Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tool: Native Client enabled in Chrome 14 beta channel release

Native speed with in the browser sandbox

Native Client enabled in Chrome 14 beta channel release

Google has issued a beta release of Chrome 14 that includes its Native Client (NaCl) framework. The feature was previously only available through a special browser flag, but will finally be enabled by default in the next major version of the Web browser.

Google first introduced NaCl as an experiment in 2008. It allows developers to compile C or C++ code into a platform-neutral binary that is executed by a browser-integrated runtime, which uses sophisticated sandboxing techniques to avoid the historical security pitfalls of Microsoft's much-reviled ActiveX. NaCl also provides a messaging mechanism so that functions in compiled NaCl binaries can be called from JavaScript.

NaCl makes it possible for Web applications to use high-performance native code instead of JavaScript for computationally-intensive operations. This will open the door for more sophisticated games and software to operate within the Web browser. NaCl is particularly significant for Google's Chrome OS platform, which relies solely on browser-based software.

The original implementation of NaCl suffered from some major technical problems that seemed difficult to overcome. In particular, the sandboxing mechanism relied on certain characteristics of the x86 architecture. That issue has since been addressed; it now has 64-bit support and experimental ARM compatibility.

Although NaCl has matured considerably, it hasn't seen much developer adoption due to the fact that it was only available through a special about:flags option in Chrome. Now that Google is flipping the switch and planning to roll it out to users in Chrome 14, we could start to see some adoption.

It's unlikely that NaCl will ever truly become mainstream, however. Google has opened the source code and is encouraging other browser vendors to support the technology, but none have expressed much interest. Mozilla doesn't intend to implement NaCl in Firefox for a variety of technical and philosophical reasons. Google could potentially ship it as a plugin for other browsers if they decide that they want it to reach a broader audience, but such a move would likely be viewed negatively by the Web standards community.

In addition to NaCl enablement, Chrome 14 will also bring support for the Web Audio API, which enables Web applications to process and synthesize audio. For more details about the release, you can refer to the

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