Initial accelerated compositing support
When accelerated compositing support was added to WebKitGTK, there was only X11. Our first approach was quite simple, we sent the web view widget Xwindow ID to the web process to be used as rendering target using GLX. This was very efficient, but soon we realized it broke the GTK rendering model so it was not possible to use a web view inside a GtkOverlay, for example, to show status messages on top. The solution was to use a redirected Xcomposite window in the web process, and use its ID as the render target using GLX. The pixmap ID of the redirected Xcomposite window was sent to the UI process to be painted in the web view widget using a Cairo Xlib surface. Since the rendering happens in the web process, this approach required to use Xdamage to monitor when the redirected Xcomposite window was updated to schedule a web view redraw.
To support accelerated compositing under Wayland we initially added a nested Wayland compositor running in the UI process. The web process connected to the nested Wayland compositor and created a surface to be used as the rendering target using EGL. The good thing about this approach compared to the X11 one, is that we can create an EGLImage from Wayland buffers and use a GDK GL context to paint the contents in the web view. This is more efficient than X11 because we can use OpenGL both in web and UI processes.
WPE, when using the fdo backend, uses the same approach of running a nested Wayland compositor, but in a more efficient way, using DMABUF instead of Wayland buffers when available. So, we decided to use libwpe in the GTK port only for rendering under Wayland, and eventually remove our Wayland compositor implementation.
Before the removal of the custom Wayland compositor we had all these possible combinations:
- UI Process
- X11: Cairo Xlib surface
- Wayland: EGL
- Web Process
- X11: GLX using redirected Xwindow
- Wayland (nested Wayland compositor): EGL using Wayland surface
- Wayland (libwpe): EGL using libwpe to get the Wayland surface
To reduce a bit the differences, and to make it easier to support WebGL with ANGLE we decided to change X11 to prefer EGL if possible, falling back to GLX only if EGL failed.
GTK4 was released and we added support for it. The fact that GTK4 uses GL by default should make the rendering more efficient in accelerated compositing mode. This is definitely true under Wayland, because we are using a GL context already, so we just keep passing a texture to GTK to paint the contents in the web view. However, in the case of X11 we still have a Cairo Xlib surface that GTK paints into a Cairo image surface to be uploaded to the GPU. With GTK4 now we have two more combinations in the UI process side X11 + GTK3, X11 + GTK4, Wayland + GTK3 and Wayland + GTK4.
Reducing all the combinations to (almost) one: DMABUF
All these combinations to support the different platforms made it quite difficult to maintain, every time we get a bug report about something not working in accelerated compositing mode we have to figure out the combination actually used by the reporter, GTK3 or GTK4? X11 or Wayland? using EGL or GLX? custom Wayland compositor or libwpe? driver? version? etc.
We are already using DMABUF in WebKit for different things like WebGL and media rendering, so we thought that we could also use it for sharing the rendered buffer between the web and UI processes. That would be a more efficient solution but it would also drastically reduce the amount of combinations to maintain. The web process always uses the surfaceless platform, so it doesn’t matter if it’s under Wayland or X11. Then we create a surfaceless context as the render target and use EGL and GBM APIs to export the contents as a DMABUF buffer. The UI process imports the DMABUF buffer using EGL and GBM too, to be passed to GTK as a texture that is painted in the web view.
This theoretically recudes all the previous combinations to just one (note that we removed GLX support entirely, making EGL a requirement for accelerated compositing), but there’s a problem under X11: GTK3 doesn’t support EGL on X11 and GTK4 defaults to EGL but falls back to GLX if it doesn’t find an EGL config that perfectly matches the screen visual. In my system it never finds that EGL config because mesa doesn’t expose any 32 bit depth config. So, in the case of GTK3 we have to manually download the buffer to CPU and paint normally using Cairo, but in the case of GTK4 + GLX, GTK uploads the buffer again to be painted using GLX. I don’t think it’s possible to force GTK to use EGL from the API, but at least you can use GDK_DEBUG=gl-egl.
WebKitGTK 2.41.1 is the first unstable release of this cycle and already includes the DMABUF support that is used by default. We encourage everybody to try it out and provide feedback or report any issue. Please, export the contents of webkit://gpu and attach it to the bug report when reporting any problem related to graphics. To check if the issue is a regression of the DMABUF implementation you can use WEBKIT_DISABLE_DMABUF_RENDERER=1 to use the WPE renderer or X11 instead. This environment variable and the WPE render/X11 code will be eventually removed if DMABUF works fine.
If this approach works fine we plan to use something similar for the WPE port and get rid of the nested Wayland compositor there too.