Trying to define Google as a company isn’t easy, but if there is one theme that every project seems to share, it’s the drive to make the web every bit as rich and fast an experience as what can be found offline. Web App’s are starting to catch on in a very meaningful way, but browser technology is still far too immature to take advantage of all the powerful hardware found in modern machines.
The ideal solution would be to allow code to execute natively within the browser, but as Microsoft learned with ActiveX, this is far easier said than done. On Friday however, Google announced it is beginning to roll out its “Native Client” with Chrome 10, and they think they’ve found a secure way to deliver the type of performance that could power everything from 3D gaming to rich media.
The first crop of Chrome OS-based netbooks is expected to arrive this month, though there has been no official confirmation. However, a little known France-based cloud OS startup named Jolicloud could very well steal a march on Google with a netbook running its eponymous cloud-centric operating system.
The company has confirmed that the first Jolicloud-powered computer is on course for a November, 2010 debut. Called Jolibook, the netbook features a dual core Atom N550 processor and 250GB hard drive storage, and comes preloaded with “Chromium, Facebook, Spotify, VLC, Skype, and a bunch of cool apps that are one click away.” With the launch just round the corner, Jolicloud won’t be able to hide the remaining details for too long. We will keep you posted.
What’s next for Google now that it has begun delivering search results “faster than the speed of type.” The obsession with speed continues even as the spotlight moves from web search to Chrome. While the browser world has always been obsessed with speed, improvements are often imperceptible.
However, as exciting as the feature sounds, it will come accompanied by a number of challenges. For instance, it could deceive analytics tools into exaggerating page views. It would be interesting to see how exactly Google circumvents these challenges.
Google's Chrome Frame plug-in for Internet Explorer (6,7 and 8) has stepped out of beta after having undergone months of fine-tuning, the company announced Friday. Primarily meant to provide additional features, speed and stability on legacy browsers, the plug-in literally turns Internet Explorer into Google Chrome. It entered beta in June with the development team focusing its efforts on improving speed and stability.
“A stable release is just the beginning for Google Chrome Frame. We’ve set aggressive goals for future releases: we’re working on making start-up speed even faster and removing the current requirement for administrator rights to install the plug-in. Expect more improvements and features in the near future, as we plan to release on the same schedule as Google Chrome,” the company said in a blog post.
However, Microsoft is not looking forward to future Chrome Frame releases, as it believes the plug-in “has doubled the attach area for malware and malicious scripts.”
With Microsoft releasing the first Internet Explorer (IE) 9 beta yesterday, the spotlight is squarely on Internet Explorer. Hardware acceleration is among the several advancements that IE 9 boasts over its predecessors. It is something that Google's Chrome does not currently have. Thankfully for Chrome users, they will not have to wait too long for hardware-accelerated graphics to show up in their favorite browser.
The latest Chromium “trunk” and Chrome “canary” builds already feature some of the relevant enhancements. Hardware acceleration will be part of the next major release of the browser, Chrome 7, which is just round the corner.
“2D canvas acceleration is now available in trunk and the canary build by using the --enable-accelerated-2d-canvas command-line switch (coming to the developer channel shortly).We’ve also been hard at work improving our 3D graphics stack,” Google said in a recent blog post.
According to James Robinson, a software engineer at Google, “Chromium already achieves some impressive gains on the recent IE9 Platform Preview Test Drive 2D canvas demo,” with initial results suggesting up to 60x speed improvement over previous Chrome versions.
In a blog post on Friday, Google confirmed that it's hard at work implementing GPU acceleration into its Chrome browser, citing new APIs and markup like WebGL and 3D CSS transforms as "a major motivation for this work."
"At its core, this graphics work relies on a new process (yes, another one) called the GPU process," Google explains. "The GPU process accepts graphics commands from the renderer process and pushes them to OpenGL or Direct3D (via ANGLE). Normally, renderer processes wouldn't be able to access these APIs, so the GPU process runs in a modified sandbox. Creating a specialized process like this allows Chromium's sandbox to continue to contain as much as possible: the renderer process is still unable to access the system's graphics APIs, and the GPU process contains less logic."
Most of the common layer contents, like text and images, are still rendered on the CPU before being handed off to the compositor for the final display. But for pixel heavy content, like video layers, the GPU kicks in and performs operations like color conversion and shader scaling. And for layers containing WebGL elements, they can be fully rendered in the GPU, Google says.
For more details than you can shake a videocard at, see this separate design document. And if you want to play around with GPU acceleration now, it's available in the latest Dev and Canary builds of Chrome (Canary builds can be installed without overwriting your regular Chrome build), though you'll need to manually turn it on. To do so, right click the browser shortcut and tack on the following command in the Target field: –enable-accelerated-compositing
The Google Chrome Web Store is now open to developers. The developer preview means that developers have a fair amount of time to acquaint themselves with important aspects of the web store ahead of its public launch later this year. They can begin uploading apps through the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery and experience what selling web apps through the online store will feel like once it is live.
“Developers can now start uploading apps and experiment with packaging them, installing them in Chrome (using the latest Chrome dev channel) and integrating our payments and user authentication infrastructure,” Google said in a blog post. The web apps uploaded to the gallery during the developer preview will remain invisible to the general public.
Fresh on the heels of Mozilla’s decision to raise the bounty payment under its Security Bug Bounty Program, Google has announced a similar hike. The maximum reward under the six-month-old Chromium Security Program has been raised to $3,133.7, which is almost $2000 more than the previous payment cap. However, the base payment “for less serious bugs” is same as before — $500 per bug.
“The maximum reward for a single bug has been increased to $3,133.7. We will most likely use this amount for SecSeverity-Critical bugs in Chromium. The increased reward reflects the fact that the sandbox makes it harder to find bugs of this severity," Chris Evans, a Google security researcher, wrote in a blog post.
The initial buzz surrounding Chrome OS became a bit watered down the moment Google bared its cloud- and Linux-based operating system to peering eyes at a special event last November. Skeptics have been wondering whether the world is prepared for a cloud-based operating system. Leave aside the question of humanity's preparedness, doubts have also been cast on the product itself, with some doubters even writing it off as being little more than a glorified web browser.
But PC vendors can not ignore Chrome no matter what the skeptics have to say, for a bad bet might be better than no bet at all. According to a Reuters report, quoting a top Dell executive, the PC vendor is not going to be a mere spectator when Chrome OS debuts in the “late fall.” Amit Midha, Dell's president for Greater China and South Asia, has revealed that his company is currently discussing shipping Chrome OS netbooks with Google. Midha told Reuters that Dell wants to be at the vanguard of innovation.
Up until now, Google has relied on the traditional browser plug-in model for PDF support in Chrome, but there are some downsides to going this route. Most notably, this path opens users up to compatibility, performance, and security problems, Google says, so the search titan has decided to take a different approach.
"To overcome [these problems], we've been working with the Web community to help define a next generation browser plug-in API," Google said in a recent blog post. "We have begun using this API to improve the experience of viewing and interacting with PDF files in Google Chrome. This mirrors our efforts to optimize the Adobe Flash Player experience in Chrome.
"Today, we are making available an integrated PDF viewing experience in the Chrome developer channel for Windows and Mac, which can be enabled by visiting chrome://plugins."
Google said that Linux support is on the way. In the meantime, users who enable PDF integration will see PDF files rendered seamlessly as HTML pages, the search giant said. Basic interactions will be the same as for Web pages, like zooming and searching, and PDF functionality will be contained withing the security sandbox Chrome uses to render regular HTML pages.