After years of waiting, Mozilla on June 13 has finally launched Firefox 54 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android, with multi-process support — a “major improvement” to improve your browsing experience.
Mozilla’s multi-process support in Firefox has been in development for over 8 years as part of a project, codenamed Electrolysis (E10S), which aimed at improving responsiveness and speed by streamlining memory use with multi-process support.
Mozilla added multi-process support to Nightly versions of Firefox back in 2009. Then in 2011, it made the decision to put the development of Electrolysis on ice. Then again back in April 2013, it revived the multi-process architecture feature again and has been working on it ever since.
The main goal of the project is to separate plug-ins, the browser interface and tabs in separate processes to improve the browser’s stability, security, and performance.
With the release of Firefox 48, Mozilla enabled multi-process support (that could split itself into two processes) for 1 % of users, slowly ramping up to nearly half of the Firefox Release Channel. With Firefox 49, Mozilla expanded support to include a small initial set of compatible add-ons, declaring that the goal was to have all Firefox users with multi-process sometime in the first half of 2017.
That time has now arrived with Firefox 54. Describing the latest release as the largest change to Firefox code ever, Mozilla says it has worked hard to avoid increased memory consumption, and slower performance, as Firefox, now uses up to four processes to run web page content across all open tabs (four is the default, but this can be tweaked in the browser’s settings).
[By default, Chrome starts a new process for every tab, thus using an infinite number of processes, which eventually slow down the web browser as well].
In other words, Firefox is finally making better use of your computer’s hardware (significantly less RAM) by separating the tabs into separate processes. With this, the complex web pages in one tab will now have a much lower impact on responsiveness and speed in other tabs. In theory, moving to multiple content processes will improve stability and performance (one bad tab won’t slow down the rest of your computer).
“Firefox 54 with E10s makes sites run much better on all computers, especially on computers with less memory. Firefox aims to strike the “just right” balance between speed and memory usage,” says Mozilla in its blog post.
Firefox 54.0 for the desktop is available now as a free, open-source download on Firefox.com, and almost all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The feature is being rolled out to 80% cent of Firefox users, with 20 percent being held back as a “control group” for comparative purposes.
But many Firefox users are still struggling to take advantage of multi-process support. The users were disappointed to see that their web browser is still clinging to a single process. This issue is happening because one or more of your installed Firefox add-ons could be incompatible with Electrolysis, or multi-process feature.
Here’s how users can enable multi-process support in their system.
Step 1 — Check if Multi-Process is Working
Users can check to see if multi-process support has been enabled by opening Firefox and typing about:support in the address bar and look for the “Multiprocess Windows” line (as shown):
- If it says “1/1 (Enabled by default)” — multi-process feature is working.
- If it says “0/x (Disabled by add-ons)” — multi-process is not working.
If it’s listed as “disabled by add-ons, go to step 2.
Step 2 — Disable/Remove Incompatible Add-Ons
Visit about:addons in the address bar and check for the presence of add-ons that aren’t compatible — removing these and restarting should trigger multiprocess support.
In the case of some incompatible add-ons — Norton Security Toolbar in Windows for example — they can’t be removed, in which case users should contact the add-on provider for more assistance.
Step 3 — Enable Firefox Multiprocess Feature
- Type about:config in the address bar
- Search for tabs.remote.autostart
- Double-click on it and set value to True
Step 4 — Change No. of Content Processes
You can also change the number of content processes, which is by default 4, to more or less, according to your pool of RAM.
- Visit about:config in the address bar
- Search for ipc.processCount
- Set its value to more than 1
That’s it. You are done! You do not need to restart your web browser for this to take effect.