Steve July 26, 2020

WebRender promises to deliver a buttery smooth web for all

If you’re want for a sure-fire way to improve the performance of Firefox on Linux you can force enable WebRender.

At some point in the near future Firefox will make web render default for all users on as many systems as possible. But until that happens you can force enable it to try it out — just bear in mind that you may encounter edge cases or introduce issues (read: bugs) from having it turned on.

But let’s back up. What is WebRender? I’ll let Mozilla explain:

“WebRender […] will replace Gecko’s existing compositor, interfacing with Gecko’s main-thread layout code. As WebRender is written in Rust and uses a very different design approach, we expect to get stability and performance benefits from this switch.”

To be (intentionally) reductive: the feature leverages a system’s GPU to render web content rather than the CPU.

It’s a switch that could allow Firefox to deliver buttery smooth performance at up to 60 frames-per-second. KDE’s Nate Graham also reports some major performance gains when using web render on his system, including better overall battery life.

Mozilla started to enable WebRender in Firefox on compatible Windows systems in September 2018. The tech has slowly rolled out to more users on more systems and more configurations since then.

WebRender might not yet be default on your Linux system, regardless of whether you’re using Wayland or Xorg, closed source or open source graphics drivers.

To enable (or disable) WebRender in Firefox on Linux:

  1. Open about:config in a new tab (and okay any warnings)
  2. Search for gfx.webrender.all
  3. Set the value to True to enable WebRender (or false to disable it)

Your own milage may vary when using this feature, but as it’s not hard to turn off should any hiccups emerge, the possible performance benefits make it well worth trying out.

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