MPArch(Multiple Page Architecture) project in Chromium

This article is written by referring to the Multiple Page Architecture document.

Motivation

According to the Google Chromium team, some years ago it turned out that the BFCache(Back/Forward cache), Portals, Guest Views, and Prerender faced the same fundamental problem of having to support multiple pages in the same tab, but were implemented with different architecture models. BFCache and pending deletion documents were implemented with a Single-WebContents model. On the other hand, Portals and Guest Views were implemented with a Multiple-WebContents model. After extensive discussions between the Chrome Security Architecture team, the BFCache team, the Blink Architecture team, the Portals team, and others, they concluded that BFCache and Portals should converge to a single shared architecture. This is crucial to minimize the complexity of writing browser features on top of and within and minimize the maintenance cost across the codebase.
Multiple Page Architecture [1]
In addition to BFCache and Portals, Prerendering, FencedFrames, GuestViews, and Pending deletion frames were facing the same problem: how to support multiple pages in a given tab. The below table shows each feature’s requirements.
Multiple Page Architecture [1]
If the Chrome team didn’t invest in the architecture, as you can see in the table, the six use cases need to solve the same problems individually, which will lead to browser features having to deal with multiple incoherent cases, then they were supposed that it will greatly increase the complexity across the codebase.

Goal

The goal of multiple-page architecture is to enable projects including BFCache, Portals, Prerendering, and FencedFrames to minimize the complexity exposed to the browser features. Specifically, Multiple Page Architecture is to
  • Enable one WebContents to host multiple(active/inactive, visible/invisible) pages
  • Allow navigating WebContents to an existing page
Multiple Page Architecture [1]
For instance, when a page moves to BFCache, the ownership of the page is transferred from the main frame tree to BFCache. When a portal is activated, the ownership of the page is transferred to the main frame tree. This requires clearly splitting the tab and page / main-document concepts. This is closely related to and greatly benefits from Site Isolation’s effort to split page and document concepts.

Design Overview

Let’s take a look at a high-level design briefly. To apply the MPArch to Chromium, we have to change the core navigation and existing features. First, we need to make the core navigation provide the ability to host multiple pages in the same WebContents, allow one page to embed another, and allow WebContents to navigate to existing pages.

In particular, this includes,
  • Allow multiple FrameTrees to be created in the given WebContents in addition to the existing main one
  • Add a new navigation type, which navigates a given FrameTree to an existing page. (For example, BFCache will use it for history navigation restoring the page from the cache. Prerendering will use it to instantly navigate to a prerendered page.)
  • Modify RenderFrameHost to avoid knowing its current FrameTreeNode/FrameTree to allow the main RenderFrameHost to be transferred between different FrameTreeNodes.
And also, we need to fix existing features relying on the now-invalid assumptions like one tab only having one page at any given moment. The MPArch team evolves //content/public APIs to simplify these fixes and provide guidance and documentation to browser feature developers.

Igalia Participation

As we’ve seen briefly so far, the MPArch project is a significant Chromium architecture change that requires a lot of modification of Chromium overall. The Igalia team began to participate in the prerendering task first in the MPArch project in April 2021. We had mainly worked on the prerendering contents restriction as well as the long tail of fixes for MPArch-related features. After finishing the prerendering and long tail fixes of MPArch-related features, we started to work on the FencedFrame which is a target of the MPArch projects since September 2021. The Igalia team has merged over 550 patches for MPArch since April 2021 so far.

References

[1] Multiple Page Architecture
[2] Multi Page Architecture (BlinkOn 13)
[3] Prerendering
[4] Prerendering contents restriction
[5] Fixing long tail of features for MPArch

1 thought on “MPArch(Multiple Page Architecture) project in Chromium

  1. Pingback: A <webview> tag in Chromium | Julie’s blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*