list of links when you start typing. The displayed links are taken from your bookmarks, browser history and currently open pages.

You can filter these Awesome Bar links by typing one of the following special characters into the location bar, either before your query or just on its own:

  1. # – Match page title
  2. @ – Match URL
  3. * – Match only to links in bookmarks
  4. ^ – Match only to links in history
  5. + – Match only to links that’re tagged
  6. % – Match only to links that are open currently
Awesomebar with Open Tab Filter
Awesomebar with Open Tab Filter and Input
10. Auto-Export Bookmarks In HTML

If you want Firefox to auto-save your bookmarks in HTML format as a list of links, you can do so by going to about:config, typing browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML into the search bar, and changing the default false value to true by double-clicking on it.

Bookmark Setting

When you restart your browser, a file named bookmarks.html will appear in your Firefox profile folder with all the bookmark links.

To see your profile folder, go to about:support, and press the button Show Folder. Note that you may need to restart your whole system to make the change take effect.

From now on, every time you exit Firefox, the bookmarks.html file will be updated with your current list of bookmarks.

10 Coolest Hidden Firefox Settings You Should Know

There are plenty of settings that Firefox offers besides general ones you can find in the Options menu. Many of these advanced settings can be found on specific browser pages that use the about: protocol. In this article, I’m going to show you 10 less-known Firefox settings that can come useful in your everyday workflow.

10 Firefox Plugins For A Safer Browsing Experience

.no-js #ref-block-post-15177 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/firefox-security-plugins.jpg”); }

10 Firefox Plugins For A Safer Browsing Experience

Mozilla’s Firefox browser is a user-friendly and feature-rich browser, with around 35% of all web users using it…Read more

When you visit any of the about: pages in the list below, and are prompted with a warning message, just click either the OK or the I’ll be careful, I promise! button — whichever one you encounter.

1. Perform DNS Lookup

You can perform an in-house DNS lookup (finding the IP address of a domain) in Firefox.

Type about:networking into the URL bar, and press Enter. On the upcoming page, click “DNS Lookup” in the sidebar menu, type the domain name, and click Resolve to see its IP address(es).

DNS Lookup
2. Block Auto-Refresh

Sometimes web pages come with Refresh HTTP headers that make pages refresh frequently.

If you want to stop that from happening, go to about:preferences#advanced, and under the subtitle Accessibility, check the checkbox labeled “Warn me when websites try to redirect or reload the page”.

Auto-Refresh Setting
How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

.no-js #ref-block-post-11149 .ref-block__thumbnail { background-image: url(“http://media02.hongkiat.com/thumbs/250×160/firefox-optimization-tips.jpg”); }

How to Optimize Firefox for Better Performance

Your web browser of choice is truly the gateway into accessing the global Internet. The web has been…Read more

3. Search As You Type

Pressing Ctrl+F opens an in-page search-box in Firefox that allows users to search for a string in a webpage. But it’s possible to spare the key combo pressing and start searching as you start typing.

In the “Accessibility” section of the about:preferences#advanced page check the checkbox labeled “Search for text when I start typing”.

Search As You Type setting

From now on, when you start typing, and the cursor isn’t in a text input field on the page, Firefox will immediately start looking for the text on the web page.

4. Unmap Backspace Key

To prevent being surprised by someone trying to sneakily backspace their way into your browser history, you can replace the backspace action with one that scrolls the page up on pressing Backspace, scrolls it down on Shift + Backspace. You can also configure the Backspace key not to give any action at all.

Go to about:config, and type browser.backspace_action into the search bar. The default value of this browser setting is 0.

Unmap Backspace Key setting

Double-click on it, and change it to 1 for mapping scrolling action to the Backspace key, or change it to 2 for unmapping it from any action.

5. Move Around With Cursor Keys

Reading a long article or story online, and want more control while jumping line? You can use the cursor for in-text navigation.

Under “Accessibility” on the about:preferences#advanced page, check the option “Always use the cursor keys to navigate within pages”.

Move Around With Cursor Keys setting

Besides the default arrow cursor, a blinking text cursor will also appear on websites. You can move it around by using the arrow keys.

6. Paste On Middle Click

Got a mouse with a middle button? Use it to paste text from the clipboard into text fields on web pages.

Go to about:config, and type middlemouse.paste into the search bar. The default value is false, double-click on it, and change it to true.

Paste On Middle Click setting
7. Customize Print Header & Footer

When you print a web page in Firefox, it uses a default layout. At the top-left corner of the print page there’s the title of the web page, at top-right the URL, at bottom-left the page number of total pages, and at bottom-right the date-time.

You can change this arrangement, for instance you can add something to the center of the header or footer, remove some of the default info altogether, or replace them with your custom text.

On the about:config page, there are six settings for the customization the print header and footer:

  1. print.print_headercenter
  2. print.print_headerleft
  3. print.print_headerright
  4. print.print_footercenter
  5. print.print_footerleft
  6. print.print_footerright
Print Header Custom Setting
Print Footer Custom Setting

You need to type the name of the setting from the above list into the search bar on the about:config page in order to change its value. The value can be any of the following strings, or your custom text:

  1. &D – Date-time
  2. &P – Page number
  3. &PT – Page number of total pages
  4. &T – Title of the web page
  5. &U – URL
8. Change Default Colors

You have the option to change the default background, text, and link colors in Firefox.

Go to about:preferences#content, click on the Colors… in the “Fonts & Colors” section, and select the new colors.

Color Setting
9. Filter Awesome Bar Links

Awesome Bar, the location bar of Firefox shows a list of links when you start typing. The displayed links are taken from your bookmarks, browser history and currently open pages.

You can filter these Awesome Bar links by typing one of the following special characters into the location bar, either before your query or just on its own:

  1. # – Match page title
  2. @ – Match URL
  3. * – Match only to links in bookmarks
  4. ^ – Match only to links in history
  5. + – Match only to links that’re tagged
  6. % – Match only to links that are open currently
Awesomebar with Open Tab Filter
Awesomebar with Open Tab Filter and Input
10. Auto-Export Bookmarks In HTML

If you want Firefox to auto-save your bookmarks in HTML format as a list of links, you can do so by going to about:config, typing browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML into the search bar, and changing the default false value to true by double-clicking on it.

Bookmark Setting

When you restart your browser, a file named bookmarks.html will appear in your Firefox profile folder with all the bookmark links.

To see your profile folder, go to about:support, and press the button Show Folder. Note that you may need to restart your whole system to make the change take effect.

From now on, every time you exit Firefox, the bookmarks.html file will be updated with your current list of bookmarks.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.