Experimenting with Rust in Chromium


Parsing untrustworthy data is a major source of security bugs, and it's therefore against Chromium rules to do it in the browser process unless you can use a memory safe language.

For teams building browser process features which need to handle untrustworthy data, they usually have to do the parsing in a utility process which incurs a performance overhead and adds engineering complexity.

The Chrome security team is working to make a cross-platform memory safe language available to Chromium developers. This document describes how to use that language in Chromium. The language, at least for now, is Rust.


Support for Rust in Chromium is experimental. We appreciate your help in these experiments, but please remember that Rust is not supported for production use cases.


  • any experiments must be reversible (you may have to write a C++ equivalent in order to ship)
  • Rust code must not affect production Chrome binaries nor be shipped to Chrome users (we provide #if defined(...) and other facilities to make this easy) - so if you put Rust code in Chrome, the sole purpose is to help experiment and provide data for evaluation of future memory safe language options
  • Rust is not yet available on all Chromium platforms (just Linux and Android for now)
  • Facilities and tooling in Rust are not as rich as other languages yet.

That said, if presence of Rust would make your feature easier, we are keen for you to join in our experiments. Here's how. Please also let us know your interest via rust-dev@chromium.org.

Building with Rust support

Add enable_rust = true in your gn arguments. At the moment, this works only for Linux platforms (but see below for how to enable on other platforms).

Also add "use_rust": True to your .gclient file to enable fetching required tools and libraries:

solutions = [
    "custom_vars": {
      "use_rust": True,

See also Using VSCode.

GN support

Assume you want to add some Rust code to an existing C++ source_set. Simply:

  • import("//build/rust/mixed_source_set.gni")
  • Replace source_set with mixed_source_set
  • Add rs_sources = [ "src/lib.rs" ] (and likely rs_cxx_bindings, see below)
  • Add your Rust code in src/lib.rs
  • In your C++ code, make Rust calls based on the #if defined(RUST_ENABLED).

In toolchains with Rust disabled, your source_set will continue to be a plain C++ source set and absolutely nothing will change.

In toolchains with Rust, RUST_ENABLED will be defined and then you can call into Rust code (again, see the section on C++/Rust interop bindings below).

A note on source code naming

Within a mixed code source set, it‘s (currently) normal to have C/C++ code in its main directory, whilst Rust code goes into a subdirectory called src (and the main file is always called lib.rs.) This follows the practice of other teams, but if you don’t like it, that's fine: feel free to store your .rs code alongside your .cc code, but specify also rs_crate_root in your mixed_source_set.

I'm not using a source_set

There are equivalent templates for mixed_component and mixed_executable. But if you need to do something more sophisticated, you can create a new pure-Rust language target - see //build/rust/rust_source_set.gni. C++ targets can simply depend on this Rust target but with the suffix _cpp_bindings appended to the target name:

deps = [ "//path/to/my_rust_target:my_rust_target_cpp_bindings" ]

If your Rust code calls back into C++, this is more complex in order to avoid layering violations - look into mutually_dependent_target in that .gni file.

Unit tests

Rust supports unit tests within the primary source code files (e.g. see an example here). This section describes how to build and run such unit tests.

Automatically generated targets

GN templates that work with Rust sources will automatically generate a bonus gn target called <your target name>_unittests (for pure-Rust targets like cargo_crate, executable, or rust_source_set) or <your target name>_rs_unittests (for mixed C++/Rust targets like (mixed_component, mixed_executable, or mixed_source_set). This bonus target builds:

  • An out/Default/<bonus target name> executable containing Rust unit tests from your code
  • An out/Default/bin/run_<bonus target name> script that enables running the tests on Chromium bots.

Explicitly defined groups of tests

To group multiple Rust unit test executables into a single test step, please use the rust_unit_tests_group("my_test_group") template:

rust_unit_tests_group("my_group_of_rust_unit_tests") {
  deps = [
    # ...

The example above will build all the deps. This will also generate a wrapper script that wraps all the Rust unit test executables from deps and their transitive dependencies. In the example above, the script will be generated at out/Default/bin/run_my_group_of_rust_unit_tests.

The generated script can be used for integration with Chromium bots, but can also be used as a convenience to manually/locally run all tests from the group. Run the script with the --help argument to see more details (e.g. how to filter which tests to run).

Configuring running Rust unit tests on bots

To manually configure running Rust unit tests on bots, please follow the pattern from https://crrev.com/c/3322199:

  • Define a new isolate in //testing/buildbot/gn_isolate_map.pyl:
    • Set label to the fully qualified name of either the implicit bonus target (e.g. ..._rs_unittests) or the explicit rust_unit_tests_group target.
    • Set type to generated_script
    • There are no requirements on the name of the new isolate, but typically it will have the same name as the target mentioned in the label.
  • Define a new test step, or extend an existing test step in //testing/buildbot/test_suites.pyl (adding an entry referring to the new isolate above). Note that the tests grouped under the test step need to have uniform kind (e.g. cannot mix GTest and Rust tests).
  • Ensure that //testing/buildbot/waterfalls.pyl asks to run the test step on specific bots. The test step needs to be listed under the isolated_scripts key (rather than under gtest_tests key).
  • Run //testing/buildbot/generate_buildbot_json.py.

Future work:

  • At present, there is no automatic integration of such unit tests into our existing test infrastructure, but this is something we're working on.
  • At present, the bot integration only supports reporting whether the tests passed or failed, and doesn't capture results or output of individual tests.
  • At present, there is no support for running native Rust unit tests on Android.

Third party dependencies

Adding Rust third party dependencies follows the same protocols as for C++ or other languages. But practically, Rust libraries are almost always distributed as cargo “crates” which have build scripts and metadata in Cargo.toml files.

The crate you need may already be listed in //third_party/rust/third_party.toml - if so, just depend upon it like this:

deps = [ "//third_party/rust/cxx/v1:lib" ]

(Only those crates explicitly listed in //third_party/rust/third_party.toml are visible to first-party code; other crates in //third_party/rust are transitive dependencies).

If you need to add new Rust third-party dependencies, there are scripts and gn templates to make it nearly automatic (except of course for review). Please reach out to rust-dev@chromium.org for advice.

C++/Rust interop

There are multiple different solutions for Rust/C++ interop. In this phase of our experiments, we're supporting just one: cxx, described in this excellent online book.

To use this interop facility in Chromium:

  • define your #[cxx::bridge] module in your .rs file
  • in your mixed_source_set, add rs_cxx_bindings = [ "src/lib.rs" ]
  • from your C++,
#include "path/to/your/target/src/lib.rs.h`

You can now simply call functions and use types declared/defined in your CXX bridge. A typical usage might be to pass a const std::string& or rust::Slice<const uint8_t> from C++ into Rust and then return a struct with the parsed results.

If you need to call back into C++ from Rust, this is also supported - include! directives within an extern "C++" section should work:

mod ffi {
    unsafe extern "C++" {
        fn some_function_defined_in_cpp();

// Rust code calls ffi::some_function_defined_in_cpp()

Future work may expose existing C++ Chromium APIs to Rust with no need to declare the interface in a #[cxx::bridge] module.

Dependencies between Rust targets

If your rust_source_set exposes Rust APIs for other Rust targets in Chromium, those targets should be able to depend directly on your rust_source_set target.

If you have a mixed_source_set or any other component which is intended for both Rust and C++ consumers, please reach out to rust-dev@chromium.org with your use-case. (This should be possible with the current gn rules but layering here is fragile so we'd rather discuss it.)


To see an example of all this, look at //build/rust/tests/test_variable_source_set.


Known cases which don't work

  • At the moment LTO doesn‘t work, so you can’t use is_official_build = true. (Bug.)
  • Windows doesn't work just yet. (Bug.)

Building on non-Linux platforms

The Rust toolchain is provided only for Linux and Android. To use it on other platforms, you will need to provide your own nightly Rust toolchain. You can then tell gn about it using these gn arguments:

rust_sysroot_absolute="/Users/you/.rustup/toolchains/<toolchain name>"
rustc_version="<your rustc version>" # add output of rustc -V
# added_rust_stdlib_libs=[]
# removed_rust_stdlib_libs=[]

The last two arguments are any Rust standard library .rlibs which have been added or removed between the version that‘s distributed for Linux/Android, and the version you’re using. They should rarely be necessary; if you get errors about missing standard libraries then adjust removed_rust_stdlib_libs; if you get errors about undefined symbols then have a look in your equivalent of the .rustup/toolchains/<toolchain name>/lib/rustlib/<target>/lib directory and add any new libraries which are not listed in //build/rust/std/BUILD.gn to the added_rust_stlib_libs list.

Using VSCode

  1. Ensure you're using the rust-analyzer extension for VSCode, rather than earlier forms of Rust support.
  2. Run gn with this extra flag: gn gen out/Release --export-rust-project.
  3. ln -s out/Release/rust-project.json rust-project.json
  4. When you run VSCode, or any other IDE that uses rust-analyzer it should detect the rust-project.json and use this to give you rich browsing, autocompletion, type annotations etc. for all the Rust within the Chromium codebase.

Source code format

  • git cl format and git cl presubmit have been extended to automatically cover .rs files on Linux. (Currently whole files are re-formatted and/or checked; support for only looking at the modified lines is not yet implemented.)
  • Rust defaults to 100-columns-wide formatting (similarly to Java). This may necessitate tweaking settings in various tools - e.g. in Gerrit you might want to increase the default “Diff width” under https://chromium-review.googlesource.com/settings/