Julian Seward asked me an interesting question a while ago: “what are the factors that limit Firefox’s reliability?” (You can use “crash rate” as a reasonable definition of “reliability”.)
He suggested two things:
- Firefox depends on external code, such as plug-ins.
- Many crashes are hard to reproduce and so don’t get fixed.
For the first, Electrolysis (a.k.a. process separation) is on track to pretty much make it a non-problem. It’s already in place for Flash, and will eventually be for other plug-ins. So that’s good.
For the second, I see two main sub-factors.
- Firefox is implemented in C++ which is prone to memory-related bugs and data races, both of which can make crash reproduction difficult. Using a safer language like Rust would make many (all?) of these bugs impossible. Unfortunately, Rust isn’t production-ready, and rewriting even parts of the browser is a huge undertaking. So we better get started ASAP
- Second, Firefox has some nasty low-level code like the garbage collector; bugs in it be very difficult to reproduce. I don’t see an obvious way to improve this other than the usual: testing, code review, using simple algorithms, etc.