Mozilla and Samsung team up for Servo, a secure browser engine

Built on Mozilla's Rust language, Servo is designed to be highly secure and groomed for multicore architectures

Mozilla and Samsung are tag-teaming on a new, highly secure Web browser engine dubbed Servo, built on Mozilla's new "safe systems" programming language called Rust. The engine is aimed at taking advantage of multicore, heterogeneous computing architectures, according to Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich.

Samsung's initial contribution to the project is an experimental port to ARM and Android -- not entirely surprising, considering the company's vested interest in the future of the Google-spawned platform. As noted by InfoWorld's mobile maven Galen Gruman, "Samsung is the only Android maker whose separate UI path has resonated with buyers and threatens to fork the Android experience from Google's 'pure' Android UI, which it periodically reasserts." A next-gen, secure browser for Android could further differentiate Samsung's mobile portfolio from Google's.

Beyond seeking to "to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware" to take advantage of emerging massively parallel hardware, Mozilla and Samsung want to create a platform resilient to the security exploits targeting browsers on the market, according to Eich.

That's where Rust comes in: The language -- intended to fill many of the same niches C++ has occupied over the past decades -- has been in development for years and just hit version 0.6. It's a curly-brace, block-structured expression language that visually resembles the C language family, as described on the Rust website. However, it differs in terms of syntactic and semantic details: "Its design is oriented toward concerns of 'programming in the large'; that is, of creating and maintaining boundaries -- both abstract and operational -- that preserve large-system integrity, availability, and concurrency."

Eich emphasized that Rust is "safe by default, preventing entire classes of memory management errors that lead to crashes and security vulnerabilities."

The language "features lightweight concurrency primitives that make it easy for programmers to leverage the power of the many CPU cores available on current and future computing platforms," he added.

Mozilla was fuzzy on the details as to when to expect further advancements in Rust or Servo: The organization aims to complete the first major revision of Rust this year, "cleaning up, expanding and documenting the libraries, building out our tools to improve the user experience, and beefing up performance," according to Eich.

As for Servo, he wrote, "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."

The source code for Rust 0.6 as well as Servo are available via GitHub.

This article, "Mozilla and Samsung team up for Servo, a secure browser engine," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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