XPCOM components in Rust

XPCOM components can be written in Rust.

A tiny example

The following example shows a new type that implements nsIObserver.

First, create a new empty crate (e.g. with cargo init --lib), and add the following dependencies in its Cargo.toml file.

libc = "0.2"
nserror = { path = "../../../xpcom/rust/nserror" }
nsstring = { path = "../../../xpcom/rust/nsstring" }
xpcom = { path = "../../../xpcom/rust/xpcom" }

(The number of ../ occurrences will depend on the depth of the crate in the file hierarchy.)

Next hook it into the build system according to the build documentation.

The Rust code will need to import some basic types. xpcom::interfaces contains all the usual nsI interfaces.

use libc::c_char;
use nserror::nsresult;
use std::sync::atomic::{AtomicBool, Ordering};
use xpcom::{interfaces::nsISupports, RefPtr};

The next part declares the implementation.

#[xpcom(implement(nsIObserver), atomic)]
struct MyObserver {
    ran: AtomicBool,

This defines the implementation type, which will be refcounted in the specified way and implement the listed xpidl interfaces. It will also declare a second initializer struct InitMyObserver which can be used to allocate a new MyObserver using the MyObserver::allocate method.

Next, all interface methods are declared in the impl block as unsafe methods.

impl MyObserver {
    unsafe fn Observe(
        _subject: *const nsISupports,
        _topic: *const c_char,
        _data: *const u16,
    ) -> nsresult {
        self.ran.store(true, Ordering::SeqCst);

These methods always take &self, not &mut self, so we need to use interior mutability: AtomicBool, RefCell, Cell, etc. This is because all XPCOM objects are reference counted (like Arc<T>), so cannot provide exclusive access.

XPCOM methods are unsafe by default, but the xpcom_method! macro can be used to clean this up. It also takes care of null-checking and hiding pointers behind references, lets you return a Result instead of an nsresult, and so on.

To use this type within Rust code, do something like the following.

let observer = MyObserver::allocate(InitMyObserver {
  ran: AtomicBool::new(false),
let rv = unsafe {

The implementation has an (auto-generated) allocate method that takes in an initialization struct, and returns a RefPtr to the instance.

coerce casts any XPCOM object to one of its base interfaces; in this case, the base interface is nsISupports. In C++, this would be handled automatically through inheritance, but Rust doesn’t have inheritance, so the conversion must be explicit.

Bigger examples

The following XPCOM components are written in Rust.