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Google Chrome Makes The Web A Contender

The Web isn't just for lightweight applications anymore, developers of games and other processor-intensive programs are starting to consider it as a viable alternative platform.

Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain
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Slideshow: Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain
Until recently, the Web was a second-class platform when it came to computationally demanding applications. At the Google I/O developer conference this week, it became apparent that's no longer the case.

While Web applications haven't quite achieved parity with native desktop and mobile applications, they're close enough for developers of games and other processor-intensive programs to look at the Web as a viable alternative platform.

Google VP of Chrome Sundar Pichai said during Wednesday's keynote presentation that a Web game written today to take advantage of the GPU acceleration support that has been added to Google's Chrome browser will run about 100 times faster than it would have had it been written six months ago using the Canvas API.

Proof that Web technology has progressed to this point came from game publisher Rovio Mobile, which announced the availability of its enormously popular Angry Birds game in Google's Chrome Web Store.

"We are bringing Angry Birds to the biggest platform out there, the Web," declared Peter Vesterbacka, CEO of Rovio Mobile.

Angry Birds is far from the most processor-intensive game on the market, but its presence in the Chrome Web Store represents a vote of confidence and is likely to encourage commercial developers to consider Web apps for projects previously deemed too taxing for browsers.

Ian Ellison-Taylor, director of Google's Web platform development, offered encouragement along these lines in his review of Chrome's performance metrics. "The progress on JavaScript has been truly phenomenal," he said. "It has fundamentally changed the kinds of applications you can create on the Web."

As an example, Ellison-Taylor demonstrated, a Web-based computer-aided design (CAD) app. Until recently, CAD apps haven't been possible in the browser; Web technology just wasn't fast enough. Now, with WebGL and hardware acceleration, that's no longer the case. This is true not only for Chrome, but also for other browsers.

In addition to improving Chrome's graphics performance, Google has improved the financial performance opportunities for Web developers: Vikas Gupta, product manager for Google's payments team, said that Google is now asking for only a 5% cut of revenue from Web apps sold through the Chrome Web Store. That's 25 percentage points less than what developers pay Apple when they make a sale in the iTunes App Store.

Web app development never looked more promising.

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