Firefox Looking To Lose The Flab - And The Flaw

Memory leaks and code exploits are a fact of life for both browser developers and their users — regardless of the specific browser in question. For the developers at Mozilla, both issues have been on their minds this week, as browser bugs of both sorts have been all over the news.

Perhaps because it's the second most-widely-used web browser in the world, not to mention being Open Source — and because expectations for the "market-leading" browser aren't particularly high — Firefox takes a good bit of flak whenever a new security hole or resource sink is discovered. The Mozilla devs — or, at least some of them — intended this week to be about memory management, and Mozilla's Co-Director of Developer Tools, Ben Galbraith, got the ball rolling on Monday with a blog post laying out plans for a new tool intended to make the process known as "garbage collection" — freeing up resources by clearing out objects no longer required in memory — a more transparent and manageable process.

According to Galbraith, the tool being proposed would make it possible to view current unrecoverable JavaScript objects, known as "the heap," along with the ability to determine why they are "noncollectable," as well as providing the opportunity to understand when collection starts and finishes, and by extension, how long it is taking. His blog post ended by encouraging members of the Mozilla community to step up and offer feedback on the proposal, something they likely were doing through Wednesday, when everyone's attention was redirected by a critical security glitch that apparently threatens every Firefox 3 user, regardless of platform.

Security researchers published code on Wednesday that reportedly would allow an attacker to load
unauthorized software on a target's computer simply by having the target view a specially-coded XML file. According to reports, Mozilla developers were blindsided by the bug and immediately raced to find a patch, a task they'd completed by this morning, adding it to next-week's Firefox 3.0.8 release. Because of the exploit, that release is now considered a "high-priority fire-drill security update" for all users.

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