Firefox 48 is the first with Mozilla’s Electrolysis multi-process tech

Firefox 48 began rolling out to users yesterday. This major update marks the beginnings of a fundamental change to the way Firefox processes work: it splits the browser into a process for its user interface and a process for the web content it's displaying. This change is the first mainstream release of the work from Mozilla's Electrolysis project, whose labor is meant to make Firefox less crashy while improving its responsiveness and security. Developer Aza Dotzler calls this release "the largest change we've ever shipped."

Electrolysis won't be rolling out to every user with Firefox 48. Mozilla is only turning on the feature for users that aren't on Windows XP and without extensions, screen readers, or right-to-left languages enabled. Of those eligible users, only 1% of them will get a browser with Electrolysis on by default at first. If no major problems crop up, Mozilla will then turn on Electrolysis for all eligible Firefox 48 users, or about 50% of the user base, according to the company.

Mozilla also outlined its plan for Electrolysis and the next few versions of Firefox. The company says that Firefox 49 will begin deploying the feature for users with a small list of pre-approved add-ons. Firefox 50 will expand Electrolysis to folks using add-ons with a compatibility flag set or for add-ons built with Mozilla's WebExtensions framework. Firefox 51 will enable Electrolysis for those with screen readers and right-to-left languages. The company says that release will mark the conclusion of the first major phase of the Electrolysis rollout. Future versions of Electrolysis will split each tab into its own content process. Mozilla expects the fruits of that labor to become available in the first half of next year.

As someone who's had Firefox crash and hang regularly thanks to problems with rogue plug-ins or tabs, I can only say "full speed ahead." Electrolysis is enabled in Firefox 48 on my Mac, and I haven't noticed any instability or weirdness that I'd attribute to the new feature. I'm hopeful that this improved architecture will help Firefox regain some popularity in the browser market. Going by NetMarketShare's latest numbers, all versions of Firefox account for 8.1% of the browser market, ahead of Microsoft's Edge but behind all versions of Internet Explorer and dwarfed by Google Chrome's 51% share.

If you're curious whether you have Electrolysis enabled, enter "about:support" in the Firefox address bar and look to see whether "Multi-process staged rollout" has a Boolean value of "true" in the Extensions table.

Comments closed
    • Shambles
    • 3 years ago

    I can’t remember the last time Firefox crashed on me so I guess it worked fine before and works fine now too.

    • crystall
    • 3 years ago

    Little known fact: a lot of the work that lead to e10s was actually done in Firefox [b<]OS[/b<]. That's because the ill-fated project used the one-page-per-process model very early in the development process; to get it working we had to squash a huge number of bugs related to process separation and IPC. Since it was running on devices with limited amounts of memory it also helped us cut down on memory consumption when the feature was turned on. disclaimer: I work for Mozilla

      • EzioAs
      • 3 years ago

      Well, whatever you do, just keep doing it 🙂

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    Ok guys, our new engine has a [b<]V6[/b<] cylinder layout. Since we're still testing it, it's only available by invitation. You can also only drive it below 3,000rpm and for a maximum of 1 hour. Service is every 1,000 miles.

      • synthtel2
      • 3 years ago

      Wat?

      Also, the better analogy here has Chrome using more than 8 cylinders (either that, or we’re talking about pretty small cars). Chrome uses too many (and/or very oversquare) cylinders such that efficiency goes down the drain (mechanical losses and heat lost to cylinder walls at low RPM / high load). Chrome’s way can cram more power under a given car’s hood, but IMHO it’s not worth it (Chrome behaves faster, but hammers the computer’s resources way too much).

      😉

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 3 years ago

    I forced multiprocess on using the about:config options and not having any problems (running: flashblock, noscript, lastpass, greasemonkey, and firebug).

      • cookwithvette
      • 3 years ago

      You may want to double check in about:support to verify that it has been enabled.

      I tried enabling it last night and, despite changing the setting, the feature remained off because I had add-ons.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 3 years ago

        Yes, I’ve double checked and it’s running. Another way to tell is that the plugin container process is running and using significant cpu and ram without flash running.

        Also turns out firebug is fully integrated now and it isn’t running as an extension.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    I have noticed that Firefox is considerably less hairy in this version.

    • anotherengineer
    • 3 years ago

    “Electrolysis is enabled in Firefox 48 on my Mac,”

    Mac…………………………………………say it ain’t so……………………….

    lol

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      If you review PC stuff all day you probably want to go back home to (or write on) something that gives you less to fiddle with. It’s not an unseen pattern. Plus few can deny their laptops are still good all rounders, nothing sorely lacking in battery life, performance, build quality, trackpad experience (which they still rule the roost for, what, 8 years later?), etc. Except the Air with its poopy 1440×900 TN panel.

        • anotherengineer
        • 3 years ago

        “write on something that gives you less to fiddle with”

        My pencil and stack of paper love me 🙂

          • tipoo
          • 3 years ago

          Ain’t nobody reading your pencil scan reviews!

    • Aranarth
    • 3 years ago

    I manually turned it on in 47 works really nice.

    • iBend
    • 3 years ago

    I’m not really care about it, but I think my firefox dev edition already have this feature since long time ago :-/

    • juampa_valve_rde
    • 3 years ago

    Here too, i’m under the impression that it starts quicker and may render pages a smidgen quicker. Anyway its a big jump 🙂

    • Kretschmer
    • 3 years ago

    Got it! So far, no discernible difference…

    • AnotherReader
    • 3 years ago

    I just hope that they don’t go with one process per tab ala Chrome. If Electrolysis isn’t turned on for you and you have Firefox 48, turn it on by setting the boolean preference browser.tabs.remote.autostart to true

    [b<]Edit[/b<]: Rockin has provided an alternate way which works better. [url=http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/08/firefox-48-ships-bringing-rust-mainstream-and-multiprocess-for-some/?comments=1&start=40<]According to Mozilla's Gabriele Svelto[/url<], if you feel adventurous you can already enable the tab-per-process functionality by changing the dom.ipc.processCount variable in about:config. That represents the maximum number of processes Firefox will use, grouping tabs within each process once the number of tabs exceeds that value.

      • EzioAs
      • 3 years ago

      This doesn’t work for me and I’ve tried it a couple times already before reading your comment. They did say that people with lots of extensions won’t get it early, so that’s unfortunate. Just have to keep waiting, I guess.

        • Rockin
        • 3 years ago

        You can force enable E10s. From their support page: ” Within about:config create a new boolean pref named browser.tabs.remote.force-enable and set it to true. This is not encouraged, use it at your own risk! “

          • Goty
          • 3 years ago

          You can’t enable the feature with (at least some) extensions. The only extension I run is ABP and I am not able to enable it; about:support reports “Multiprocess Windows 0/1 (Disabled by add-ons)”

          • EzioAs
          • 3 years ago

          It worked! Thanks for that!

          I’m definitely trying this out on my work laptop tomorrow morning. I love Firefox but it does need some decent hardware to feel good so browsing on my slow laptop always felt less-smooth.

      • trieste1s
      • 3 years ago

      Probably 1 process per domain.

      • nanoflower
      • 3 years ago

      I think that is exactly where Firefox is headed with one process per tab. It’s just going to take them some time to get there.

      • UberGerbil
      • 3 years ago

      Actually, contrary to popular belief, Chrome doesn’t use one process per tab. Often it does, but frequently it groups arbitrary tabs together in the same process. You can see this quite easily if you ever use something like Process Explorer to kill one of the Chrome jobs that run as separate processes forked from the main Chrome.exe: when you kill one, usually several more will die as well. I’ve never looked at the actual code to figure out what heuristic they use to group them (my guess is some kind of load balancing).

      • Timbrelaine
      • 3 years ago

      I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but last year the thinking was that they would go process-per-domain; if all your tabs point to entirely different websites then it’s still process-per-tab, but in the common case that many tabs point to different pages on the same domain, it’s much more efficient. In my case, all 48,000 of my reddit tabs would share a single process.

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