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Fast and Furious: How the web got turbo charged just in time…

Michael Franz: Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine; Director of its Secure Systems and Software Laboratory

Event Details

Wednesday, November 15, 2023
11 a.m.-12 p.m.

Abstract: In this talk based on my ACM Breakthrough Award lecture, I recall the journey that led to the invention of fast trace-based just-in-time compilation and the subsequent incorporation of this technique into the Firefox browser as the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine.

As I will explain in the presentation, my main objective during most of this period was not actually to invent a better just-in-time compiler, but to invent a better wire format for the safe transport of mobile code. In this process, I came up with several innovative mobile-code representations in the hope of replacing JVM bytecode. Unfortunately, in spite of even receiving two U.S. Patents on these inventions, all my efforts to get these ideas adopted failed bitterly; even today, JavaScript is still transmitted as source code.

But instead, I was able to persuade Mozilla that they needed a JavaScript JIT, and talked them into adopting the totally unproven JIT compilation method that we had just invented at UC Irvine. Because at the time no other browser had a JavaScript JIT (Chrome had not yet been announced), this was not really a critical project for Mozilla, and so the project got the green light. And then Web 2.0 happened...

Bio: Michael Franz is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the director of its Secure Systems and Software Laboratory. He is a Professor of Computer Science in UCI's Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences and a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (by courtesy) in UCI's Henry Samueli School of Engineering. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, ACM, IEEE, and IFIP, a recipient of ACM's Charles P. Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award, the IEEE Computer Society's Technical Achievement Award, and a Humboldt Research Award.

Prof. Franz was an early pioneer in the areas of mobile code and dynamic compilation. He created an early just-in-time compilation system, contributed to the theory and practice of continuous compilation and optimization, and co-invented the trace compilation technology that eventually became the JavaScript engine in Mozilla’s Firefox browser. His pioneering contributions to computer security include moving-target defenses inspired by biodiversity in nature, and automated multivariant execution. He has graduated 36 Ph.D. students as their primary advisor. Franz received a Dr. sc. techn. degree in Computer Science and a Dipl. Informatik-Ing. ETH degree, both from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich.