Mozilla has for a while now been working to add Electrolysis project support (‘e10s’ for short) to its Firefox browser. The basic idea behind e10s is to separate web content from the core Firefox processes, something which has both performance and security advantages.
One of the most exciting of these security advantages is the ability to sandbox individual tabs, so that content run in sandboxed tabs is completely separate, and does not interact with (share cookies, storage, or other information)the content in other tabs, or with the rest of Firefox. One way to look at it is that each tab can be made run as if it were a completely separate browser.
Although with e10s Mozilla has developed the underlying technology required for sandboxing tabs, the independently developed Priv8 add-on has got there first in terms actually implementing this functionality.
New sandboxes can created, assigned a default URL, and a tab group color
- A sandboxed tab is clearly marked with its own tab color
- With one instance of Gmail or Facebook sandboxed, you can open another tab and sign into a different account (or sign into Gmail on one tab, and a different Google account for YouTube in another)
- Right-clicking a new link within a sandboxed tab gives you option to open the link in the same sandbox. All such tabs share the same tab group color for at-a-glance identification
Created sandboxes can be quickly opened via a menu bar icon’s dropdown dialog
Everything seems to work well, but there are some features that we would like to see added:
- Private mode support – this is the biggest issue we have with at the moment. Priv8 does not work in a Private Window
- Open sandboxed links from a non-sandboxed tab
- Open links from within a sandboxed tab into a different sandbox group
- There is no real documentation at present (although the developer has promised this will come)
As a proof of concept, Piv8 is great, and despite its current limitations many will find a use for it (such as keeping Gmail open in a tab without fear the rest of your browsing being tracked by Google).
Priv8 is blast of things to come, and it is likely that sandboxed browsing will in the not-too-distant future be introduced as a default ‘out of the box’ feature for Firefox. In the meantime, however, it is great little extension that can improve your web privacy, and allow you have multiple different sign-ins to the same service at once.