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Mozilla, Samsung collaborating on the browser of the future

Experimental engine for next Web coming to Android, ARM processors

Mozilla can see the future of web browsing, and it lies in multi-core computing.

Today's quad-core processors will be quaint compared to the massive CPUs of the future, which are expected to contain 16, 32 or more cores.

With that in mind, the maker of Firefox announced Wednesday that it's teaming up with Samsung to create a next-generation browser that will be built from scratch and will be based on a new engine, Servo, as well as use a new programming language, Rust.

"Mozilla's mission is about advancing the web as a platform for all," Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich wrote in The Mozilla Blog Wednesday.

"[W]e're supporting this mission by experimenting with what's next when it comes to the core technology powering the Web browser," he wrote. "We need to be prepared to take advantage of tomorrow's faster, multi-core, heterogeneous computing architectures."

As part of that experiment, Mozilla announced that, with Samsung's assistance, it is bringing Servo and Rust to Android and to ARM processors.

"This is an exciting step in the evolution of both projects that will allow us to start deeper research with Servo on mobile," Eich noted.

More details

One cornerstone of Mozilla's future browser will be the new search engine, Servo, which will be capable of exploiting the power and massive parallel processing power of multi-core processors that dwarf anything on the market for mobile devices today. The other will be a new programming language, Rust, that's built from the ground up to be secure.

The Web that Mozilla is envisioning is very different from today's, which can't even tap into the parallel-processing power of the quad-core processors found in existing mobile devices.

Existing browsers are mired in sequential processing--processing one item after another--and current Web standards don't encourage breaking out of that, with the notable exception of WebGL--which has had some problems of its own in the past--and HTML 5 Web Workers, which brings multi-threading to JavaScript.

Not only will the next Web better support parallel processing, but it will be a safer place to surf, too--if Mozilla and its partner Samsung have anything to say about it.

That's because the programming language used by the pair's next-gen browser, Rust, is designed to address the kinds of security problems found in browsers today.

Eventually, Mozilla hopes Rust will replace C++ for many of the uses that language is deployed for today. "[Rust] is *safe by default*, preventing entire classes of memory management errors that lead to crashes and security vulnerabilities," Eich explained.

Timeline

Mozilla has been working on Rust for several years, but version 1.0 is expected to be released by the end of the year.

According to Eich, 2013 will be a big year in the life Servo and Rust.

"In the coming year, we are racing to complete the first major revision of Rust--cleaning up, expanding, and documenting the libraries, building out our tools to improve the user experience, and beefing up performance," he wrote.

"At the same time," Eich said, "we will be putting more resources into Servo, trying to prove that we can build a fast web browser with pervasive parallelism, and in a safe, fun language."


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