Firefox to get massive JavaScript performance boost

August 22, 2008 – 5:26 PM

Mozilla is leveraging an impressive new optimization technique to bring a big performance boost to the Firefox JavaScript engine. The code was merged today (but is not yet ready to be enabled by default in the nightly builds) and is planned for inclusion in Firefox 3.1, the next incremental update of the open-source web browser.

I discussed this new optimization strategy with Mozilla’s VP of engineering Mike Shaver and Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript. They are concerned that sophisticated web applications are being held back by the limitations of JavaScript interpreter performance. They aim to improve execution speed so that it is comparable to that of native code. This will redefine the boundaries of client-side performance and enable the development of a whole new generation of more computationally-intensive web applications.

They are “getting ready to take JavaScript performance into the next tier” with a radically innovative optimization tactic called tracing that has already produced performance improvements ranging between 20 and 40 times faster in some cases. They believe that this is just the beginning of what can be accomplished with tracing, and they expect to be able to achieve even better speed as the work continues.


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