Firefox previews new feature to protect against Flash crashes

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Mozilla has released a new feature in a developer preview of the popular Firefox browser. In a nutshell, plug-ins such as Adobe Flash will be run as a separate process, which serves to protect the application from errant actions or misbehavior where plug-ins are concerned.

The technically correct name of this feature is "out-of-process plug-ins," or OOPP. Exact details are more complex; suffice it to say that the separation involves use of a shim layer to act like a plugin in the browser process, which allows the browser to execute as it normally does. The separate plugin process also perceives the browser as usual, while actual communication (function calls) is transparently mapped as RPC messages between the two processes.

The development team says that a conscious decision was made not to automatically reload the problematic plug-in when it crashes. Mozilla's Benjamin Smedberg elaborates: "Web page scripts often have state associated with a plugin." Smedberg went on to note that reloading the plugin without doing the same for the entire page will result in scripts being in an unexpected state and that "Overall, it causes fewer problems for the user to simply refresh the page."

Personally, I switched to Google Chrome because I could no longer tolerate the browser crashes precipitated by instability in Flash. I suspect that this feature would be very much welcomed by current Firefox users.

For those who are interested, the new developer preview can be downloaded here. Note that the developer preview is alpha-quality code, and may hence contain bugs.

For more on this story:
- check out the article at The Register
- check out Benjamin Smedberg's blog
- check out the article at Ars Technica 

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