Multi-Process Fennec

Today Joe Drew, Olli Pettay, and I have gotten Mobile Firefox (Fennec) working with a separate process for rendering. It’s a significant achievement, because even though we had to hack out some Fennec features, it’s already a fairly functional browser. Olli made a screencast showing the browser in action:

Getting Fennec working was difficult partly because the mobile Firefox code uses a different drawing system: instead of displaying a native scrollable widget, the mobile code uses a cache of “tiles” to display the web page. This allows them to display certain kinds of content over the web page, as well has have better control and speed when scrolling, zooming, and performing other interactions.

In order to get all this working with multiple processes, the group attacked pieces of the problem separately. Joe Drew implemented a new method on the canvas element: asyncDrawXULElement. This call, very similar to drawWindow, will asynchronously ask the content process to draw a tile (or part of a tile).

Olli implement various interaction fixes: forwarding mouse events from the tiles to the content process, forwarding some important events such as MozAfterPaint from the content process back to the chrome process, and fixing widget focus in the embedded browser so that keystrokes are sent to it correctly.

Finally, I modified the Mozilla frame loader and subdocument frame such that “remote frames” could work correctly even without a docshell. I then hacked up the Fennec sources so that it would also work without a docshell, mainly by commenting out the security UI and zoom-to-element features which require additional information from the content process.

Now that it’s working, we hope to be able to bring additional developers in to fix up the features which we hacked around, fix DOM features which are currently broken such as link targeting, and start getting much better measurements for interactive performance and memory usage.

Atom Feed for Comments 3 Responses to “Multi-Process Fennec”

  1. Doug Says:

    fantastic work!

  2. McGuire Says:

    Really great! :-D Fix this hacks and it will be perfect.

  3. Gary Kwong Says:

    The video’s interesting – I’m interested to know how to make a screencast using open source software and output into a tag Theora file too. Any hints?

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