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Out-of-Process iframes (OOPIFs)

This page provides an overview of Chromium's support for out-of-process iframes (OOPIFs), which allow a child frame of a page to be rendered by a different process than its parent frame. OOPIFs were motivated by security goals like the Site Isolation project, since they allow a renderer process to be dedicated to a single web site, even when cross-site iframes are present. OOPIFs are a general mechanism, though, and can be used for other features than security (e.g., the <webview> tag in Chrome Apps).

Supporting OOPIFs required a large architecture change to Chromium. At a high level, the browser process now tracks subframes directly, and core parts of the browser (e.g., painting, input events, navigation, etc) have been updated to support OOPIFs. Many other features in Chromium now combine information from frames in multiple processes when operating on a page, such as Accessibility or Find-in-Page.


Current Uses

The first use of OOPIFs was --isolate-extensions mode, which launched to Chrome Stable in M56. This mode used OOPIFs to keep web iframes out of privileged extension processes, which offered a second line of defense against malicious web iframes that might try to compromise an extension process to gain access to extension APIs. This mode also moved extension iframes on web pages into extension processes.

We enabled OOPIFs in general web pages when launching Site Isolation (for all sites) on desktop in M67. The first uses on Android launched in M77, to enable Site Isolation for sites that users log into.

Beyond Site Isolation, OOPIFs have been used for a number of Chrome architectural features. They have replaced the plugin infrastructure for implementing GuestViews, such as the <webview> tag in Chrome Apps. They have also replaced plugin code for MimeHandlerView, which is how PDFs and some other data types are rendered.

For any issues observed in these uses of OOPIFs, please file a bug in the component Internals>Sandbox>SiteIsolation.

Project Resources

Architecture Overview

Frame Representation

Much of the logic in the content module has moved from being tab-specific to frame-specific, since each frame may be rendered in different processes over its lifetime.



Documents that have references to each other (e.g., from the frame tree, window.opener, or named windows) can interact via JavaScript. When the documents are same-site, they must live in the same process to allow synchronous access. When they are cross-site, they can live in different processes but need a way to route messages to each other, for calls like postMessage. Same-site documents with references to each other are grouped together using the SiteInstance class, as described on the Process Models page.

To support cross-process interactions like postMessage on a document's DOMWindow, Chromium must keep a proxy for the DOMWindow in each of the other processes that can reach it. As shown in the diagram at right, this allows a document from site A to find a proxy in its own process for a DOMWindow that is currently active on site B. The proxy can then forward the postMessage call to the browser and then to the correct document in the process for site B.

OOPIFs require each renderer process to keep track of proxy DOMWindows for all reachable frames, both main frames and subframes.

Browser Process

Chromium keeps track of the full frame tree for each tab in the browser process. WebContents hosts a tree of FrameTreeNode objects, mirroring the frame tree of the current page. Each FrameTreeNode contains frame-specific information (e.g., the frame's name, origin, etc). Its RenderFrameHostManager is responsible for cross-process navigations in the frame, and it supports replicating state and routing messages from proxies in other processes to the active frame.

Renderer Process

In each renderer process, Chromium tracks of proxy DOMWindows for each reachable frame, allowing JavaScript code to find frames and send messages to them. We try to minimize the overhead for each of the proxy DOMWindows by not having a document, widget, or full V8 context for them.

Frame-specific logic in the content module's RenderView and RenderViewHost classes has moved into routable RenderFrame and RenderFrameHost classes. We have one full RenderFrame (in some process) for every frame in a page, and we have a corresponding but slimmed down blink::RemoteFrame as a placeholder in the other processes that can reference it. These proxies are shown with dashed lines in the diagram below, which depicts one BrowsingInstance (i.e., group of related windows) with two tabs, containing two subframes each.



Blink has LocalFrame and LocalDOMWindow classes for frames that are in-process, and it has RemoteFrame and RemoteDOMWindow classes for the proxies that live in other renderer processes. The remote classes have very little state: generally only what is needed to service synchronous operations. A RemoteDOMWindow does not have a Document object or a widget. LocalFrame and RemoteFrame inherit from the Frame interface. While downcasts from Frame to LocalFrame are possible, this will likely cause bugs with OOPIFs unless extra care is taken. LocalFrame corresponds to WebLocalFrame (in the public API) and content::RenderFrame, while RemoteFrame corresponds to WebRemoteFrame.

Blink has the ability to swap any frame between the local and remote versions. (This replaces the old "swapped out RenderViewHost" implementation that Chromium used for cross-process navigations.)

It is worth noting that the <webview> implementation is being migrated to work on top of the new OOPIF infrastructure. For the most part, Blink code will be able to treat a <webview> similar to an <iframe>. However, there is one important difference: the parent frame of an <iframe> is the document that contains the <iframe> element, while the root frame of a <webview> has no parent and is itself a main frame. It will likely live in a separate frame tree.

This support for OOPIFs and <webview> has several major implications for Blink:

Some earlier information on the refactoring goals can be found in the FrameHandle design doc, however that is largely obsolete.

Note: We are attempting to minimize the memory requirements of RemoteFrames and RemoteDOMWindows, because there will be many more than in Chromium before OOPIFs. Before, the space required for swapped out RenderViewHosts was O(tabs * processes) within a BrowsingInstance, and most BrowsingInstances only contain 1 or 2 tabs. OOPIFs will require O(frames * processes) space for proxies. This could be much higher, because the number of frames can be much larger than the number of tabs, and because the number of processes will increase based on cross-site frames. Fortunately, RemoteFrames require far less memory than LocalFrames, and not all cross-site iframes will require separate processes.

Chromium now has support for cross-process navigations within subframes. Rather than letting the renderer process intercept the navigation and decide if the browser process should handle it, all navigations are intercepted in the browser process's network stack. If the navigation crosses a site boundary that requires isolation (according to our Site Isolation policy), the browser process will swap the frame's renderer process. This can be done because the browser process knows the full frame tree, as described above. Until PlzNavigate launched, this was implemented using CrossSiteResourceHandler to transfer navigations to a different process when needed.

A tab's session history also becomes more complicated when subframes may be rendered by different processes. Originally, Blink took care of tracking the frame tree in each HistoryItem in the renderer process, and the browser process just tracked each back/forward entry using NavigationEntry. We removed the frame tracking logic from Blink's HistoryController to keep track of each frame's navigations in the browser process directly.

We also changed the representation of a tab's session history to more closely match the HTML5 spec. Rather than cloning the frame tree for each HistoryItem, we now keep track of each frame's session history separately in the browser process, and we use a separate "joint session history" list for back and forward navigations. Each entry in this list will have a tree of pointers to each frame's corresponding session history item.

All details of navigation refactoring were described in this design document.


To render an iframe in a different process than its parent frame, the browser process passes information back and forth between the renderer processes and helps the GPU process composite the images together in the correct sizes and locations. We use the Surfaces implementation to maintain a set of textures from multiple renderer processes, compositing them into a single output image. More details are available in this design document.

Input Events

Similar to rendering, we use the Surfaces implementation to do hit testing in the browser process to deliver input events directly to the intended frame's renderer process. We also manage focus in the browser process to send keyboard events directly to the renderer process of the focused frame. More details are available in this design document.