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Google Chrome OS goes native (code)

We hate plug-ins. Except our own

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As it calls for standards like JavaScript and HTML5, Google derides plug-ins like Flash or Java. And yet, at the same time, Google is pushing a plug-in of its own. "Google are actively participating in the standardization of JavaScript and HTML5 and other on-going efforts - and one of the ultimate goals there is to get rid of plug-ins," says Lars Erik Bolstad, vp of Core Technology at Opera.

"I don't see really what [Native Client] brings. I think it goes against what we're aiming for - which is to offer the web browser as the application platform."

Like Google, Opera is working to juice JavaScript performance. With the next preview release of Opera 10.5, it will add support for native video codecs, mirroring what Mozilla has done with Firefox. And it's moving ahead with WebGL, a standard means of doing 3D in the browser.

This, Bolstad says, is the best way to battle the performance of local applications. "The thing that the web browser has going for it is that it's portable," he continues. "You can write cross-platform web applications and expect to get near-native execution speeds. Maybe not today but it's not far away."

The Native Client plug-in is available for other browsers, including Opera and Firefox. But it's still a plug-in. And it's not the only one. Google has also released its own 3D browser plug-in, O3D.

"The web’s main attractions are platform independence and instant deployment. Yet the industry’s obsession with moving every desktop application online is provoking plugin development which negates the advantages," writes Craig Buckler, director of OptimalWorks, a UK-based website-building consultant.

NaCl

NaCl

"Relying on a plugin violates platform independence. Creating a Go-based client-side application will almost certainly tie you to Google Chrome since NaCl will never be available for all OS and browser combinations. Many web applications still rely on IE because ActiveX was used - even though Chrome and Firefox have ActiveX implementations."

Google is likely pushing Native Client and O3D in an effort to speed up the standards process - or simply out race it. But for webbies like Buckler, this is no excuse. "Personally, I’d prefer vendors to concentrate on the basics and improve HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Standards do evolve too slowly, but that’s no reason to reinvent the technologies. Web applications should exploit the power of the medium rather than forcing desktop models into the browser," he tells The Reg.

Then, of course, there's the security issue.

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Next page: The new Active X?

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