Internet Explorer 9 to feature GPU acceleration

In recent months, Apple, Google, and Mozilla have really managed to squeeze impressive amounts of performance out of their respective web browsers, making page rendering and web applications noticeably snappier with each release. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 lags behind a bit in current benchmarks, but the IE team has a secret weapon in store for its next browser.

According to an IEBlog post by IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch, Internet Explorer 9 will use Direct2D to run page rendering on the graphics processor. Here’s the skinny:

We’re changing IE to use the DirectX family of Windows APIs to enable many advances for web developers. The starting point is moving all graphics and text rendering from the CPU to the graphics card using Direct2D and DirectWrite. Graphics hardware acceleration means that rich, graphically intensive sites can render faster while using less CPU. . . . Now, web developers can take advantage of the hardware ecosystem’s advances in graphics while they continue to author sites with the same interoperable standards patterns they’re used to.

You can see a video of some early demos over on this page. Hardware acceleration apparently helps both with the little things, like font kerning and sub-pixel rendering, and with content-rich web applications, like maps. At one point, the demo shows a version of Bing Maps that renders graphics so smoothly the display effortlessly follows the position of the mouse.

Comments closed
    • xpress
    • 10 years ago

    I checked out the Firefox 3.7 alpha for Windows that has Direct2D technology built in already. It definitely makes a difference on graphics intensive and CSS layout intensive web pages. Safari 4.0.4 on the Mac OS X may use the GPU as an additional processor, but it can’t match Firefox 3.7 for Windows for graphics speed on a side by side test on the same machine. The Parallels virtual machine running Windows 7 and Firefox 3.7 performs much faster on my Mac Pro than Safari 4.0.4 does under Mac OS X 10.6.2 64bit kernel mode. IE 9’s initial JavaScript test speeds still lag behind today’s browsers, but IE 9’s JavaScript speeds are about where Firefox 3.5 was.

    • Chrispy_
    • 10 years ago

    It’s gonna be fine.

    8/10 web-browsing PC’s (yes, I fabricated that stat) run intel integrated graphics which are known for their rock-solid compatibility and excellent performance in hardware-accelleration situations.

    I especially like how the GMA chips send the work back to the CPU when they can’t handle things with their own hardware – so basically with IE9, you could be burdening your CPU with software emulation of the hardware-accelleration that is there to reduce the burden on the CPU.

    I cannot describe how awesome that is without using psychotropic drugs, BRB….

    • fantastic
    • 10 years ago

    I think this might be the neatest thing in computer news since the launch of SSDs. But, I’m sure there’s some hype involved here.

    I’m a little concerned about the security implications. Even poorly written webpages might cause problems that Microsoft isn’t thinking of. Malicious pages might get even more control over your computer.

    This also will increase computer power consumption for web surfing. High end video cards might double or triple system power consumption because of poor coding or eye candy.

    • bdwilcox
    • 10 years ago

    As if IE didn’t crash enough already…

      • JokerCPoC
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah now with IE9 It can crash even faster still, I can see this happening when one is simply viewing webpages.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      Must be user error. I have little to no problems with IE8.

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 10 years ago

    What I was going to say, what the hell took them so long!? DirectX has been around for the longest time and they are just know seeing the light? Fire the whole lot of them!

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Then fire the dev teams for Firefox, Opera, and Chome as well, since none of them have seen that light either.

      In fact, Direct3D wasn’t suited to doing this sort of thing. You’ll note web pages consist of a lot of 2D text. You’ll note there aren’t a lot of DirectX games that consist of lots of 2D text, and for that reason 2D stuff wasn’t emphasized or optimized in DirectX (there actually was some support early on but it faded away as everyone focused on 3D). In fact to render a web page in DX9 you’d end up assembling textures for every character separately and compositing them, or something equally kludgy. It would be stupid and inelegant and would require a lot of code and if you weren’t really careful (and really good) it would look like crap. Fuzzy antialiased textures may look fine for a zombie in a dark scene but they don’t make something easy to read.

      What makes this a reasonable approach now is Direct2D, which has support for a bunch of the stuff you want (like ClearType — actually DirectWrite, which is like an improved ClearType — and 2D drawing ops that can be faster than doing the equivalent viewport parallel fixed-plane ops in Direct3D). So even though DirectX has been around for years, it hasn’t been the enabled tech — Direct2D is, and it only arrived with Win7 (and has since been released for Vista).

      Which, incidentally, means this acceleration will only be available for those OSes (unless MS decides to backport Direct2D for XP, or the IE team decides to re-implement that infrastructure directly in the browser, neither of which is likely). I’m sure IE9 will run on XP, but it won’t get the good stuff.

        • Voldenuit
        • 10 years ago

        But can it run Rogue?

        • Toxigen
        • 10 years ago

        Actually, Opera thought of using harware acceleration for their browser’s vector graphics library, Vega quite a while ago, which is currently in development. They also made it so it can do all HTML rendering within that engine using graphics hardware acceleration. It seems they’re gonna use both DirectX (for Windows) and OpenGL (for Unix/MacOS).

        §[<http://my.opera.com/core/blog/2009/02/04/vega<]§ IE is following suit just now.

          • zima
          • 10 years ago

          Same old story again… 😉

    • FubbHead
    • 10 years ago

    And yet none of them is as snappy as Opera. IMHO.

      • Johnny5
      • 10 years ago

      Don’t be so humble.

      Actually I’m a Firefox man, myself.

      • no51
      • 10 years ago

      Opera’s getting behind on usability though; and I base that comment due to lack of tab grouping options. I think Chrome’s tab handling is perfect. That said, Opera still is my main browser.

        • FubbHead
        • 10 years ago

        Haven’t used Chrome much, I’m so used to double-tap to get new tabs now, I just can’t. So I never really experienced it.

        It sounds like a nifty feature, although I get by just open new windows if I want it “grouped”. 🙂

        • zima
        • 10 years ago

        Uhmmm, the tab grouping you’re familiar with in Chrome is present in Opera as an option since…”forever”.

    • crazybus
    • 10 years ago

    Their example of Direct2D text rendering isn’t even using sub-pixel anti-aliasing. FAIL.

    • battleRabbit
    • 10 years ago

    So basically you’re saying that it can run Crysis ads.

    • Majiir Paktu
    • 10 years ago

    Cool, but even if IE 9 can render pages quickly, can it render them /[

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Supposedly they’re up to 32 on Acid3, up from 20 with IE8. I guess we’ll see how far they get by the time they ship.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    Eh, technically Safari4 for OS X already makes use of *some* GPU acceleration. Particularly on the speed dial page.

    • Mystic-G
    • 10 years ago

    I hope it works well with those damn AT&T ads, I see them all over the net and they suck the life out of my CPU usage for some reason. I looked at’em on a completely different computer and got the same result.

      • Spurenleser
      • 10 years ago

      Try NoScript and Adblockplus extensions for firefox.

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 10 years ago

        Nuclear Launch Detected?

        • Grape Flavor
        • 10 years ago

        you’ve done a baaad thing

        • SecretMaster
        • 10 years ago

        Finish him!

        • cygnus1
        • 10 years ago

        Ruh Roh…

        • SomeOtherGeek
        • 10 years ago

        BTW, I agree with him!

        *running away*

    • Inkedsphynx
    • 10 years ago

    But will it avoid the continuos “has stopped responding” that makes me avoid IE like H1N1?

      • Vasilyfav
      • 10 years ago

      No, and now in addition it will hang up your GPU as well.

    • Pettytheft
    • 10 years ago

    Nifty. Hopefully this goes over smoother than Adobe’s Flash acceleration.

      • gtoulouzas
      • 10 years ago

      That one DID NOT impress me. At all. Youtube videos were pixellated as hell on my graphics card ; almost as if the resolution had been lowered to one halfth of the original playing on cpu.

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