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 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.