Google has released version 9 stable of its Chrome browser, and new features include support for WebGL. This represents another step forward for the multimedia potential in HTML5, the emerging web standard that has been touted as an open-source competitive technology to Adobe's Flash.
WebGL works with the Canvas element in HTML5. With the appropriate hardware acceleration, Google engineers Erik Kay and Aaron Boodman posted on the company's Chrome blog, a user "can experience rich 3-D experiences right inside the browser with no need for additional software."
'No Enter Key'
WebGL, according to the nonprofit Kronis Group that manages the technology, is a "cross-platform, royalty-free" web standard for a low-level 3-D graphics API, based on OpenGL ES 2.0.
To illustrate the potential, Google has posted a page of WebGL experiments, including 3D animation of the company's Body Browser. Also included are a Music Visualizer, an animated Aquarium, animations of Julia Sets, and other examples. Firefox 4 beta and Safari also support WebGL.
The new Chrome, available for Windows, Mac and Linux, also includes Chrome Instant, in which frequently visited web pages begin loading as soon as the user starts to type the URL. Or, as developers call it, "'Look, Mom -- no enter key!'"
The browser also includes a link to the new Chrome Web Store on the new tab page, accompanied by two sample applications. If not used, the sample apps eventually disappear.
Step by step, Chrome is becoming a bigger player in the world of browsers. Last month, it topped a 10 percent share of global browser usage for the first time, hitting 10.7 percent. This represents a .72 percent increase over its global share in December.
While 's Internet Explorer, versions 8 and 9 beta, still has a commanding lead at 56 percent, Chrome has become a player. It's now in third place, behind the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox at 22.75 percent. Apple's Safari is fourth at 6.3 percent, and Opera and others are at about two percent or less.
IE dropped a point in January from December, but the slide was largely due to a decreasing share for IE versions 6 and 7. Chrome, Safari and Opera all rose slightly during that period.
One built-in advantage for Chrome is that the browser auto-updates itself, meaning it's likely that Chrome users continue being Chrome users. IE versions before 9 require a separate download -- at which point a user could decide to download another browser instead.
Google is also touting Chrome's security. As part of an annual hacking contest at the upcoming CanSecWest Applied Security conference taking place this March in Vancouver, the company will offer a special reward of $20,000, plus a Google Chrome Cr-48 notebook, for any who can conduct a successful break-in within half an hour.
A "sandbox escape," which will combine the Chrome flaw with another one to affect the computer's operating system, must be demonstrated to win.