Mozilla has released a stable build of Firefox 3.6.4, the first incarnation of the open source browser that seeks to minimize crashes by running plug-ins as processes separate from the core browser.
The processes-separate release is available for Windows and Linux.
In a blog post, lead Firefox developer Mike Beltzner says that according to Mozilla's beta tests, the latest Firefox would "significantly reduce" the number of crashes experienced while watching online videos or playing games. Firefox 3.6.4 offers crash protection for Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime, and Microsoft Silverlight.
Mozilla calls these "out of process plug-ins," or OOPP. When you're down with OOPP, a shim layer executes the Firefox plug-in API, keeping it separate from the browser itself. When a plug-in crashes, Firefox loads a page that says so and sends a crash report back to Mozilla. If you then reload the page, the plug-in relaunches.
Firefox 3.6.4 also includes a "hang detector" that automatically terminates plug-ins that stop responding to calls from the browser. If a plug-in process takes more than 10 seconds to respond, Firefox will terminate the process and display the OOPP "crash" UI, which gives you the chance to reload the plug-in. This is the same UI that pops up when the plug-in, yes, crashes.
What's more, Firefox 3.6.4 will automatically notify you when your plug-ins need updating.
Crash protection is in the works for plug-ins beyond Flash, Quicktime, and Silverlight, and Mozilla is working on an OOPPed Firefox for Mac as well. The open sourcers say that this requires "major changes" and that OOPP should arrive on Macs with Firefox 4, due this fall. ®