Mozilla boosts JavaScript performance

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from InfoWorld. For more IT news, subscribe to the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

Mozilla this week is touting technology to boost performance of its JavaScript engine and Web applications.

Called TraceMonkey, the technology adds native code compilation to the engine, which itself is called SpiderMonkey, said Mike Shaver, Mozilla vice president of engineering, in a blog post on Friday. The software builds on code and ideas shared with the Tamarin Tracing project, Shaver said.

TraceMonkey was placed in the Firefox 3.1 development tree this week. It is slated to be featured in Firefox 3.1, which is due to be available the end of this year.

“I’m extremely pleased to announce the launch of TraceMonkey, an evolution of Firefox’s SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine for Firefox 3.1 that uses a new kind of Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler to boost JavaScript performance by an order of magnitude or more,” said Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and the founder of JavaScript, in a blog post.

“TraceMonkey advances us toward the Mozilla 2 future where even more Firefox code is written in JavaScript. Firefox gets faster and safer as this process unfolds,” Eich said.

The project still is early in development, though.

“The goal of the TraceMonkey project — which is still in its early stages — is to take JavaScript performance to another level, where instead of competing against other interpreters, we start to compete against native code,” said Shaver.

“We have bugs to fix, and an enormous number of optimizations still to choose from, but we’re charging full speed ahead on the work we need to do for this to be a part of Firefox 3.1,” Shaver said. “Depending on the benchmarks you choose, you might see massive speed-up, minor speed-up, or maybe even some slowdown — those latter cases are definitely bugs and reporting them through bugzilla will be a big help.”

TraceMonkey supports x86, x86-54, and ARM. “This means we are ready for mobile and desktop target platforms out of the box,” Eich said.

“As the performance keeps going up, people will write and transport code that was ‘too slow’ to run in the browser as JavaScript. This means the Web can accommodate workloads that right now require a proprietary plugin,” said Eich.

He added he expects other browsers to follow Mozilla’s lead and take JavaScript performance through current interpreter speed barriers, using JIT native code compilation.

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