Mozilla has announced a new beta of Firefox 3.6.4, an incremental update which adds one significant new feature to Firefox 3.6 — Flash and other plug-ins now run in separate processes. That means if Flash crashes, it won’t cause the entire browser to crash with it.
To give the new beta a try, head on over to the Firefox downloads page. If you’ve subscribed the beta channel in the past you’ll automatically get the update, or you can force Firefox to update using the “Check for Updates” menu item. For now, the isolated processes feature is only available in the Windows and Linux versions of Firefox. A Mac version will be available soon.
With the new “out of process plug-ins,” or OOPP as this feature is known, when a plug-in like Flash crashes, users will simply see a sad face where the Flash content should be. Reloading the page will restart Flash and try loading the file again.
Firefox’s new isolated processes feature is similar to what Google Chrome already does and will significantly improve Firefox’s overall stability since plug-ins can no longer bring down the whole browser.
For the beta, only the Flash, Silverlight and Java plug-ins are included, though you can try isolating others (for example, the Adobe Acrobat plug-in) by visiting the about:config settings and adding them to the list. Just be aware that there’s a reason only the primary three plugins are supported right now, adding others may cause Firefox to crash.
While Firefox 3.6.4 is just an incremental update it’s the first time Mozilla has delivered on its new strategy of pushing out features when they’re ready, rather than waiting for the next major release. You can thank Google Chrome and its constant updates for pushing Mozilla to adopt roughly the same policy.
To give the new features a try, head over to the download page and grab a copy of Firefox 3.6.4 beta. Remember, the isolated processes feature is only available in the Windows and Linux versions. A Mac version will be available soon.