Web Engines Hackfest 2016

From September 26th to 28th we celebrated at the Igalia HQ the 2016 edition of the Web Engines Hackfest. This year we broke all records and got participants from the three main companies behind the three biggest open source web engines, say Mozilla, Google and Apple. Or course, it was not only them, we had some other companies and ourselves. I was active part of the organization and I think we not only did not get any complain but people were comfortable and happy around.

We had several talks (I included the slides and YouTube links):

We had lots and lots of interesting hacking and we also had several breakout sessions:

  • WebKitGTK+ / Epiphany
  • Servo
  • WPE / WebKit for Wayland
  • Layout Models (Grid, Flexbox)
  • WebRTC
  • JavaScript Engines
  • MathML
  • Graphics in WebKit

What I did during the hackfest was working with Enrique and Žan to advance on reviewing our downstream implementation of Media Source Extensions (MSE) in order to land it as soon as possible and I can proudly say that we did already (we didn’t finish at the hackfest but managed to do it after it). We broke the bots and pissed off Michael and Carlos but we managed to deactivate it by default and continue working on it upstream.

So summing up, from my point of view and it is not only because I was part of the organization at Igalia, based also in other people’s opinions, I think the hackfest was a success and I think we will continue as we were or maybe growing a bit (no spoilers!).

Finally I would like to thank our gold sponsors Collabora and Igalia and our silver sponsor Mozilla.

Über latest Media Source Extensions improvements in WebKit with GStreamer

In this post I am going to talk about the implementation of the Media Source Extensions (known as MSE) in the WebKit ports that use GStreamer. These ports are WebKitGTK+, WebKitEFL and WebKitForWayland, though only the latter has the latest work-in-progress implementation. Of course we hope to upstream WebKitForWayland soon and with it, this backend for MSE and the one for EME.

My colleague Enrique at Igalia wrote a post about this about a week ago. I recommend you read it before continuing with mine to understand the general picture and the some of the issues that I managed to fix on that implementation. Come on, go and read it, I’ll wait.

One of the challenges here is something a bit unnatural in the GStreamer world. We have to process the stream information and then make some metadata available to the JavaScript app before playing instead of just pushing everything to a playing pipeline and being happy. For this we created the AppendPipeline, which processes the data and extracts that information and keeps it under control for the playback later.

The idea of the our AppendPipeline is to put a data stream into it and get it processed at the other side. It has an appsrc, a demuxer (qtdemux currently) and an appsink to pick up the processed data. Something tricky of the spec is that when you append data into the SourceBuffer, that operation has to block it and prevent with errors any other append operation while the current is ongoing, and when it finishes, signal it. Our main issue with this is that the the appends can contain any amount of data from headers and buffers to only headers or just partial headers. Basically, the information can be partial.

First I’ll present again Enrique’s AppendPipeline internal state diagram:

First let me explain the easiest case, which is headers and buffers being appended. As soon as the process is triggered, we move from Not started to Ongoing, then as the headers are processed we get the pads at the demuxer and begin to receive buffers, which makes us move to Sampling. Then we have to detect that the operation has ended and move to Last sample and then again to Not started. If we have received only headers we will not move to Sampling cause we will not receive any buffers but we still have to detect this situation and be able to move to Data starve and then again to Not started.

Our first approach was using two different timeouts, one to detect that we should move from Ongoing to Data starve if we did not receive any buffer and another to move from Sampling to Last sample if we stopped receiving buffers. This solution worked but it was a bit racy and we tried to find a less error prone solution.

We tried then to use custom downstream events injected from the source and at the moment they were received at the sink we could move from Sampling to Last sample or if only headers were injected, the pads were created and we could move from Ongoing to Data starve. It took some time and several iterations to fine tune this but we managed to solve almost all cases but one, which was receiving only partial headers and no buffers.

If the demuxer received partial headers and no buffers it stalled and we were not receiving any pads or any event at the output so we could not tell when the append operation had ended. Tim-Philipp gave me the idea of using the need-data signal on the source that would be fired when the demuxer ran out of useful data. I realized then that the events were not needed anymore and that we could handle all with that signal.

The need-signal is fired sometimes when the pipeline is linked and also when the the demuxer finishes processing data, regardless the stream contains partial headers, complete headers or headers and buffers. It works perfectly once we are able to disregard that first signal we receive sometimes. To solve that we just ensure that at least one buffer left the appsrc with a pad probe so if we receive the signal before any buffer was detected at the probe, it shall be disregarded to consider that the append has finished. Otherwise, if we have seen already a buffer at the probe we can consider already than any need-data signal means that the processing has ended and we can tell the JavaScript app that the append process has ended.

Both need-data signal and probe information come in GStreamer internal threads so we could use mutexes to overcome any race conditions. We thought though that deferring the operations to the main thread through the pipeline bus was a better idea that would create less issues with race conditions or deadlocks.

To finish I prefer to give some good news about performance. We use mainly the YouTube conformance tests to ensure our implementation works and I can proudly say that these changes reduced the time of execution in half!

That’s all folks!

WebKit Contributors Meeting 2015 (late, I know)

After writing my last post I realized that I needed to write a bit more about what I had been doing at the WebKit Contributors Meeting.

First thing to say is that it happened in March at Apple campus in Cupertino and I atteded as part of the Igalia gang.

My goal when I went there was to discuss with Youenn Fablet about Streams API and we are implementing and see how we could bootstrap the reviews and being to get the code reviewed and landed efficiently. Youenn and I also made a presentation (mainly him) about it. At that moment we got some comments and help from Benjamin Poulain and nowadays we are also working with Darin Adler and Geoffrey Garen so the work is ongoing.

WebRTC was also a hot topic and we talked a bit about how to deal with the promises as they seem to be involved in the WebRTC standard was well. My Igalian partner Philippe was missed in this regard as he is involved in the development of WebRTC in WebKit, but he unfortunately couldn’t make it because of personal reasons.

I also had an interesting talk with Jer Noble and Eric Carlson about Media Source and Encrypted Media Extensions. I told them about the several downstream implementations that we are or were working on, specially the WebKit4Wayland one and that we expect to begin to upstream soon. They commented that they still have doubts about the abstractions they made for them and of course I promised to get back to them when we begin with the job. Actually I already discussed some issues with Quique, another fellow Igalian.

Among the other interesting discussions, I found very necessary the migration of Mac port to CMake. Actually, I am experiencing now the painbenefits of using XCode to add files, specially the generated ones to the compilation. I hope that Alex succeeds with the task and soon we have a common build system for all main ports.