Mozilla’s Networking Team in 2011

Mozilla created a networking team as part of the platform engineering group in April of 2011. There are nine of us now, spread out around the world, with me managing. We’re responsible for Gecko’s networking stack, including network protocol support, security, and caching. I want to share some of the things we did in 2011.

We landed a SPDY implementation for the upcoming Firefox 11. SPDY will remain pref’d off until we’ve completed testing and various reviews, but it works quite well already. We’re working with Google to properly standardize SPDY.

We added support for the latest WebSockets specification. Firefox 11 currently has WebSockets enabled in standard form, without our vendor prefix.

Firefox 11 also includes SSL performance improvements. We can now negotiate SSL connections in parallel, on multiple threads, instead of serially on a single SSL thread.

We’re looking forward to increased IPv6 usage and we want to make sure that Gecko handles it well. In the past year we’ve improved IPv6 auto-detection, proxy support, and security. These fixes are spread out among a number of Firefox releases.

We made a number of improvements to HTTP pipelining in 2011, largely related to batching and ordering requests efficiently. HTTP pipelining is interesting because it’s an improvement to an existing, widely-used technology, but it has compatibility issues. Pipelining is currently only in use for our mobile products, where the risk/reward ratio is clearly in its favor, but we may enable it for desktop products next year.

Performance on Android is a priority for us. One optimization for Android that we’re particularly happy with is a major DNS performance improvement, which is detailed in a previous post. We also did the work necessary to enable our disk cache on Android.

Networking performance can be hard to test due to the variety of network conditions users can be operating under. In order to add flexibility to our testing capabilities we developed a system called NeckoNet. NeckoNet is a software suite including, among other things, a web server (Apache), talos, and a modified netem kernel module. We provide a Linux VM with all of this properly set up. Using NeckoNet, we can adjust bandwidth, packet loss and latency for network tests.

We’ve also made many other bug fixes and optimizations, conducted security reviews, and spent time planning future work.

In case you want to follow our work in the future, I’ll point out some of the ways in which we communicate (in addition to B.M.O.). Mozilla’s main networking wiki page has links to a number of pages we use to stay organized, including quarterly goals. Starting in January 2012 our team meetings will be open, with dial-in information posted on the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup the day before the meeting. These meetings happen at 10am Pacific every other Tuesday. We’re also going to try to blog about what we’re doing more often. Any blog posts will be syndicated to Planet Mozilla.

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About Josh Aas

Josh Aas is a Gecko platform software engineer with Mozilla Corporation.
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5 Responses to Mozilla’s Networking Team in 2011

  1. Caspy7 says:

    Awesome! Great to see these.
    Look forward to future posts.

  2. Matthias Versen says:

    Maybe you should fix some of the pac bugs especially the IPv6 ones.
    myIpAddress() for example can return your IPv4, IPv4 localhost, IPv6 global, IPv6 local link (fe80:) or IPv6 localhost (::1).

  3. RyanVM says:

    Thanks for the post, Josh! I have the SPDY preference flipped. Is there a way for me to confirm that it is working properly?

    • Josh Aas says:

      There isn’t an easy way to tell when SPDY is in use right now. Turning on some logging in your own build or using WireShark are the only two things I can think of, but Patrick McManus may know more. We’re considering including an easier way to tell.

      The best places to see SPDY at work right now are Google properties like Gmail and instant search.

  4. Manoj says:

    Congratulations on a productive 2011 Josh. Some of these achievements ensure that Firefox stays abreast with the competition (Chrome in particular). Are there any features planned for 2012 that push Firefox, on desktop in particular, past its competitors?

    Thanks,
    Manoj

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