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Firefox relegates plugins to sandbox

Plugin crash

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 8 Mar 2010 at 10:13

Mozilla has rolled out a developer preview of Firefox that isolates plugins, preventing them from crashing the browser when they stop working.

The feature is a staple of Chrome, and Mozilla has lifted code from the open-source Chromium project. However, whereas Chrome sandboxes individual tabs, Firefox isolates all plugins running on a page. When one crashes, Firefox loads a page explaining what's happened and submits a crash report to Mozilla.

Broken plugins won't be relaunched until you reload the page, with the company claiming this approach causes less hassle than reloading them automatically.

We are working on Mac support for multiprocess plugins, and hope to have a preview of this work available soon

"Web page scripts often have state associated with a plugin," wrote Mozilla's Benjamin Smedberg. "If we reload the plugin without reloading the entire page, those scripts will have unexpected state and can get very confused. Overall, it causes fewer problems for the user to simply refresh the page."

The foundation claims to have done "a fair bit of testing" with Silverlight and Flash, but claims the feature will work with other plugins, too.

The developer preview is currently available for Windows and Linux, with a Mac version "coming soon".

"MacOS presents some unique challenges," said Smedberg. "The traditional drawing and interaction model for plugins is very difficult to do across processes. We are working on Mac support for multiprocess plugins, and hope to have a preview of this work available soon."

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