back to article Firefox 4 beta gets hard on Windows

Mozilla has released a fifth Firefox 4 beta, offering graphics hardware acceleration on Windows and a new API that lets site developers code pages that visually display audio data inside the browser. "The latest update to Firefox 4 Beta brings super fast graphics and incredible new audio capabilities to the Web," reads a blog …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    DirectX is the way Internet browsing is being handed back to Microsoft

    There is nothing analogous to Direct2D from other OSes (and it will never be) so Internet browsing will have to be done predominantly in Windows. It took a long time but Microsoft's patience has been finally rewarded. Now all what's left is to silently knock off Mozilla and other competitor's products from Windows by subtly crippling them. With every new tweak of DirectX API Microsoft will put a small pebble in Mozilla's running shoes until the world will move back to the best browser in the world.

    The only choice Mozilla and others have is to become irrelevant right now by staying away from hardware graphics acceleration, or at a later date at Microsoft's behest by offering a lousy browsing experience.

    I know old saying "DOS ain't done til Lotus won't run" is just a myth but you can trust me, it works beautifully.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course there's nothing analogous to Direct2D on other OSes...

      They may not need it.

      MacOS/X has integrated GPU support since 10.4, including the basic Quartz API. It doesn't need yet another API that maps to it's 3D API, because it's an integral part of the deal.

      Quartz Extreme support is showing it being used (and even the Intel GMA950 has some basic support for it)

    2. Len

      Firefox uses OpenGL for hardware acceleration on other platforms

      Although there is nothing exactly similar to Direct2D on non-Windows platforms does not mean other platforms won't see hardware accelerated browsing.

      Firefox uses OpenGL on OS X and Linux to use the GPU for rendering of everything from basic HTML to SVG animation and HTML5 video.

      Joe Drew, Mozilla: Hardware accelerating Firefox

    3. RJ


      I originally posted an inaccurate reply and have now thought about it for a bit.

      Bias Disclaimer: I loath Microsoft but I shall try and be fair

      I can see the arguments for both sides, Windows provides a technology that allows browsers to render complicated pages quickly and smoothly. Currently the other OSes don't.

      Should Firefox implement it? In a rough parallel, as a web-developer I am forced too often to abandon neat things to support IE6 because it cannot handle things I want to do that every other browser supports.

      This drives me to frustration.

      Now imagine that you are a Firefox developer. You cannot implement this new spiffy hardware acceleration thing which will benefit a large number of users because the other OSes don't support it (They are the equivalent of IE6 in this case...busted).

      Thinking about it that way, I find it hard to condemn them. I would say it is up to the other OSes to come up with something that can match what windows offers just like Microsoft had to release new versions of IE to catch up with Firefox, Safari, Opera etc.

      However, this isn't a perfect analogy since the Direct2D is not a standard with an open co-ordinating body and this sounds a hell of a lot more complicated to get running.

      So I find myself reluctantly leaning towards "This is a wake up call to Linux / OSX devs that, to remain relevant, you gotta give developers the standardised libraries / APIs to work with, make it easy for them and they will do it. Microsoft did it is your turn"

      Of course, we who are using Linux are at the mercy of nVidia, ATI and the OpenGL big Kahunas ... one of the times when being a 800 pound dictatorial company like Microsoft has its advantages over the FOSS coalition.

      Face because, well, I am not happy about having to type that.

    4. Sentient


      OpenVG looks like a Direct2D alternative.

    5. DrXym


      Of course there are things analogous to Direct2D in other operating systems. Every platform has a native drawing API. Firefox uses whatever is most suitable and available. In the case of Windows, that would be DirectX or GDI. On OS X it might be QuickDraw or Quartz. On Linux it might be OpenGL or X11.

      Firefox uses Cairo to abstract all these differences so the bulk of the code just calls a Cairo API.and the command is translated into the relevant backend instructions. Cairo can also be used to print to PDF / Postscript which makes it useful for printing too.

      Microsoft certainly do change DirectX from time to time but they do so in an incremental fashion. They add new interfaces to support new functionality, not change the existing ones. Therefore, there is no reason to think that Firefox will suddenly break from using it, any more than some random game that happens to use DirectX 9 when version 10 or 11 turn up.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re : "DirectX is the way"

      Rubbish !

    7. prathlev

      OpenGL maybe?

      I'm a little puzzled about there being "nothing analogous to Direct2D from other OSes"; I don't know the Windows-world very well, but I seem to have seen OpenGL able to provide services on a few other OSses, a.o. Linux. And on my laptop hardware acceleration works very well. (I'm using the proprietary NVIDIA-driver, but that's irrelevant to the OpenGL argument.)

      AFAICT the Direct2D APIs are "easier" on the developer, but OpenGL can to 2D acceleration fine.

    8. Geoff Mackenzie

      Why so negative?

      I take your point that there's nothing (as far as I know, ready to stand corrected) like Direct2D on other platforms, but I don't think it's so easy to say there never will be, or that all web browsing needs Direct2D anyway.

      Firefox might use Direct2D on Windows but it's going to continue working on Linux as well, so if Direct2D was being sabotaged, FF could just stop using it. Also, I think it's paranoid in the extreme to suggest MS would deliberately sabotage an API a lot of people use for the sake of a web browser market dominance plan that would also depend on Mozilla not keeping up with the (documented) DirectX changes.

    9. rhdunn

      Firefox on Linux works great

      Firefox uses the relevant APIs on the target platform -- XRender+OpenGL on Linux, Direct2D if available and DirectX on Windows and the Mac APIs (Quartz?) on Mac.

      The spinning picture demo got 91 FPS on the Windows machine used to test. I am getting 83 FPS on my Ubuntu 10.04 64-bit machine with the NVidia binary.

      The IE fishtank demos I am getting 60FPS up to 100 fishes, 50-60FPS @ 250, 35-42 @ 500 and 16-22 @ 1000.

      Also, the psychedelic test provides comparable performance -- 1830 on Win7 vs 1739 on Ubuntu for the colour test and 603 on Win7 vs 599 on Ubuntu for the hallucinogenic test.

      Of course these results will vary depending on your graphics card and driver being used.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...contract up for renewal at Microsoft by any chance?

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      For five minutes until someone codes something similar that gets used instead.

  2. blackworx


    Supposed to only work in Windows, but demo video shows Mac UI...?

    Oh, and great idea - let's get the browser to do audio visualisation, cos we need something that'll do it slower and use up 10x more resources than all that silly dedicated, optimised vis software already out there.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    and in the RC they're going to give everyone a free RAM upgrade to 32TB to handle it.

  4. alien anthropologist


    Disagree. There are two primary graphic APIs today. OpenGL and DirectX (which includes Direct2D).

    Many s/w game developers dealing with complex textured 3D graphics, support both.

    How? By using an abstracted API (typcially homegrown) that in turn can make the graphics magic using either OpenGL or DirectX.

    What do ATI and nVidia drivers on Windows support? DirectX and OpenGL, hardware accelerated.

    What does many Linux desktops support (assuming these use a proper, and not generic, video driver)? OpenGL, hardware accelerated.

    2D rendering is a lot easier than 3D. For Mozilla to define their own basic 2D rendering API and have this support both Direct2D and OpenGL underneath, is quite feasible.

    Mine's the one with OpenGL in one pocket, and DirectX in the other.

  5. Mike Kamermans

    Actually, this isn't about "directx" but about "accellerated graphics"

    Mozilla uses WebGL (, which when you're on windows ends up calling the DirectX hardware accellerated graphics functions.

    Which is kind of obvious, because on windows that's the defactor API you talk in for hardware accellerated graphics.

    On any other platform, it uses the distinctly non-microsoft non-directx APIs. For instance, WebGL is also properly supported on the Nokia N900, which is about as far away removed from a typical windows installation as can be.

    Slight misquoting of the state of affairs in the article.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Re: DirectX

    Careful with those facts, Eugene - OpenGL can give you cross-platform hardware acceleration. Whilst it may not have the feature-completeness of DirectX, it's not a complete cow to program in either.

    There is a pebble, however: multi-threading. With today's web ridden with Flash-driven adverts, threading issues are browsing issues.

    1. Shakje

      Not a complete cow, no

      but it's still a significantly DIFFERENT way. I find DirectX far more enjoyable to use than OpenGL.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Ob Pink Floyd reference


  7. Paul 98
    Thumb Up


    I can't believe it's taken so long to get hardware graphics acceleration into browsers. There are plenty of sites that will take advantage of this and I think it will make a big difference. That 1GB DX11 card is making sense now. Personally I don't care if you're using Linux or some other platform that doesn't support hardware acceleration. Frankly if your platform doesn't support that then it's a rubbish platform.

  8. Tigra 07
    Thumb Up

    And the others?

    Every time Firefox upgrades it reaches everyones ears, newspapers, internet, gossip etc

    You never get such coverage over any other browser, especially IE.

    FF really should be proud of the massive amount of free publicity they get

    1. AlexV

      Pretty sure you do, actually



      I have no doubt that on the 15th the release of IE9 beta will be reported too.

      1. Tigra 07

        Pretty sure you don't, actually

        No you don't AlexV, for the sole reason that the Firefox update was in the Sun and the Daily Mail last time.

        IE never was, and only really gets advertised on tech sites like this

        1. Anonymous Coward

          "and only really gets advertised on tech sites like this"

          THIS is a TECH site ??

        2. wibbilus maximus


          Microsoft will put IE9 onto the Windows Update within weeks of it being released, if not straight away, therefore potentially advertising to every Windows user in the world. Talk about free advertising! Who needs the media now?

  9. DrXym

    HSTS sounds interesting

    The only fly in the ointment I can see is that if you were subject to a man in the middle attack, the attacker could as easily strip out the strict transport header. Without the header, STS is not enabled and so things continue the way they are.

    It's a lot better than nothing though. I wonder however if sites which can't even be bothered to fix expired certs, or who mix encrypted & unencrypted content are going to bother with STS.

  10. N2


    Sounds really good,

    Particularly as I always check my bank accounts from an Internet Cafe ! - snigger.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Broken plugins

    Looks like this issue is rearing its ugly head again.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    But ...

    Isn't Quartz 2D hardware accelerated on Mac OS X?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Was anybody else reminded of the ancient game Terminal Velocity by the 3D bit at the end of the youtube clip? Kept thinking it was going to plunge down into a tunnel.

  14. Ocular Sinister


    Umm.... why not use SDL which is platform agnostic and defaults to Direct2D/DirectDraw on Windows while also providing acceleration under other OSes using appropriate APIs.

    I love the Firefox UI, but sometimes I wish they'd get over their 'Not Invented Here' syndrome :-|

    1. DrXym


      Firefox already has an abstraction layer called Cairo. It has a rich API and numerous backends, many of which are hardware accelerated. I assume Firefox have just flipped whatever switches are necessary to make Cairo use DirectX if its available.

      As for SDL, it really doesn't do a huge amount in the graphics department except set up the screen / surface for you and provide some low level primitives. You are meant to use it in conjunction with DirectX or OpenGL.

  15. GettinSadda


    > "Firefox 4 Beta now remembers what sites use the HSTS protocol and will only connect to those sites using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) in the future, helping to prevent 'man in the middle' attacks," Beltzner says.

    So in other words, the browser stores a list of the most security-conscious sites that you visit in an easy-to-retrieve way. Want to know if a user ever visited ""? Try and visit "" while sniffing the net connection - if it goes straight to "" then the user has been there before. Nothing the browser tries to do to encrypt or password protect the list is of any great use

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Repent at leisure

    > "What if we could visualize sound data coming out of an <audio> or <video> element?"

    Hmm ... I think someone needs to do some background research into origins of HTML and the day someone said "why don't we use <blink> to make text flash"

  17. yossarianuk

    Chromium are doing the same in OpenGL

    Surely a big mistake to use windows specific tools to do this.

    At least Chromium are doing a similar thing but using openGL which will be supported on all systems.

    I love firefox but if I am going to start missing features as I not running the chavos system Chrome will become my default browser.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      re: Chromium are doing the same in OpenGL

      OpenGL support in Windows is much worse than it used to be. I don't recall if that's due to MS or AMD/nVidia. But thre's no reason at all FF can't use DirectX in Windows and any other tech in other OSes. This is _exactly_ what games have been doing for years, even Windwos-only games used to let you choose GL/D3D since performance was so dependent on which had the better drivers for your particular graphics card.

  18. JDX Gold badge

    re: OpenGL maybe?

    The difference is DirectX was integrated as part of the standard GUI in new versions of windows, using GL is a different issue. Some people said similar things exist on the Mac through Quartz and that sounds more likely.

    FF should seek to use whatever they can on each platform - but NOT supporting something which gives a performance boost on Windows would be stupid... they want to fight IE for market share and that means being as good or better.

  19. markp 1

    needle nardle noo

    hmm. interesting. 1/ i didn't know you COULDN'T already do that (can't the java player intercept the audio before it's sent from the applet to the sound hardware / API / HAL?)... 2/ why bother when I could just fire up Winamp/Macamp and have it run the visualisation studio upon the Wav output?

    (Yeah, i know it's just a demo of "hey, we can now do a buttload more things with v4 and http5", but it's a rather odd choice to pick... I mean, heck, I could fire up Cthugha '94 in DOSbox and have it do similar at about the same resolution, minus the 3Dness)

    1. purplefloyd

      Java? Applet? Winamp?

      Did you post that from the 1990s? The FF4 beta adds _javascript_ API to the _browser_.

      And wtf is http5!?!

      You're kidding right?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      JavaScript isn't Java

      Go read some Wikipedia. It's more accurate than any of the excrement you just spouted. Besides, you missed the entire point. There's a lot more potential to this than just trippy visualizations to enhance sensations when lighting up. Think about games or even potentially audio editing directly from the browser, something Google would love to use with its Chrome OS to convince people the cloud is the future.

      Also, "http5"? Last I recalled, we were still on 1.1. You mean HTML5? JavaScript isn't actually part of that either - it's just a related technology to be used in conjunction with HTML.

  20. JDX Gold badge

    Isn't integrated HW accelerated graphics a massive pain on Linux?

    I don't know Linux but wouldn't each version have to write their own version to integrate with their desktop? Or do most main versions share enough GUI code that this is not the case? Windows/Mac obviously avoid this issue, as do mobile devices.

    1. Russell Howe


      "I don't know Linux but I'm going to ask a deep question about it anyway" - that's a rather odd thing to do, to my mind, but I'll bite..

      The distributions all share the same kernel and drivers (that's the "Linux" bit), although they often tweak it a little and they all contain different versions.

      The graphics part is almost always provided by the Xorg X server - this is written by the Xorg folk, some of which may be employed by companies such as RedHat, but it's really a separate project to the distributions themselves.

      The biggest issue on Linux is that graphics hardware development is so rapid and the chips so complex that writing a driver for them without access to the specs (which are almost always never available) is very very hard.

      Even if you have the specs, you don't always get the list of things which don't work as they were specified.

      So, you have very many slightly different and very complicated devices which are expensive to buy (it's hard writing code for something you haven't got) and no guide to writing a driver.

      Then people complain that driver support is crap on Linux.

      So, the manufacturers tend to write a Linux driver (for Xorg, normally, maybe with a bit in the kernel too), which by and large is closed source, buggy, contains security holes and is bloated. However, the drivers usually work OK and give pretty quick performance so lots of people use them anyway.

      By the time the open source drivers get to the point that they're featureful and fast, the hardware's moved on and the cycle begins anew.

      1. Joe Burmeister

        There is hope

        Gallium3D is a big new hope for this. It should break this cycle by making writing graphics drivers easier and mean much more shared code between drivers, meaning better drivers.

        It's also going to help Xorg development as the X server need not be graphics card specific. So it can have all the drivers removed from it, greatly shrinking the code base, making maintenance and development easier.

        "Another thing that didn't get a lot of attention is Alan's xf86-video-modesetting driver. It's a dummy X11 driver that uses DRM for modesetting and Gallium3D for graphics acceleration. Because of that it's hardware independent, meaning that all hardware that has a DRM driver and Gallium3D driver automatically works and is accelerated under X11. Very neat stuff."

  21. Paul RND*1000
    Thumb Down

    Meet the new BLINK tag?

    "a new API that lets site developers code pages that visually display audio data inside the browser"

    So, one of the highlight features of FF4 is a browser-specific gimmick which will be used for a while by a small handful of experimenters before they realize it's basically pointless and get bored with it. It will eventually only be used by the same clueless people who write all their emails in purple 20pt Comic Sans and who used to have Geocities pages with animated GIF backgrounds overlaid by blinking, marquee'd, centered text. The rest of us will wish harm upon the responsible parties every time our computer is ground to a sputtering halt by such a site.

    Surely the devs' time would have been better used in finding ways to make FF *less* of a memory hungry monster, not piling on more useless crap to make matters even worse. Starting to look like Microsoft, you guys.

    1. Nextweek

      I remember that internet

      Animated GIF backgrounds are like the flower power era of carefree experimentation and lack of consequence Internet. Something our children will look back and cringe at.

      Like our fathers saying "Yer man I was at woodstock", so will we be saying "Yer man, I used Animated GIF backgrounds, screw the patent trolls."

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Post anonymously?

    "What if we could visualize sound data coming out of an <audio> or <video> element?"

    Great. Kinda sucks. No doubt means that will we have to endure endless spectrum analyzer style shite on just about every internet page - as was the fad with countless Flash sites some years ago... At least you could 'turn off' Flash at will. FFS.

    Like someone above says... Parallels (a few) with <blink> here methinks. Mozilla devs - Sometimes I dispair.

  23. asdf

    google chrome ftw

    I don't plan on going back to the bloat that is Firefox (which ironically is what I said about IE back in the pre 1.0 firefox days) but it is nice to see Google get the Firefox devs off their butts to improve their product. Competition is good even for open source projects.

  24. Frank Rysanek

    DNS SRV records for HTTP *still* unsupported... (or are they?)

    Audio visualization and 2D acceleration are the hot news TODAY? And a very simple web redundancy framework, potentially very useful, known and wanted by informed people for a decade, is still missing: SRV - just a small update to the DNS resolver. Just a few lines of code. The largely technophobic/ignorant web-surfing masses would appreciate it too, once it got into production use. A bug entry has been in the bugzilla for years, even with some early patches. The ultimate excuse from the Mozilla team has always been that there is no RFC standard. There is for SRV, but not specifically for SRV on HTTP.

    The only party who would certainly not appreciate HTTP SRV, are the vendors of content switches for HTTP load balancing / HA solutions.

    Mine's the one with BGP4+IPv6 in the pockets and global routing stability painted on the back...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The browser's new audio data API — dubbed Audio Data API.

    must have been an all-nighter to think of that one.

  26. Deadly_NZ
    Black Helicopters

    And if you don't agree to the terms

    Too Bad either conform


    bend over and grab your ankles this won't hurt too much!

  27. Eddie Johnson

    Mystery Solved

    >> "In December, a few of us...had an idea," reads a blog post from Seneca College professor and Mozilla contributor David Humphrey. "What if we could visualize sound data coming out of an <audio> or <video> element? My colleagues were good at thinking in terms of 'how can we make what we have now work?' But I had another idea: 'Let’s try and teach Firefox how to do this.'"

    And now we know why Firefox has become the bloated, doggy beast that it is. Any random idea the development team (numbering thousands I suppose) has while stoned makes it into the final release no matter how completely worthless.

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