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Firefox 3.7 gets Direct2D support

Firefox 3.7 gets Direct2D support

The figures from Schouten's tests show that many pages render in half the time on the Direct2D-enabled Firefox build.

The next-next generation of the Mozilla Foundation's popular web browser - Firefox 3.7 - is set to get a significant speed boost on Windows systems thanks to Direct2D support.

First unveiled on programmer Bas Schouten's blog - via PC Pro - the news comes just days after Microsoft claimed that Internet Explorer 9 would support the acceleration technology as a way of improving its lacklustre performance when compared to rival browsers.

This plan appears to be coming unstuck, with Schouten declaring that his team members at Mozilla "are now able to present a Firefox browser completely rendered using Direct2D," which offloads the work of rendering the actual browser UI as well as page content onto a compatible graphics card.

The results of the experiment are convincing: while certain text-heavy sites such as Wikipedia.org and Slashdot.org didn't benefit from a great deal of improvement, sites including Facebook and Twitter were rendered in less than half the time on the Direct2D enabled build of Firefox 3.7.

As well as improvements in actual page display times, Schouten believes that Direct2D offers the potential for a smoother user experience with "extremely smooth graphical experiences for web-content like SVG or transformed CSS" as well as improved framerates when resizing images via GDI. Perhaps most importantly, Direct2D promises truly smooth scrolling - the most obvious improvement to the user experience.

For those wanting to try out the Direct2D-enabled Firefox 3.7 alpha - and who are running Windows 7 or an updated copy of Windows Vista along with a DirectX10-compatible graphics card with WDDM 1.0 driver - you can download it immediately. The usual caveats about relying on alpha-grade software apply, and sadly this is Windows-only.

Are you pleased to see more work being done to utilise the power of the GPU outside of games, or does the improvement in drawing times - measured in milliseconds - fail to live up to expectations? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

28 Comments

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NuTech 27th November 2009, 15:54 Quote
My first thought, "Why on earth is Firefox endorsing Direct2Drive???"
stoff3r 27th November 2009, 15:55 Quote
I have never liked scrolling on web-pages, it's allways choppy, so i had my hopes up for this one, however, things are not really different. The scrolling is mostly the same, text input is slow, switching fans takes like half a second up to one second some times. Firefox uses 20-30 % cpu all the time, so not really any improvements here. But Alpha yeah I get it :)

No wonder they call this version "Minefield" by the way.
dire_wolf 27th November 2009, 16:51 Quote
Text input noticeabley slower but navigating and scolling much better/smoother, a few graphical glitches on forums (horizontal lines) but seems like an excellenrt idea
Aracos 27th November 2009, 17:04 Quote
What about Linux? Does that mean they're gonna use openGL or something?
Flibblebot 27th November 2009, 17:07 Quote
Is it really noticeable to such an extent? According to the graph, most sites render in software in 10-12 milliseconds and with the hardware rendering that figure is halved.

But is it really possible to tell the difference between 10ms & 5ms - that is, between one hundredth and one two-hundredth of a second? Especially given that the real bottleneck is probably not in the rendering but the internet connection speed and then the parsing of the HTML and whatever else?

I'm just wondering whether this isn't just marketing hype...:(
Joeymac 27th November 2009, 18:10 Quote
I thought that Vista didn't accelerate D2D? Windows 7 does, but Vista didn't, that's why drop down list boxes lag slower than even XP on Vista. Also when they updated Vista to DX11 they didn't include the new D2D->D3D virtualization...
gavomatic57 27th November 2009, 18:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joeymac
I thought that Vista didn't accelerate D2D? Windows 7 does, but Vista didn't, that's why drop down list boxes lag slower than even XP on Vista. Also when they updated Vista to DX11 they didn't include the new D2D->D3D virtualization...

No, Vista got Direct2D in a platform update that coincided with SP3's release.
Clicky
knuck 27th November 2009, 18:51 Quote
I was about to ask if installing the alpha meant I had to uninstall my current version but then remembered it was already screwed up anyway so what the hell, I'll give it a shot
edit: never mind, no installation required :D



First observation : Text is slightly blurry at some places. Rendering is definitely different but it's hard to say if it's faster. I guess I'll have to test for more than 12.5seconds
Shagbag 27th November 2009, 19:32 Quote
Quote:
sadly this is Windows-only
Whichever OS has the dominant desktop market position, this will always be the case. At the moment and for the foreseeable short- to medium-term future, it's Windows.
Redkachina 27th November 2009, 20:07 Quote
No installation req'd.Its indeed faster than my chrome..I agreed with Ghys, slight blurred text..easily adjusted using Win 7 text tools..
dec 27th November 2009, 23:10 Quote
using it right now. its about the same as firefox 3.5. i found the text "problems" already Does anyone else think calling it minefield sounds alot cooler than firefox?
Redkachina 27th November 2009, 23:37 Quote
Apparently,I found that the more tabs are opened, more GPU memory are consumed too.. (200MB Chrome 24 tabs vs 648MB Minefield FF 30 tabs), I wonder if this affects gaming..
Vigilante 28th November 2009, 12:27 Quote
What I find amazing is that the browser is still leagues behind Chrome/Chromium in terms of performance, and it doesn't even use any of these kinds of technologies (yet).
knuck 28th November 2009, 19:02 Quote
leagues ? Chrome never impressed me at all...
gavomatic57 28th November 2009, 23:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghys
leagues ? Chrome never impressed me at all...

Me neither. It doesn't have the add-ons that firefox has and no marginal speed improvements can fix that.
Joeymac 29th November 2009, 04:10 Quote
I've found Chrome to be much slower than firefox. Controversial I know! But I play a facebook game called hobowars and I can't use Chrome, it's way too slow. In the game you have to click through lots of pages to use up your "time" by begging or fighting other hobos. Take too long and some one else will kill you first. With Chrome you open a page and the mouse will change to it's busy animation and doesn't like to get interrupted if you want to click a link before the page has finished. Not only does Firefox instantly load the very light hobowars webpages. It also instantly responds to interrupts and doesn't waste CPU cycles by switching to a busy mouse animation.
Vigilante 29th November 2009, 13:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghys
leagues ? Chrome never impressed me at all...

Whether it "impressed" you is not an issue here, some people simply don't like Chrome/chromium and I'm happy with that. But it doesn't change the facts that Chrome (And other webkit-based browsers like Safari) are the best performing web browser platforms available. I hate safari with a passion, but I am still level headed enough to admit that it's built on a solid foundation that's generally better than most other browsers - Internet explorer in particular. Not that I'm suggesting that is difficult to accomplish.

Chromium has had addon support for 4+ months, and it will be officially supported when Chrome 4 is released to the public, which shouldn't be too long considering the pace of development on the browser so far. Chrome/Chromium and Internet Explorer are the only popular web browsers that have tab and plugin sandboxing, Chromium has the extremely efficient V8 javascript engine and it's built on the solid, open source underpinnings of the Webkit platform. Other than personal preference, which is obviously not at issue here, there is zero reason for anyone who doesn't have an emotional attachment to their web browser to actively choose Firefox over Chrome.
gavomatic57 29th November 2009, 16:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vigilante
Other than personal preference

What other reason matters??
knuck 29th November 2009, 17:08 Quote
my thoughts exactly. Chrome works perfectly fine, it's just that it never lived up to the hype for me. It's just another browser
Blackie Chan 29th November 2009, 22:02 Quote
The download link does not work.
l3v1ck 29th November 2009, 22:36 Quote
What about XP users?
knuck 29th November 2009, 22:54 Quote
no dx10 = no xp support.. at least theoretically. Maybe they have something up their sleeves
Torwald 30th November 2009, 00:29 Quote
Link is dead:
"Not Found
The requested URL /firefox-3.7a1pre.en-US.win32.d2d.zip was not found on this server.
Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request."
Gremlin 30th November 2009, 13:52 Quote
Its because the build has been updated on the original page thus what Bit is still linking to is the old build, it seems he updates the builds with improvments and fixes and then just replaces the download link in the original blog post

http://www.bassified.nl/firefox-3.7a1pre.en-US.win32.d2d.2009.11.29.zip

So it may do well for people to keep checking the original blog for new builds every now and then ;)

his also released a new blog about testing it etc http://www.basschouten.com/blog1.php/2009/11/25/firefox-and-direct2d-performance-analysi
B1GBUD 1st December 2009, 09:28 Quote
Has anyone found that after installing Minefield, their Mozilla browser (specifically the download box) hangs like a mutha?

Or is it just me?
last_hopes 3rd December 2009, 08:41 Quote
Doesnt work on windows 7 64bit
Cant create game module; cant create renderere instance, reason cant create direct3d device 0x8876086, 3dderr_invalidcall
Saivert 7th December 2009, 02:55 Quote
this fixes the slow rendering of pages with fixed backgrounds and semi-transparent block level items (DIVs usually).

but yeah this is still alpha grade.
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