In a blog post on Friday, Google confirmed that it's hard at work implementing GPU acceleration into its Chrome browser, citing new APIs and markup like WebGL and 3D CSS transforms as "a major motivation for this work."
"At its core, this graphics work relies on a new process (yes, another one) called the GPU process," Google explains. "The GPU process accepts graphics commands from the renderer process and pushes them to OpenGL or Direct3D (via ANGLE). Normally, renderer processes wouldn't be able to access these APIs, so the GPU process runs in a modified sandbox. Creating a specialized process like this allows Chromium's sandbox to continue to contain as much as possible: the renderer process is still unable to access the system's graphics APIs, and the GPU process contains less logic."
Most of the common layer contents, like text and images, are still rendered on the CPU before being handed off to the compositor for the final display. But for pixel heavy content, like video layers, the GPU kicks in and performs operations like color conversion and shader scaling. And for layers containing WebGL elements, they can be fully rendered in the GPU, Google says.
For more details than you can shake a videocard at, see this separate design document. And if you want to play around with GPU acceleration now, it's available in the latest Dev and Canary builds of Chrome (Canary builds can be installed without overwriting your regular Chrome build), though you'll need to manually turn it on. To do so, right click the browser shortcut and tack on the following command in the Target field: –enable-accelerated-compositing
Microsoft made waves in the browser community by being the first to announce GPU accelerated browsing, but oddly enough, it looks like they will be in a neck and neck race with Mozilla to be the first to market with the new feature in an official release. Firefox 4 Beta 4 which is releasing on Monday will include support for Direct2D acceleration; unfortunately however a few technical glitches have kept it from being “on” by default.
Luckily Mozilla has released details on how to reactivate it on their Wiki, and the process is pretty simple.
·Direct2D is not turned on by default for Firefox 4 beta 4. (We weren't confident enough to turn it on for all users.)
·However, all the code is in Firefox 4 beta 4, and it should work reasonably well for everyone.
·We really need testers, both on the beta and on nightlies. (We plan to enable Direct2D in nightlies as soon as beta 4 is tagged and branched.)
·To turn on Direct2D: Go in to about:config and set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 6, and gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled to true.
·To turn off Direct2D, once it is on by default, set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 0.
·To check whether you are running with Direct2D, go to about:support and look at the bottom. (Once bug 586046 lands, there will be even more - information about your graphics card in there.)
·Please look out for memory usage, rendering speed, and any rendering problems you might see. Also focus on interactions with plugins like Flash.
Beta 4 will also bring the first official implementation of Tab Candy, a feature that is great for users with more tabs than pixels.
The big news in browser development today is that Microsoft made a series of announcements surrounding its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 at MIX10. Chief among them is that the IE9 Platform Preview is now available for public consumption, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg.
"Internet Explorer 9 enabling GPU-accelerated HTML5 is a milestone for visual computing," said Drew Henry, general manager of GeForce and ION GPU business unit at Nvidia. "By harnessing the power of Nvidia GPUs, Internet Explorer 9 removes the glass ceiling for Web developers, enabling them to build graphically rich, high-performing Web applications."