In Microsoft’s recent exposé on Internet Explorer 9, the firm revealed that it would be harnessing Direct2D hardware acceleration to improve the browser’s font rendering. Not to be outdone, Mozilla developer Bas Schouten has already implemented Direct2D acceleration into Firefox beta 3.7.
Direct2D is similar to Direct3D in that it allows the software to make calls directly to the graphics card. However, whereas Direct3D is concerned with three-dimensional geometry, Direct2D is designed explicitly for rendering two-dimensional objects. That difference aside, the performance characteristics between the APIs are similar in that scenes of greater complexity rely more heavily on the processor. When it comes to browsing, that means complex sites see relatively little acceleration, while simpler sites have more free CPU power to render faster.
The system requirements for Direct2D web acceleration are Windows Vista or Windows 7, and any DirectX 10+ GPU. Users interested in trying hardware browser acceleration for themselves can read the developer’s comments here, and grab the Firefox 3.7 beta here.