Why web apps will need Google Native Client

Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 by Erlik

Recently The Register posted a very informative article on Google Native Client and I got the feeling from from representatives from Mozilla and Opera that "this was not a good idea because web apps written in Javascript are good enough and more portable"

I beg your pardon? You think that the current crop of Javascript based web apps is good enough? What they seem to forget is that for a lot of things Javascript based web apps and by Web app I mean apps that run in your browser) have failed miserably.

- Gaming is one of them: why do web games look like some 2D thing out of the 90' ? Why can't I play Battlefield 3 or Skyrim quality games from my browser if my computer has the 3D hardware to do so? The only thing that currently looks like a decent "console quality games on the web" is OnLive and that's because all the processing happens on the server (and it needs a plugin anyway)! Why are most 3D MMORPGs downloads rather than web apps?

- Video is only remotely good with the flash plug-in. Youtube exists for years now but the only way to get decent (meaning hardware accelerated) web video on desktop and mobiles is still flash with no useable standard in sight. and don't get me started with video editing in the browser. Try to code a, Xvid decoder in Javascript and see the performance you get, I bet it will barely be usable.

- Mobile web apps are also a failure. Initially the iPhone was supposed to support only web apps, no app store. Have you seen how well that turned out: developers are fighting to get into the app store and the Android marketplace!

The fact is that current web apps and Javascript are OK for apps that mostly display data or do some limited data manipulation such as email, word processing or spreadsheet, but as soon as you want something more consistent there is not much. Where my web base GIMP (with all its filters and plugins)? where's my web based Audacity? Where is my web based premiere? where's my web base PowerDVD?

If the aim is to replace local applications and games by "browser hosted" web apps, then web apps need to be able to do all the tasks that users are currently performing with their computers with roughly the same level of performance, and that includes high-end gaming and multimedia, and currently there is no way to do that with Javascript.

The representative from Mozilla says that there was a 10 fold increase of Javascript performance in the last few years. To me this means that a few years ago Javascript was 10 time slower than a native application, and as an user I find that is not acceptable. I will not pay for a 3 Ghz computer to have the same performance with webs apps than a 10 year old 300 Mhz computer could provide with native applications.

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