Well over 200 developers added value to the Chromium and WebKit projects last week, delivering a combined total of 1018 patches to the repositories. Different from a week ago, there weren’t any huge noticeable changes this week. Most work was part of larger projects or stability and performance improvements.
Still, there have been a few updates related to standard support. The document.lastModified property was updated according to HTML5 last Tuesday, the Canvas Context will now parse system colors and work on supporting the “block-flow” and “writing-mode” CSS properties seems to have been started.
More work has been completed last week on Google’s effort to move the options dialogs to webpages. You can enable the tabbed options page yourself by supplying the –enable-tabbed-options flag to Chrome or going to the about:labs page if you’re running Google Canary or Chromium. Furthermore, information and screenshots about the new History UI are available as well. Check out issue 52697 and the new designs.
Are you one of the poor folks working at a company which uses Internet Explorer as their primary browser, as well as (group) policies to severely limit your freedom? Good news! In the future you might be using Google Chrome with (group) policies which severely limit your freedom! The team seems to be gearing up in order to make their browser more interesting for larger organizations, as can be seen on the Documentation for Administrators page on the Chromium website, including quick-start guides for Windows, Apple and Linux.
Other changes in Chromium and WebKit last week:
And that’s it for this week! Keep in mind, if you’d like to see people like Brendan Eich, Steve Faulkner, Christian Heilmann, Paul Irish and Jeremy Keith speaking about the web, there’s only a few tickets left for Fronteers 2010. The conference will take place on the 7th and 8th of October in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Finally, a big Thank You to Steve Souders and Juriy Zaytsev for commenting on the <script> loading graph!
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Today, exactly 217 days after the first Internet Explorer 9 announcement, Microsoft has released the third Developer Preview of the latest version of their browser. One of the most awaited and unannounced features this preview brings is the addition of the HTML5 Canvas Element. Defined in section 4.8.11 of the HTML5 specification, already implemented in all other major browsers, and now upcoming for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9: 2D Canvas is a go!
The history of <canvas>
In July of that year Dave Hyatt announced the new element on the Surfin’ Safari blog. This immediately brought up a lot of controversy, of which Eric Meyer’s post is a clear example: “What the bleeding hell?!?” In defense, Hyatt elaborates Apple’s rationales for including the proprietary features and said to submit a proposal to the WHATWG lists, however, it never came. Ian Hickson therefore, despite his opinion on how Apple handled the new elements, reverse engineered a draft based on available source code.
On the first day of April in 2005 Mozilla’s Vladimir Vukicevic uploaded a patch featuring basic canvas functionalities, which opened the road for further work in Firefox. While this first implementation only worked on Linux due to different color formats on Windows and Mac OS X, the release of their “Deer Park” project late November, known as Firefox 1.5, featured a cross-platform implementation of canvas.
Opera introduced the <canvas> element mid 2006 with their Opera 9 release, in quite a humble way (can you see it without searching?). This meant that all major browsers, with the exception of Internet Explorer, implemented the element natively. However, it didn’t mean that the element was unusable, as Google’s ExCanvas and Mozilla’s IECanvas projects brought limited support for the element to Microsoft’s browser.
The long and juridical path to standardization
The path to proper standardization wasn’t very smooth. This began with the lack of a proper proposal coming from Apple’s side, resulting in the initial specification being based on reverse engineering works by Ian “Hixie” Hickson, editor of the HTML5 specification. In 2005, Jayant Sai brought up an initial idea for drawing text on a canvas, which later got formalized into a decent proposal by Stefan Haustein.
However, not everything went nice and smooth. After Mozilla Firefox and Opera had implemented the element, Apple’s Senior Patent Counsel Helene Plotka Workman sent a message to the WHATWG and Ian Hickson stating that Apple believed to have intellectual property over the canvas element, and would only consider to release these IP Rights if the Web Applications draft would become a formalized draft standard with the W3C.
Despite the fact that the rationale behind Apple’s message was unclear, the timing of their message was interesting. Exactly a week before, the W3C would be re-launching the HTML Working Group. Less than half a year later, in February 2008, the first draft of the HTML5 specification was published as a W3C Working Draft. On the 18th of June that year, Apple disclosed patent 11/144384 for use by the HTML5 specification. The same patent has been disclosed in six other jurisdictions, enabling the WHATWG to continue including <canvas>.
Going 3-dimensional with WebGL
WebGL is a specification in which all browser vendors, with the exception of Microsoft, participated. This can be clearly seen by the fact that nightly builds of Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari contained implementations of WebGL. While Opera actively participated in discussions, they have yet to release a public build containing the 3D context. Nokia has announced WebGL support in a new firmware version for their Nokia N900 phone.
Of course, Google hasn’t been silent either. In May they announced the ANGLE project, which basically translated OpenGL calls to their DirectX equivalents. Two weeks later, on April Fools’ this year, Googler Chris Ramsdale announced a WebGL port of the Quake II Game Engine.
No really, Thank You, Microsoft!
Even before the Internet Explorer 9 announcement, Microsoft tried to move the Canvas 2D context to its own module. There was no word about <canvas> in the first two Developer Previews, and the company’s position could best be described as vague. In May, Microsoft Evangelist Giorgio Sardo publically stated that he would like the element to be included, but also added that the company was in no way committed to Canvas.
More recently, at the SVG Working Group meeting earlier this month, Internet Explorer’s General Manager Dean Hachamovitch stated that the team wouldn’t be talking about implementing Canvas at that point. However, he added the following: “all your graphics needs will be taken care of, and I’m smiling broadly.” Today they finally confirmed the suspicion a lot of web developers have been having for months: the 2D canvas has been included in Internet Explorer 9.
Thank you, Microsoft, you’ve just made us smile broadly as well.
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One of the subjects Microsoft is giving a lot of attention to in Internet Explorer 9 is graphics: extensive SVG implementation plans, various CSS specifications related to graphics, and with GPU Acceleration available by default. This isn’t entirely surprising: considering Microsoft owns the operating system and graphic libraries which have to be used for the acceleration and only support a limited amount of configurations, implementation is a lot easier than having to create cross-platform implementations based on third-party software.
Nevertheless, they are doing quite a good job at implementing the specifications, and certainly with a lot of sense for the finer details. A good example of this can be found in their rendering of borders. One of the new CSS properties that Internet Explorer 9 introduces is border-radius, as defined in the Backgrounds and Borders specification. While the specification still isn’t entirely clear on how to render mixed border-style connections, Microsoft’s latest implementation does look smooth and well adapting.
Scalable Vector Graphics
SVG is becoming a widely implemented specification for scalable graphics. With a file format based on XML, confirmed support for in-line HTML rendering in three major browsers, a mature specification and lots of support from professional graphic editing software such as Adobe Illustrator, it’s destined to strongly gain in popularity in the near future.
Internet Explorer 9 will support the entire SVG 1.1 specification, with the exception of Fonts, Filters and SMIL. Microsoft believes that web fonts have a decent future as it is, mainly because the W3C Fonts group is making vast progress in standardizing a common format. Filters will not be included because they are not convinced about how often they will be used, considering Internet Explorer has supported various filters since version 4, but barely anyone has used them. Finally, SMIL will be omitted because the company believes there would be too many different ways of handling animation. A fair reason, as CSS 3 introduces two additional ways of adding animation to your webpage.
Per-pixel rendering using <canvas>
While the Internet Explorer team is making a lot of progress with the development of Internet Explorer 9, not only on the technical side, but also through a development process which is more open than was the case with previous releases, their position on the HTML5 canvas element is simply vague. Early May Giorgio Sardo, an Internet Explorer evangelist, already indicated that he would like to have support for the element in IE9, but the company has neither confirmed nor denied inclusion of the element in the new browser. Just yesterday, however, Dean Hachamovitch hinted that Microsoft still has some tricks up their sleeve: “We’re not talking at this point about whether we’re supporting canvas or not, but I’m smiling broadly. All your graphics needs will be taken care of, and I’m smiling broadly.”
My guess would be, something I have been saying ever since the release of the first Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview, that they certainly will be implementing canvas. I mostly base this on their attention to the graphical aspects of IE9, as well as on the comments made by various Microsoft employees. As Mozilla’s Brendan Eich already said about the subject: “Canvas is pretty small. It’s like your postscript level to 2D graphics.” I’m assuming that Microsoft knows their own APIs by heart, so implementation of the 2D canvas standard shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, utilizing the power of the Direct3D API, I’d say even WebGL is a likeliness. Microsoft is smiling broadly, let’s hope they allow us to do the same.
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