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Google ends Chrome hardware acceleration on 'old drivers'

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Google has disabled Chrome hardware acceleration for systems with certain "older" graphics drivers, after noticing that such systems caused an unusual number of crashes.

"Over the last few months, we’ve made a lot of progress using graphics hardware (commonly referred to as the GPU) to make Chrome faster and more power-efficient," the company said in a blog post. "However, as we’ve rolled out features like WebGL and GPU-accelerated HTML5 video, we noticed a troubling trend: users with old graphics drivers experienced a significant increase in crashes when using these features. "

The company has put "ranges of old drivers" on a list that defaults systems to software rendering. WebGL content on these "out-of-date" systems will not display at all, but Google says it's "working to provide a software path so that these systems can run basic 3D applications".

These systems can still view HTML5 video and other formerly hardware-accelerated content, but naturally, performance won't be as high.

Chrome is the only browser that offers WebGL from its stable channel. Mozilla, Opera, and Apple also provide WebGL support but only from beta, preview, or nightly browser builds. Microsoft doesn't support the standard at all.

Backed by media-happy standard organization The Khronos Group, WebGL uses the existing OpenGL desktop graphics interface to provide hardware-accelerated 3D rendering inside the browser via JavaScript. Version 1.0 of the specification was introduced on Thursday.

Google urges end users to install the latest major version of your operating system – such as Windows 7 or Mac OS 10.6 – and to regularly load all system and driver updates. Do as it says. At least in this case. ®

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