back to article Firefox 48 beta brings 'largest change ever' thanks to 'Electrolysis'

Firefox 48 entered beta this week, complete with a feature called “Electrolysis” that Mozilla bills as “the largest change we’ve ever made to Firefox.” Electrolysis will see Mozilla “split Firefox into a UI process and a content process.” Long-time Firefox developer Asa Dotzler explains that “Splitting UI from content means …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    "YouTube will now play in HTML5 if Flash is not present."

    Strange, I thought Firefox had been doing this for years. I don't have Flash installed on my machine and YouTube always played HTML5 video?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      They have also added Widevine DRM, maybe some content on YouTube is protected with that.

      They've got rid of the Play DRM Content option in settings. Funny that that should happen when they add Google's Widevine (tinfoil hat).

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        I haven't come across any video protected with the Widevine DRM thing. Unless the writer is referring to the DRM inclusion and not the HTML5 video playback specifically.

        1. joeldillon

          You have if you've ever watched Netflix on your browser.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Fail for me. The Play DRM Content setting isn't on Macs but it is on Windows and I use both but forgot about that detail.

    2. AMBxx Silver badge

      YouTube always played HTML5 video?

      NoScript soon takes care of that!

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      I do have flash installed (click to play only), but I'm sure Youtube has been playing HTML5 video for me for ages. Perhaps I opted into it at some point and then forgot.

    4. Len Silver badge

      As I understand it is not about videos on YouTube itself. Rather it is for third party sites that may still only embed the Flash player point to a video on YT. I believe FF now replaces that embedded Flash code with a HTML5 video instead.

  2. LDS Silver badge

    "We have all the knobs"

    And that should make us feel good?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "We have all the knobs"

      They're the user interface designers.

    2. batfastad

      Re: "We have all the knobs"

      > And that should make us feel good?

      Hmm, quite. Sounds like a kill-switch to me.

      Despite all the negativity around FF over the last few years, Chromification and tweaking for tweaking's sake. This is actually a very cool feature so I look forward to them getting it dialled.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We have all the knobs"

      ALL YOUR KNOBS ARE BELONG TO US.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: "We have all the knobs"

        So the knobs now have knobs then?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "We have all the knobs"

          Not sure how comfortable I am with this. Some dude at mozilla can decide how my browser behaves and change it whenever he sees fit.

          And begs the questions, what is the update mechanism? Is it outside of FF's normal upgrade path?

          What other knobs are there?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Some dude at mozilla can decide how my browser behaves and change it whenever he sees fit.

            You're fine, it's MZ not MS!!!

  3. Unep Eurobats
    Thumb Up

    Always seem to come back to FF

    I flirt with other browsers but always return to tha 'Fox. (Tho I have a soft spot for Vivaldi.)

    Plus have you noticed if you turn the logo upside-down it looks like the teenage Donald Trump's hairstyle.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Always seem to come back to FF

      "Plus have you noticed if you turn the logo upside-down it looks like the teenage Donald Trump's hairstyle."

      No matter what angle I look at that logo I still can't see a dick.

  4. Marco van de Voort

    Did anybody tell them about threads?

    >Electrolysis will see Mozilla “split Firefox into a UI process and a content process.” Long-time Firefox >developer Asa Dotzler explains that “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.”

    Maybe sb should inform them, that you don't need to spawn processes to emulate threads anymore nowadays. Not even on Linux.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

      A crash in one thread can affect other threads in the same process, which is why they've used different processes.

      1. Jon 37

        Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

        It's also because the whole point of this is that they want to copy Chrome's security model.

        Chrome has a process for each tab, and that process runs with very restricted permissions (called a "sandbox"). Those processes are managed by the main process, which also draws the browser's UI. This means that if you exploit a security hole in Chrome, you end up running code inside the per-tab process, in the sandbox. You then need a second security hole to get out of the sandbox. This makes it much harder to exploit Chrome.

        By their nature, threads all run at the same security level, so you can't do that with threads.

        Firefox started with a single process, and they're slowly splitting it up. Separating into 2 processes, one for all the tabs and one for the UI, is the first step. In future releases they'll split up the tabs into separate processes, then restrict the permissions.

        1. Daniel 18

          Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

          "In future releases they'll split up the tabs into separate processes, "

          Oh God, I hope not. Chrome gobbles up way too much memory as you approach a useful (ie, large) number of windows and tabs... it's not good for much except a quick check if you need to look at a single site where the scripts are too tangled to whitelist.

        2. plb4333

          Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

          Why would Mozilla feel the need to copy, if the programming of code is beneficial to users. They have their own top-notch developers to do it, without copying someone else's idea for their motivation to do so.

    2. Len Silver badge

      Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

      Firefox became very serious about multithreadedness with Firefox 4. Ever since v4 HTML parsing, UI, bookmarks, history etc. etc. happens on separate threads.

      I get a sense that the benefits of multiprocess are a bit too technical for a general audience so they explain it using responsiveness as that is easier to understand.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did anybody tell them about threads?

      This isn't about emulating threads. Separating processes has nothing to do with your comment. Nice try...

  5. lansalot

    On the "many tabs open" thing, (and aware this is an FF post), on Chrome I use "The Great Suspender" extension which puts idle tabs to sleep. Works great in terms of keeping the resources low.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      I have a similar extension on FF called Suspend Tab. It's currently disabled, though, as suspending a tab while I had any data typed into an edit field would clear it, and I'm prone to leaving half-edited comments open while I go chasing some other thing that has caught my attention for the moment.

      Firefox x64 is kinda janky, but I've not had freezes like people are talking about here. I had a lot of issues with the Windows x86 version, but switching to the 64-bit Firefox alternatives (Waterfox, Pale Moon, Cyberfox, etc.) fixed it. When FF official came in a 64-bit beta, I tried that, and found that the early beta was far more stable than the release x86 had been in a long time for me. I don't know what they were waiting for to release it; whatever they were trying to fix was not an issue for me.

      FF has had its issues, and the direction Moz seems to want to go (to copy Chrome in every way) is frustrating, to say the least (if I wanted Chrome, I'd be using it), but e10s is not one of the changes that has me wondering what they were thinking. It's worked pretty well for me so far, though I have had some addon issues (and since Moz does not make the addons, it's up to their respective devs to keep them updated. I know keeping up with a moving target is hard, but this change is worth it). Even with the addon issues, the smooth responsiveness is something I appreciate greatly.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "ability to whitelist plugins has been excised"

    Yet another reason I'll be on 38.7.1 for the rest of time.

    1. arctic_haze Silver badge

      Re: "ability to whitelist plugins has been excised"

      This is actually a good move. It means Adobe Flash will stop being white-listed.

      https://wiki.mozilla.org/Plugins/Firefox_Whitelist

    2. Tom 64

      Re: "ability to whitelist plugins has been excised"

      "Yet another reason I'll be on 38.7.1 for the rest of time."

      ... And loose the benefit of security updates.

      I do hope you block flash, iframes and javascript. Otherwise you'll find your machine is a member of someone's botnet before long

  7. jaywin

    No mention of...

    How many years Chrome and even IE have been doing this. The entire article makes it sound like this is a new revolutionary idea, while even MS have been doing it for yonks.

    1. DF118

      Re: No mention of...

      And yet the only time I've ever suffered a drive-by download and malware infection via JavaScript I was using Chrome.

      Just because someone does a thing doesn't mean they're doing it properly.

    2. CJ_C
      Coat

      Re: No mention of...

      I have not missed, but it sounds as if I will enjoy it, when it comes...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At last

    What a friggin revelation. Firefox has just taken out an 8G desktop as it went rampant, trashed the resources and locked the machine up for 20 mins. Then a reboot.

    Hopefully this fantastic new idea will include a pretty big kill button that still works when it all goes mad.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: At last

      Are you sure that wasn't a Windows 10 install?

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
        Coat

        A bigger hole is needed.

        It's okay downvoters, I was only joking. I know that Windows 10 really takes 20 hours to install, not 20 minutes.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electrolysis

    This is great news. Firefox can lock up completely when a page won't load. It's a real pain though the crash recognition helps restoring untimely ended previous session.

    I stopped using Chrome last year when it was discovered WebRTC leaked sensitive network information. Now with sandboxed tabs in FF I have no reason to look back. Although, this may well mean 100% CPU usage for tabs running Flash content.

    P.S. Cute name. FF can get quite hairy.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Electrolysis

      How nice of them to realize that is how FF should have worked from day minus one. Writing programs that freeze up the UI (for any reason whatsoever) refusing to act on your clicks only to unexpectedly lurch back to life and apply your past clicks to whatever they now substituted under them (like FF operates) should be punishable by a compulsory feathering and tarring, at the very minimum.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: feathering and tarring,

        I find that if I apply the tar first, the feathers stick better. :-)

      2. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Electrolysis

        Day minus one would have been in 2002, when everyone was still running single core CPUs. It would be four more years before IE would get tabs, and another two years after that before the first version of Chrome was released. It seems that expecting FF to have those kinds of features at that point is a bit off-base.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Electrolysis

        You're saying they should have done per-process tabs on, what was the average computer of the day, a Pentium of some-kind with 1MB of RAM running XP?

        That's your answer as to why they went with one process and an event loop.

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: Electrolysis

      Well, firefoxes (red pandas) are supposed to be hairy. They're funny looking bald.

      Of course, you probably knew this, but the electrolysis they're likely talking about here is the use of electricity to separate elements within a given substance, like how water can be separated into oxygen and hydrogen, and Firefox can be separated into UI and rendering processes.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google would be far away...

      Not far enough for me. Nosey fuckers.

  11. J.Smith

    Re: Carp Soup

    So I'm not alone in suffering freezes, good to know others suffer too. It's why I'm moving to Vivaldi (once they get bookmarks functionality). Until then it's Chrome. Though, I'm browsing this in FF, I thought I'd give ver. 47 the benefit of the doubt, and I do want to love FF, but they make it difficult.

  12. two00lbwaster

    Someone should tell their devs about this site

    https://www.arewee10syet.com/

    Yeah, have a look at all broken addons, the ones not tested but listed, and then notice that this page only lists 880 addons out of 1000s.

    Also look at the number of users that are using the broken addons who will either lose functionality or be stuck unable to benefit from the E10 changes.

    Will any of those users be told when their addons are disabled as incompatible? Not if the move to signed addons is any example of how Mozilla treat their user base.

    I've had a quick check:

    * I've got 5/20 addons which are known to work

    * I've got 6/20 addons which are known not to work

    * I've got 3/20 addons which haven't been tested

    * I've got 6/20 addons which aren't even listed

    Out of the 6 plugins which are broken, I use 5 of them every day and will be disabling E10 until they all work; Ghostery, Downthemall, Lastpass, Session Manager and X-notifier.

    A bunch that haven't been tested or aren't listed I'd be in the same boat if they broke, like tab groups, The Addon Bar (restored), external IP and Last tab close button.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: Someone should tell their devs about this site

      Mozilla can't force the addon devs to update their addons. E10s has been in development for years; it's certainly not a surprise to anyone that it is coming. Perhaps this release will motivate addon devs to get things updated.

      My addons don't all work perfectly with e10s yet either; for the moment I have it off too.

  13. Robert Grant

    I've heard of this feature!

    Isn't it the one IE8 had?

  14. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Holmes

    so what of plug ins?

    I'd be interested to see how well it copes with the likes of firebug (pretty much the main reason I use firebug, never got on with chromes Dev tools, never bothered much with operas and IE/edge only became useful from ie11 onwards).

    As I have been known take the whole machine down by badly written javascript causing a total lockup when trying to debug.

  15. teebie

    "We have all the knobs,” Dotzler giggles.

  16. MJI Silver badge

    Important questions.

    Will Classic Theme Restorer still work?

    Will Greasemonkey still work?

    Of course I expect ABP will work.

  17. NanoMeter

    Just one thing...

    They need to make the HTML5 video to work with streaming webcams.

    Then it would be great. Live Leak works great without Flash.

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