Why Microsoft decided to put WebGL into Internet Explorer

Why WebGL and EME are supported in IE 11
Windows 8.1 and IE 11 mean business for rivals

In the last few years, Microsoft has gone from ignoring the web browser and web standards, to embracing standards and seeing the browser as a way to outdo other platforms.

Internet Explorer head Dean Hachamovitch is as bullish about the strengths of Internet Explorer 11 as you'd expect, claiming that "The best experience of the web is on a Windows device with IE 11". And the fact that you can't get IE on Mac or Linux or Android or iOS devices? That's good news for Windows, in his opinion.

"Other browsers run here, there and everywhere. They don't run with excellence in any one particular place or on any one particular device - and that is an opportunity.

"When you put an old browser and an old browser interface on any of these shiny new devices - on a tablet, on a hybrid - you're going to run into some problems. You're going to run into a little bit of fail. You're going to notice when you browse with these other devices and other browsers that you don't have the responsiveness you have in IE 11, that you don't have the performance you want."

Multitasking in IE 11

And then there's that whole 'post-PC' thing where people want to use touch and tablets. "There are all these sites that don't quite work with touch. They work great with mouse but they don't quite work well with touch. It's really hard to use sites and apps together on these other things - in fact it's really hard just to see two web pages at the same time, which is disappointing.

"Tabs are limited, not just in how many you can have but in what you can do with them, how you can interact with them. And it just gets more disappointing when you jack in a keyboard and mouse because it just doesn't do what you expect from a notebook, from a full PC."

Why WebGL and EME are supported in IE 11

If you want to do more than look at one website at a time, Hachamovitch thinks IE 11 and Windows 8.1 beat the competition. "IE 11 does more than one thing at a time, it does pages side by side. Sites and apps work well together, you can go back and forth. You can have 100 tabs without really costing you battery or performance or memory in a significant way."

And if you just want to use a tablet? "It's absolutely perfect for touch. It's got stick-to-your-finger responsiveness. And it makes sure that you can do with touch everything you want to do with touch."

Why WebGL is now in

With Windows versions coming out more often, IE versions can come out more often, which should mean faster support for standards. The IE team is picky about standards though, and for a long time it rejected WebGL, using the GPU only for hardware acceleration.

The hardware acceleration gets even better in IE 11, Hachamovitch claims. "There are a lot of firsts in IE 11, around using the GPU for panning and zooming and for images. The stuff we're offloading to the GPU in IE 11, we can do now because of what we learned in IE 10."

Why WebGL and EME are supported in IE 11

But IE 11 also adds support for WebGL, and he admits he was the one the team had to convince to put that into the browser. The issue was security. "There is a very interesting security exploit that involved WebGL and Firefox for Mac; basically you went to a malicious site and it could read everything on your screen. It reads the Word document you have in another window. That's a great example of the kind of security vulnerability we were concerned about."

It wasn't until the standard changed that he would consider it. "The WebGL specification now includes technology called CORS that effectively prevents image stealing attacks."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.