At the end of the last year I wrote a long blog post summarizing the main work I was involved with as part of Igalia’s Chromium team. In it I mentioned that a big chunk of my time was spent working on the migration to the new C++ Mojo types across the entire codebase of Chromium, in the context of the Onion Soup 2.0 project.
For those of you who don’t know what Mojo is about, there is extensive information about it in Chromium’s documentation, but for the sake of this post, let’s simplify things and say that Mojo is a modern replacement to Chromium’s legacy IPC APIs which enables a better, simpler and more direct way of communication among all of Chromium’s different processes.
One interesting thing about this conversion is that, even though Mojo was already “the new thing” compared to Chromium’s legacy IPC APIs, the original Mojo API presented a few problems that could only be fixed with a newer API. This is the main reason that motivated this migration, since the new Mojo API fixed those issues by providing less confusing and less error-prone types, as well as additional checks that would force your code to be safer than before, and all this done in a binary compatible way. Please check out the Mojo Bindings Conversion Cheatsheet for more details on what exactly those conversions would be about.
Another interesting aspect of this conversion is that, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be as easy as running a “search & replace” operation since in most cases deeper changes would need to be done to make sure that the migration wouldn’t break neither existing tests nor production code. This is the reason why we often had to write bigger refactorings than what one would have anticipated for some of those migrations, or why sometimes some patches took a bit longer to get landed as they would span way too much across multiple directories, making the merging process extra challenging.
Now combine all this with the fact that we were confronted with about 5000 instances of the old types in the Chromium codebase when we started, spanning across nearly every single subdirectory of the project, and you’ll probably understand why this was a massive feat that would took quite some time to tackle.
Turns out, though, that after just 6 months since we started working on this and more than 1100 patches landed upstream, our team managed to have nearly all the existing uses of the old APIs migrated to the new ones, reaching to a point where, by the end of December 2019, we had completed 99.21% of the entire migration! That is, we basically had almost everything migrated back then and the only part we were missing was the migration of
//components/arc, as I already announced in this blog back in December and in the chromium-mojo mailing list.
This was good news indeed. But the fact that we didn’t manage to reach 100% was still a bit of a pain point because, as Kentaro Hara mentioned in the chromium-mojo mailing list yesterday, “finishing 100% is very important because refactoring projects that started but didn’t finish leave a lot of tech debt in the code base”. And surely we didn’t want to leave the project unfinished, so we kept collaborating with the Chromium community in order to finish the job.
The main problem with
//components/arc was that, as explained in the bug where we tracked that particular subtask, we couldn’t migrate it yet because the external libchrome repository was still relying on the old types! Thus, even though almost nothing else in Chromium was using them at that point, migrating those
.mojom files under
//components/arc to the new types would basically break libchrome, which wouldn’t have a recent enough version of Mojo to understand them (and no, according to the people collaborating with us on this effort at that particular moment, getting Mojo updated to a new version in libchrome was not really a possibility).
So, in order to fix this situation, we collaborated closely with the people maintaining the libchrome repository (external to Chromium’s repository and still relies in the old mojo types) to get the remaining migration, inside
//components/arc, unblocked. And after a few months doing some small changes here and there to provide the libchrome folks with the tools they’d need to allow them to proceed with the migration, they could finally integrate the necessary changes that would ultimately allow us to complete the task.
Once this important piece of the puzzle was in place, all that was left was for my colleague Abhijeet to land the CL that would migrate most of
//components/arc to the new types (a CL which had been put on hold for about 6 months!), and then to land a few CLs more on top to make sure we did get rid of any trace of old types that might still be in codebase (special kudos to my colleague Gyuyoung, who wrote most of those final CLs).
After all this effort, which would sit on top of all the amazing work that my team had already done in the second half of 2019, we finally reached the point where we are today, when we can proudly and loudly announce that the migration of the old C++ Mojo types to the new ones is finally complete! Please feel free to check out the details on the spreadsheet tracking this effort.
So please join me in celebrating this important milestone for the Chromium project and enjoy the new codebase free of the old Mojo types. It’s been difficult but it definitely pays off to see it completed, something which wouldn’t have been possible without all the people who contributed along the way with comments, patches, reviews and any other type of feedback. Thank you all!
Last, while the main topic of this post is to celebrate the unblocking of these last migrations we had left since December 2019, I’d like to finish acknowledging the work of all my colleagues from Igalia who worked along with me on this task since we started, one year ago. That is, Abhijeet, Antonio, Gyuyoung, Henrique, Julie and Shin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, we need to get back to working on the Onion Soup 2.0 project because we’re not done yet: at the moment we’re mostly focused on converting remote calls using Chromium’s legacy IPC to Mojo (see the status report by Dave Tapuska) and helping finish Onion Soup’ing the remaining directores under //content/renderer (see the status report by Kentaro Hara), so there’s no time to waste. But those migrations will be material for another post, of course.