OpenLayers 7.0.0 Adds More WebGL Renderers and Drops Internet Explorer

Just in time for FOSS4G next week and the annual OpenLayers Feature Frenzy, the OpenLayers team has released 7.0.0, a new major version. Over 90 pull requests went into this release, but two changes stand out: Internet Explorer is no longer supported. And WebGL rendering has been extended to support lines and polygons alongside points.

A renderer converts geo-data into data structures that browsers can render. In the past, OpenLayers has primarily relied on the Canvas API to render vector data. Compared to Canvas, WebGL is considered more performant, especially when visualising complex geometries or large datasets.

Adding more WebGL-rendering capabilities to OpenLayers has been an ongoing effort in the last few years, and there’s more to come:

The rendering API is still low level and experimental. Future releases will include a higher level styling API.

Technically this is a breaking change, but upgrading should be straightforward, according to the release notes:

[W]e changed the signature for a number of methods on a helper class that had been marked as part of the API in 6.x releases. While this is technically a breaking change, it is unlikely that applications were using this helper class, so upgrades should be straightforward.