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Labs/Jetpack/JEP/25

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HEY
This page has been superseded by documentation contained in the Jetpack SDK.


Contents

Problem Definition

It's currently difficult to share JavaScript code between different contexts in the Mozilla platform:

  • Code written for the web, for instance, is difficult to load into a JS module, while JS modules and XPCOM components that don't use privileged functionality are impossible to load into web content without nontrivial modifications.
  • JS modules and XPCOM components can't be unloaded and reloaded during the host application's runtime, which means that modifying a single line of their code requires a complete application restart.
  • Reusing a JS module in an extension often requires the developer to change the code of the module itself: since any imported sub-modules must be brought in via an absolute URL, calls to Components.utils.import() often need to be fixed up.
  • XPCOM components are extremely verbose and unfamiliar to those accustomed to dynamic languages.
  • JS modules have no concept of exporting chrome functionality to untrusted or semi-trusted code and vice versa.
  • To further complicate matters, both XPCOM components and JS modules can't be easily reused in non-Mozilla contexts such as privileged server-side components like Helma and Persevere Server.

All of these problems are problems for Jetpack, and are barriers to a truly vibrant code-sharing ecosystem.

Our Solution

CommonJS is a grassroots group of JavaScript enthusiasts and professionals who are creating a common set of standards to make code easier to reuse. One such standard is SecurableModule, which provides a simple yet elegant module mechanism that works in any kind of context, including the web.

If you're not familiar with the SecurableModule standard, please do so now by following the aforementioned link; it's an extremely short specification.

Boosters are a superset of the SecurableModule standard that solve some issues specific to the Mozilla platform, and are intended to be used from both Jetpack Features and XULRunner extensions (e.g., Firefox/Thunderbird add-ons). Our hope is that, aside from solving the aforementioned problems, this module system will enable code-sharing between Jetpack developers, Add-on developers, web developers, and the greater JavaScript community as a whole.

Boosters can be created with either a content principal or the system (chrome) principal. It's possible for Boosters with content principals to import Boosters with system principals, in which case the appropriate XPConnect wrapping will automatically occur.

Boosters have the following characteristics:

  • They are a superset of the CommonJS SecurableModule standard.
  • They can be loaded and unloaded multiple times throughout the lifetime of their containing application (yes, leaks are an unfortunate possibility).
  • If created with the system principal, they have full access to XPConnect's Components object, and all its sub-objects.

When used in a XULRunner extension, the Booster framework should have the following additional characteristics:

  • Adding Booster functionality to an existing XULRunner extension should be as painless as possible; ideally, it should consist merely of adding a single script, securable-module.js, and any desired SecurableModule files.
  • Using securable-module.js should be just as easy in both a chrome-privileged document and a JS module (not to be confused with a SecurableModule).

Note that for security purposes, Boosters with chrome privileges should only be accessed either

  • locally, through a containing addon, or
  • over secure HTTP to a trusted host.

The following are outside the scope of Boosters, though some of them are addressed by JEP 28:

  • A simple, straightforward mechanism for writing and executing test cases.
  • An easy-to-learn documentation system capable of producing beautiful documentation.
  • A mechanism for tracking objects of interest belonging to the Booster to aid in memory profiling and leak detection.
  • Registering callbacks that perform cleanup tasks when modules are unloaded.

Specification

securable-module.js allows for the recursive loading and sandboxing of SecurableModules with any desired security principal.

Usage

This module can be included via a <script> tag in a chrome-privileged document, imported as a JS module via Components.utils.import(), or recursively imported as a SecurableModule via require().

In a chrome-privileged document

Assume that the following code is contained in a file at chrome://some_extension/content/foo.html.

<html>
<!-- This script makes the SecurableModule global available. -->
<script src="securable-module.js"></script>
<script>
  // Create a loader for SecurableModules that gives them chrome
  // privileges by default and roots the module path for
  // require() calls to the local filesystem at 
  // chrome://some_extension/content/lib/.
  var loader = SecurableModule.Loader({defaultPrincipal: "system",
                                       rootPath: "lib/"});

  // Load the 'blarg' SecurableModule and call its exported doSomething()
  // function.
  loader.require('blarg').doSomething();
</script>
</html>

In a JS module

Booster functionality should be just as easy to access if the calling code is in a JS module instead of a page. As such, securable-module.js is engineered to detect which context it's loaded in and "just work" accordingly:

var SecurableModule = {};
Components.utils.import(
  "resource://some_extension/content/securable-module.js",
  SecurableModule
);

var loader = SecurableModule.Loader({
  defaultPrincipal: "system",
  rootPath: "chrome://some_extension/content/lib/"
});

loader.require('blarg').doSomething();

Note that unlike the previous example, we can't provide a relative directory name for rootPath because JS modules don't conventionally have a concept of relative directories (and we won't introduce such a concept here to reduce potential confusion).

In a SecurableModule

If securable-module.js is itself placed on a SecurableModule.Loader's rootPath, it can be included via a call to require() and used within the context of its parent Loader. For this to work, however, all code must be executed using the system principal.

Loader Objects

Loader objects encapsulate the sandboxed loading of SecurableModules and the execution of code that relies upon them.

Loader.runScript(options)

Runs JavaScript code in the context of the Loader. options is an object with the following keys:

contents A string of JavaScript code.
filename An absolute URL naming the file from which the code originates; useful for error reporting and debugging. If omitted, this option defaults to "<string>".
lineNo An integer representing the line from the file which the beginning of the code corresponds to. If ommitted, this option defaults to 1.
jsVersion A string representing the JavaScript version that the code should be interpreted under. If omitted, this options defaults to the latest version of JavaScript supported by the platform.

This method returns the most recent value evaluated by the given code.

Loader.runScript(code)

If code is a string of JavaScript code, this is a convenient shorthand for Loader.runScript({contents: code}}.

Loader.require(module)

This loads the given module name using the standard require() semantics and returns the loaded module.

Functions

SecurableModule.Loader(options)

Creates a new SecurableModule Loader. options is an object with the following keys:

rootPaths A list of absolute URLs that will be searched, in order, for SecurableModules when require() is called by any code executing within the context of the Loader.
rootPath A single absolute URL; this is a convenience option, synonymous with setting rootPaths to an array containing a single URL.
defaultPrincipal A string representing the default principal given to any code that is executed by the Loader. This can be "system", in which case code executed has full chrome access (including access to the Components object which allows it to access the Mozilla platform unrestricted). Alternatively, it can be a URL, such as "http://www.foo.com", in which case it is treated like web content. If left unspecified, the default value of this option is "http://www.mozilla.org".
globals An object containing the names and values of all variables that will be injected into the global scope of all code executed by the Loader.

Reference Implementation

A complete reference implementation for JEP 25 can be found at:

 http://hg.mozilla.org/users/avarma_mozilla.com/jep-28/

Just check out the Mercurial repository and read the README.

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