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Mac Window Occlusion API Use

On Mac, a NSWindow can check to see if it is visible to the user (that is, check to see if it is not covered by other windows, or on another desktop). This document discusses how this feature can be used to save power.

Visible and Hidden on RenderWidget and RenderWidgetHostView

There are two separate pieces of state that are currently conflated (they are always kept in lock-step), which need to be decoupled for this feature.


This is in the renderer process. It is controlled through calling RenderWidgetHostImpl::WasHidden/WasShown, which sends a ViewMsg_WasHidden/Shown IPC down to the renderer. This will make the renderer process stop producing frames, and free up some resources. This state is entered when a tab is backgrounded.

This is the state that is queried by the Javascript Page Visibility API. See the example at

Of note is that on Safari, unlike Chrome (for now), the Page Visibility API indicates that the page is hidden when it is occluded. We should match this behavior.

Also of note is that when a page has a frame subscriber (for tab capture), the renderer must always be in the visible state, not the hidden state.

RenderWidgetHostView::Show/Hide and RenderWidgetHostViewBase::WasShown/WasHidden

These functions control if the RenderWidgetHostViewCocoa (the NSView corresponding to the RenderWidgetHostViewMac) is actually visible on-screen. It is possible (and does happen) that there are multiple RenderWidgetHostViewCocoas attached to the same NSWindow, and which one is visible is controlled by this Show/Hide method.

It is these functions that call RenderWidgetHostImpl::WasHidden/Shown, which, in turn, tells the renderer what is happening, keeping this state in lock-step with the RenderWidget.

These functions are called by WebContentsImpl::WasShown/WasHidden.

Relationship with Tab Capture

When a WebContentsImpl starts capturing, the active capture will (sometimes, hopefully) prevent WebContents::WasHidden from being called.

This is done by the WebContents::should_normally_be_visible() flag, which all callers to WebContents::WasHidden need to check (very brittle).

This is also accomplished by having WebContentsImpl::DecrementCapturerCount potentially call WasHidden when the last capturer goes away.

Problems With This Situation for Occlusion

When a Chrome window is occluded, we will want the RenderWidget in the renderer process to be told that it is hidden (this will cause it to drop its resources and to indicate this to Javascript), but we do not want the the NSView for the RenderWidgetHostView to be hidden (because we want it to be immediately visible when the window is un-covered).

This combination of state, where the RenderWidget is not visible, but the RenderWidgetHostView is visible, is not currently supported.

Proposed Changes

We should divorce the ideas of the RenderWidgetHostView being visible from the RenderWidget being visible. When doing tab capture, it is necessary that the RenderWidget be visible, but the RenderWidgetHostView should be capable of being hidden.

At present, the relevant interface between WebContentsImpl and RenderWidgetHostView is through WebContentsImpl calling RenderWidgetHostView::Show/Hide.

This interface can be changed in two ways.

Proposal A (not favored):

Split this interface into RenderWidgetHostView::CaptureWasStarted/Stopped and RenderWidgetHostView::Show/ShowOccluded/Hide.

From there, it will be up to the various RenderWidgetHostViews implementations to decide if they want to conflate these, and how it wants to separate them out.

Proposal B (favored):

Split this interface into RenderWidgetHostView::ShowWidget/HideWidget and RenderWidgetHostView::Show/Hide.

In this version, WebContentsImpl takes care of the logic to determine, based on the view state and the capture state, if the RenderWidget should be visible or hidden. The RenderWidgetHostView, meanwhile, can add optimizations to partially-deactivate the view if it knows that the RenderWidget has been hidden (and therefore won't be updating its content often). It's not clear if a ShowOccluded function is very useful here (occluded state can be inferred from the RenderWidget being hidden but the view being visible), but the possibility shouldn't be excluded.

New Configurations

For situations where tab capture is enabled, but the tab being captured is backgrounded, the RenderWidget will be visible, but the RenderWidgetHostView will not be.

For situations where the window is occluded, the RenderWidget will not be visible, but the RenderWidgetHostView will be.