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Google Seeks To Overcome the Browser’s Limitations

Oh, look. Google’s found another way to annoy the…to annoy Microsoft

Oh, look. Google’s found another way to annoy the…to annoy Microsoft.

This one’s called Native Client, a shiny new open source R&D project aimed at running fast x86 native code in web applications.

It’s another way of going for the desktop’s jugular and, paired with Google Gears and Google Chrome, potentially a giant step for browser-as-platform.

According to a Google blog, it’s supposed to let web developers “access the full power of the client’s CPU while maintaining the browser neutrality, OS portability and safety that people expect from web applications.”

“If web developers could use all of this power,” Google muses, “just imagine the rich, dynamic experiences they could create.”

Some people think Native Client might be that Google webOS that Google groupies are forever talking about – or at least a piece of it. Others take it for a remake of Java or a JavaScript replacement or Google’s brand of ActiveX or a rival to Adobe’s Flash/AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight.

Here, in a nutshell, is the problem Google says it’s trying to solve:

“Imagine,” it says, “that you run a photo-sharing website and want to let your users touch up their photos without leaving your site. Today, you could provide this feature using a combination of JavaScript and server-side processing. This approach, however, would cause huge amounts of image data to be transferred between browser and the server, leading to an experience that would probably be painfully slow for users who just want to make a few simple changes. With the ability to seamlessly run native code on the user’s machine, you could instead perform the actual image processing on the desktop CPU, resulting in a much more responsive application by minimizing data transfer and latency.”

Anyway, the widgetry includes a runtime, a browser plug-in and a set of GCC-based compilation tools.

Google says these components make it possible to build applications that run in a browser but incorporate native code modules.

Said modules have to follow strict rules to protect users from malware and to maintain portability. For instance, they can’t contain “certain instruction sequences.”

Google says making it safe is a “considerable challenge. That’s why we are open sourcing it at an early stage: we believe that peer review, community feedback and public scrutiny greatly improve the quality of security technologies like this one.”

Google surely has other reasons but it’s left them unspoken.

Native Client currently supports the Firefox, Safari, Opera and Google Chrome browser – What? No IE? – on any modern Windows, Mac or Linux system that has an x86 processor.

Google says it’s working to support other CPU architectures like ARM and PPC for ubiquity.

See this.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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