Google’s Native Client software lets developers write web apps that act more like native desktop apps. For instance, Quake, DOOM, and DOSBox have all been ported to run in the Chrome web browser using Native Client (NaCL).

Now Google has released a tool called Portable Native Client (PNaCL) which takes things a step further by adding cross-platform support for Chrome running on devices with ARM-based chips or 32-it or 64-bit x86 processors.

NaCL Tetris

Right now if you want to run an app developed using PNaCL, you’ll need Chrome 29 or later, and you’ll have to enable the –enable-pnacl and/or –enable-nacl flags. But eventually Google is expected to let users run Native Client apps in future versions of Chrome using the default settings.

That’ll be true both for apps that you install from the Chrome Web Store and for web apps that aren’t distributed through Google’s store.

The upshot is that you’ll be able to run apps written in C and C++ in a web browser and they’ll be just about as fast as software you download and install on your PC. But Google sandboxes the code as it runs to help ensure you won’t accidentally load malware onto your computer when running one of these web apps.

Part of what makes PNaCL special is its support for a range of different processor architectures available today. What makes it even more special is that it’s also designed to work with future architectures, so developers can theoretically create apps today and not have to worry about rewriting them the next time a new processor technology hits the market.

via TechCrunch



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6 replies on “Google launches Portable Native Client for cross-platform web apps”

  1. The browser is the new desktop. I prefer Firefox to Chrome because of the add-ons, but this could tilt things in Google’s favor, in spite of the way they monitor and analyze everything you do. If they come up with a good way to manage local files and processes you could just boot to the browser and be on your way. Funny how Microsoft had the daylights sued out of them for trying to do this 15 years ago.

    1. I’ll stick to Firefox for exactly the reasons you mentioned. “Funny” is right.

      1. I try the other browsers from time to time, but without the add-ons, they come up short. I wish Firefox OS had been targeted as a cross-platform alternative to either Windows or ChromeOS by expanding their add-ons capability and putting the whole thing on Linux and/or a VM like Google did with Dalvik. I must be missing something, because Mozilla’s plans to compete against Android and Apple on phones makes even less sense to me than what Microsoft is doing. Maybe they should marry Yahoo so they’ll have a search engine and can sell ads the way google does.

    2. “You could just boot to your browser”

      Google presents to you: Chromebooks.

      You could try Chromium if you want Chrome without the monitoring.

  2. I feel like this is impossible for a little while. But its topical how we didn’t really see much in terms of mobile chrome moving forward at I/O. It really just kinda stayed where it was that

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