Firefox 3.7 gets GPU boost

Mozilla has joined the race to bring support for Direct2D to the browser, just days after Microsoft announced the feature would be headlining Internet Explorer 9.

Firefox 3.7 gets GPU boost

Direct2D support would allow the browser to tap the power of the GPU to render pages, and could offer a significant performance boost. Releasing the first details of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft claimed the feature would help it close the performance gap on its rivals.

However, it seems Mozilla’s had the same idea. Mozilla programmer Bas Schouten has revealed that he’s completed work on an alpha build of Firefox completely rendered using Direct2D.

“We’ve made significant progress and are now able to present a Firefox browser completely rendered using Direct2D, making intensive usage of the GPU – this includes the UI, menu bars, etc,” says Schouten on his blog.

We’ve made significant progress and are now able to present a Firefox browser completely rendered using Direct2D Early benchmarks suggest that on the majority of websites there’ll actually be very little difference between websites rendered using D2D and the processor, though Schouten expects that to change over time.

“As websites become more graphically intense dynamic graphics will start playing a larger role,” says Schouten. “Especially in user interfaces. If we look at some interesting sites using fancy opacity and transformation effects(take for example photos.svg), we can see that D2D provides a much better experience on the test system.”

“Though older PCs with pre-D3D10 graphics cards and WDDM 1.0 drivers will not show significant improvements, going into the future most PCs will support DirectX 10+. PCs in the future could allow providing extremely smooth graphical experiences for web-content like SVG or transformed CSS,” he concludes.

And just in case anybody thought this wasn’t a race with Microsoft, Mozilla’s open-source evangelist Chris Blizzard tweeted “Interesting that we’re doing Direct2D support in Firefox as well – I’ll bet we’ll ship it first :)”

He may not be too far from the mark. Firefox 3.7 is slated for a final release in the first half of 2010. Microsoft only started work on Internet Explorer 9 three weeks ago, and has yet to confirm a shipping date.

That said Schouten refused to confirm whether the feature would find its way into Firefox 3.7. “There’s a lot of work involved in QA-ing something like this. Deciding on a good strategy for what hardware to enable it on, and what hardware to disable it on. We don’t want people with decent CPUs but older graphics hardware suffering from performance regressions,” he says.

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