Browser GPU acceleration: Navigating standards minefield

GPU acceleration promises to speed up browsers, but competing standards from a plethora of competitors pose hurdles

Once upon a time, in the distant past, there was VGA. VGA begat "Windows Accelerators" -- graphics chips that were slightly enhanced beyond dumb frame buffers in order to accelerate Windows-specific functions to paint small "w" windows on the screen faster. Later came 3D, along with a number of competing standards. That all settled out to mostly Direct3D on Windows and OpenGL everywhere else.

Now the Internet is being accelerated by the GPU. But it's back to the future, with competing standards and incomplete implementation the rule of the day.

That's the conclusion you might get from watching Nvidia's Chris Peterson's presentation on GPU and the GPU-Accelerated Internet. Just two slides from the presentation illustrate the problems the web will be facing in the future. First, there's the plethora of competing standards and browsers. This table of browsers versus standards only hints at the headaches web developers and users will face.

Peterson's slide shows four browsers, five video rendering engines and five 2D graphics acceleration standards.

Peterson also sliced the data by looking at a how one browser might implement different standards across different operating systems.

That looks a little simpler, though it's interesting to note that MacOS will still be handling 2D acceleration for Firefox through the CPU, not the GPU.

Another sticking point is 3D. If you've been listening to the hype about Internet Explorer 9, you've been hearing a constant refrain about how IE9 is GPU accelerated and its really fast. And it is, for 2D and video. Currently, IE9 lacks support for WebGL and doesn't use Direct3D -- so no hardware accelerated 3D for IE9 users.

So why are all the mainstream browsers moving rapidly towards implementing GPU acceleration?

Speed.

In the current Google Chromium beta, for example, users see up to a 60x speedup in 2D canvas applications. In addition to performance, mobile users will see an increase in battery life as well as more uniform implementations across desktop, laptop and mobile platforms.

What this all means is that the web standards process will take years to shake out before we see uniform implementations across multiple browsers running on different operating systems on a variety of platforms. HTML5, for example, is in its very early stages, and it's true that HTML5 test pages look different in different browsers. That's not likely to change for a very long time.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Browsers & Add-Onsapplicationsbrowserssoftwarenvidia

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loyd Case

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?