When the demo apps launch, they're not that exciting. The code runs like it's supposed to, but the demos are short on visual frills, and the routines they execute are trivial. A while back, Google made a lot of hay about a version of the 3D arcade game Quake running in the browser, but that demo no longer seems to work with the latest Chrome/NaCl builds. What we're left with are a bunch of simple exercises that remind me of nothing so much as -- dare I say it? -- Java applets, as they debuted in the late 1990s.
Is Native Client really necessary?
So what is NaCl good for? And why do we need it to build ugly Web apps when we've had Java applets for years?
Java handles that sort of thing reasonably well, but Java is a heavyweight environment for running the small snippets of client-side code Google envisions, where most of the application still lives in the cloud. Users must also have Java installed before they can run Java applets, unlike native code. And Java, of course, depends on Oracle, whose commitment to client-side Java is unclear.
Mind you, we're still a long way from delivering Photoshop in a browser window. As it exists today, NaCl is still very rough around the edges, and the available audience for apps that use NaCl modules is pretty much nobody. Still, NaCl remains a fascinating technology -- one that's well worth watching if you're interested in future directions for the Web.
This article, "Inside Google Native Client for x86 binaries," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the latest developments in programming at InfoWorld.com, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.