XUL/XBL Replacement Newsletter #6

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Brian Grinstead

Jul 19, 2018, 6:54:58 PM7/19/18
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This is the sixth edition of the XUL/XBL Replacement Newsletter. A quick note before starting: in addition to the ongoing XBL work, there’s been notable progress on other XUL projects. All of this work is interrelated enough that I think it makes sense to talk about it together, so I’ve updated the title to reflect that.

Since the last update we’ve shipped the first few Custom Elements in browser chrome, added better support for top-level HTML documents, and taken a decision on how to handle XBL stylesheets.

Custom Elements

I’m happy to say that we’ve now shipped the first Custom Elements in browser chrome, which is the culmination of a lot of effort from the XBL and DOM teams. So, how does it work? Whenever a new chrome document gets created in the main process, we load a script called customElements.js which defines a base JS class (MozXULElement) and ultimately calls customElements.define for each element that we’ve implemented.

We are using normal web-exposed Custom Element APIs, with two chrome-only additions:

  1. We added a new setElementCreationCallback function, so we can wait to load scripts until the specified tag name is encountered. This will be especially important for elements that aren’t created in the startup path and take some time to load and parse (for instance, the findbar).
  2. The Custom Element spec only allows one element per tag name for “autonomous” elements, although it does allow customizing a few built-in elements. After discussing how to deal with tags that have multiple XBL bindings attached, we realized we needed more flexibility to ease migration and avoid rewriting major parts of the frontend. So we ported the “customized built-in” capability to XUL, while treating every XUL tag name as a “built-in”. This allows us to have different Custom Elements defined for <textbox>, <textbox is="number"> and <textbox is="search">, for example.

Top Level HTML Support

When you open the Browser Console window, it now directly loads an HTML document. We used to first open a XUL wrapper document that would iframe the HTML document in order to support things like like window management, context menus, and tooltips. These features are now supported directly in top-level chrome HTML documents. This work is being continued in order to support the main browser window as HTML, and can be tracked in this metabug.

XBL stylesheets

As Paolo explains in the XBL Replacement Newsletter Special Edition, we’ve taken a decision on how to migrate XBL stylesheets to standard document sheets. This will likely be spread out over two releases to give us time to fix any resulting regressions. The first set of work has landed, changing the sheets that were previously migrated as UA sheets to document sheets in widgets.css.


There are 176 bindings left, compared to 196 from the last update and 300 from the start of the project. Here’s a list of changes:

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