Google designed its Chrome browser to blur the line between online and desktop software. Now, the day after it released the latest beta version of the browser, the company has also launched a project designed to demonstrate Chrome’s future potential. Called Chrome Experiments, the project showcases applications that demand strenuous data processing through multiple Web pages at once. Many of the demos would cause other browsers to crash, say the developers behind the experiments.
However, while some developers say that the techniques demonstrated through the project highlight new opportunities for building complex Web software, others worry that it may prove difficult to standardize the required features. They say that browser security remains a much higher priority.
One of the Chrome “experiments” is Twitch, designed by Casey Reas, a Los Angeles designer who is also an associate professor of design and media arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. Twitch provides a user with a tiny browser window containing a ball that has to be maneuvered from one side of the page to a target at the other. Once the target is reached, a new window appears, and the ball appears there along with a new set of obstacles.
Twitch takes advantage of Chrome’s ability to launch each window or tab as a separate process on a computer–a feature that lets multiple windows run as if they were separate applications. Without that feature, Reas says, Twitch starts to slow down as the user progresses through the game. As more windows open, each minigame would compete for power from the computer’s processor, and the game would chug to a halt.
Programmer and artist Josh Nimoy created another experiment, called BallDroppings. A user is presented with a single white ball dropping through a black screen, and he or she can draw lines to keep the ball from falling. When the ball bounces against each line, it chimes a note; as more balls drop, the user can keep adding lines, eventually creating a crowded scene for both eye and ear.
Nimoy’s BallDroppings game also uses a new feature that is a part of the draft of HTML 5–a proposed upgrade that should make browsers work better with Web applications. Nimoy says that his game uses the “canvas” tag to speed up the rate at which graphics can be drawn. He adds that when he tested the program on a variety of browsers, it was faster and smoother in Chrome than in any other. The canvas tag, he says, brings the browser a few steps closer to the capabilities of desktop applications.