Google's Native Client: The Web App Effort Seems to Have Nine Lives

by Sam Dean - Sep. 12, 2011Comments (0)

Is Google's Native Client initiative headed anywhere? According to the company, Native Client is "an open source technology that allows you to build web applications that seamlessly execute native compiled code inside the browser." We began covering it all the way back in 2008 when it arose out of Google's Native Code efforts. Google has steadily forged ahead with Native Client, and now there are Google officials seeking to give it more momentum, positioning it as a way of democratizing development and programming. In the end, though, Native Client may be another sign that Google is too early to try to convince users that they should do everything in their browsers, eschewing local applications.

There are several advantages to running applications natively. For example, web-based applications rely heavily on JavaScript, and often technologies such as Flash, which are known to provide performance bottlenecks compared to the speed you can get when running applications natively. In this 2009 post from Google engineers, there were references to making Native Client a central part of the Chrome browser and how web applications are built.

Now, The Register has a good exploration of where Native Client may be headed.  Cade Metz writes:

"Native Client is due to make its official debut inside Google's Chrome browser this fall – it's already in the Chrome beta...As it stands today, Native Client is a software "sandbox" meant to securely run native code inside a browser."  

Google has made allusions in the past to pairing its Native Client efforts with various types of hardware acceleration technologies, where the two might speed up and democratize development of web applications. However, the players behind Flash and other online applications that are very entrenched may not share the same ecumenical views that Google purports to have when it comes to democratizing web applications and development. Makers of applications designed to be run locally may not favor Native Client either.

One thing's for sure: It will be interesting to watch Google push ahead with this unusual effort to advance the art of running applications efficiently, from within browsers.

Shailesh Patel uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


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