Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday Roundup - News from Across the Chrome and HTML5 Ecosystem

Google GDC Recap

"During GDC, several developers presented some new and upcoming games for the Chrome Web Store. From AirMech to the highly anticipated From Dust, these games provided a sneak peek to the future of browser-based games.

Besides being able to use the latest technology the web has to offer, creating a game for Chrome means you can distribute and monetize your game successfully. This is evidenced by our 4 brand new case studies with Kabam, Hlafbrick, Game Salad, and Limex Games."

V8 Benchmark Suite extended with physics simulation

"Today we are releasing version 7 of the V8 Benchmark Suite. This new version adds Oliver Hunt’s2D Navier-Stokes fluid dynamic simulation, which stresses intense double array computations. These complex double array computations are today common in games, graphic and scientific applications.

The new test shows the recent improvements V8 has made in handling advanced physics computations: the current Chrome 18 (today in beta) delivers a 5% score improvement compared to the current Chrome 17. Chrome 19 (today in canary), where the full set of improvements is being released, delivers a whopping 25% score improvement compared to Chrome 17."

Mozilla and Google aim to level up gaming on the Web

"Standards-based open Web technologies are increasingly capable of delivering interactive multimedia experiences; the kind that used to only be available through plugins or native applications. This trend is creating new opportunities for gaming on the Web.
Google has also been active in the effort to advance gaming on the Web. Google's Christian Stefansen recently wrote an entry about the topic at the official Chromium blog. Like Mozilla, Google is collaborating with standards bodies to advance new Web APIs. The company even created a special page on its official Google Developers website that describes how various Google services and technologies can be used to accelerate and monetize the development of Web-based games."

Adobe Shadow aims to ease mobile Web development headaches with simultaneous browsing

"Further showing its commitment to HTML5 as the way of the future, Adobe has released a preview of a Shadow, a tool to allow developers to remotely control and inspect Web pages in multiple phones and tablets simultaneously.
Shadow uses a Chrome plugin on the developer's Windows or Mac OS X machine and apps on iOS and Android phones and tablets. The portable devices are registered with the developer's machine, and subsequently can have their browsers remotely controlled by the computer. Every page visited on the desktop will appear in tandem on the phones and tablets."

Mozilla debates supporting H.264 video playback

"But the HTML5 video element has yet to live up to its full potential, because a dispute over video encoding has prevented the standard from being implemented consistently across all Web browsers. Mozilla, which has long resisted adoption of H.264 on ideological grounds, is now preparing to support it on mobile devices where the codec is supplied by the platform or implemented in hardware.

"'We will support decoding any video/audio format that is supported by existing decoders present on the system, including H.264 and MP3. There is really no justification to stop our users from using system decoders already on the device, so we will not filter any formats,' [Gal] wrote. 'I don't think this bug significantly changes our position on open video. We will continue to promote and support open codecs, but when and where existing codecs are already installed and licensed on devices we will make use of them in order to provide people with the best possible experience.'"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Roundup - News from Across the Chrome and HTML5 Ecosystem

Google launches new branding and redesigned site

"Our goal with the Google Developers site is to bring together all developer resources, programs, events, tools, and community into one place. Soon, all our information will be on this new Google Developers site, and Google Code will return to its roots as an open source project hosting service. As part of this project, today we’re introducing a new identity, complete with a new look, to unify all of our developer offerings. Our new logo says Google Developers, and that's intentional: it reflects our focus on you, not just the tools we provide."
Google Developers logo

Chrome Dev Tools get a CSS Color Picker

"Another 1,642 changes landed in the repositories last week, 958 for Chromium and 684 for WebKit. Highlights include a color picker for Web Inspector and early functionality for the calc() function. Brian Grinstead’s color picker is now enabled by default in WebKit nightlies, following some slight polishing. To aid the undo and redo system, an event has been added to monitor CSS modifications"

Apple Games Converge With Android’s by Using HTML 5 Code

"The goal of HTML 5, which is gradually making its way into all modern Internet browsers, including ones on mobile devices, is to make sites look and feel just like applications downloaded directly to a phone or desktop. Until recently, that was more of a promise than a reality. That’s changing in part because of the steamroller effect of Apple’s iPad and iPhone, which don’t run Flash content."

Getting Started with the HTML5 Track Element

"The track element provides a simple, standardized way to add subtitles, captions, screen reader descriptions and chapters to video and audio. Tracks can also be used for other kinds of timed metadata. The source data for each track element is a text file made up of a list of timed cues, and cues can include data in formats such as JSON or CSV. This is extremely powerful, enabling deep linking and media navigation via text search, for example, or DOM manipulation and other behaviour synchronised with media playback."

Why HTML5 makes justifying native applications more difficult

"One of the biggest shifts in development in the last few years has been the move to Web applications. For a long time, developers resisted this move, and some of the reasons why were good. For example, I said that for a long time the Web model wasn't so great--the UI capabilities weren't there without a ton of work, and the ability to do "real work" was lacking. Some of the reasons were not so good, and mostly boiled down to a refusal to learn something new. I have recently become very bullish on Web applications, and I now highly recommend that you consider them over desktop applications in all but a very few sets of circumstances."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Roundup - News from Across the Chrome and HTML5 Ecosystem

Dartium - Tech Preview of Chrome with Integrated Dart
" we’re making Mac and Linux binaries available that integrate the Dart VM into Chromium
This technology preview allows you to run your Dart programs directly on the Dart VM in Chromium and avoid a separate compilation step. Over time, these programs will take advantage of the VM’s faster performance and lower startup latency."
Chrome Web Store Categories Updated
"The new structure of the store will improve discoverability for apps. For example, users searching for a photo album app can now easily drill down to the “Photos” subcategory level and track down the app they are looking for. At the same time, apps assigned to a subcategory show up in the category page as well giving them wider exposure; an app in "Photos" will appear on both the "Photos" page and the "Entertainment" page."
HTML5Rocks Updated with New Look, Web App Field Guide
"Yesterday, the Chrome Developer Relations team launched several new resources, including the Field Guide to Web Applications. It’s a new resource that is designed to help web developers create great web apps. We’ve heard loud and clear from users that they want more and better web apps, and we hope this new field guide will enable you to create those web apps."
Google Chrome will see greater expansion on mobile devices
"There are roughly 200 million Chrome users worldwide, and while Chrome is primarily a desktop experience as part of Google's dual strategy (Chrome and Android), it's starting to make its way on to mobile devices.Last week, Google released a beta version of Chrome for Android for mobile devices running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)."
Chrome Could Exceed 50% Market Share by End of 2012
"In December 2011, Chrome 15 became the most popular browser in the world, beating Internet Explorer 8, but if you combine all IE versions, Microsoft still holds the number 1 spot....If our prediction comes true, Chrome will by May 2012 be neck and neck with IE, and by June, it will have taken the lead. Note that this would be right on track with our prediction from last year."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Google, Three Months In

February 14th, Valentine's Day, marked the three month point for me here at Google. I thought I would take a moment to share my observations and experiences now that I've been here a little while on what it's like to work here and what it is we're doing.

I joined Google to work on Chrome – the browser, the Chrome Web Store, the Chrome platform, ChromeOS / Chromebooks, etc. One of Google's core missions is to move the web forward, and Chrome is a very important part of that mission. Over the last three months, I've talked to dozens of partners about building and monetizing their Web applications for the Chrome Web Store, built a couple of apps and extensions myself (more on that in future posts), worked with exciting new HTML5 features that change the very nature of what you can do with a browser, and helped continue to plan and build out new ways of delivering rich experiences using Web technologies.

Here are some of the things I've noticed and learned along the way here at Google so far:

1. Chrome has become much more than a browser

Chrome has really come a very long way since I first started using it a few years ago. Not only has it become the world's second most used browser, but it's really redefined how I do my work at a fundamental level. During a typical work day, I rarely find myself having to go outside of Chrome to get my work done. I create, edit, and share documents and spreadsheets with co-workers, organize my daily to-do lists, conduct and manage research, videoconference and chat with colleagues and partners, listen and respond to voicemail, and much more – all from within Chrome. I don't even have a desk phone here at Google. Seriously. I just don't need one.

What has made all this possible is that Chrome, in all its forms – along with the Web itself – has become an extremely powerful platform. The underlying technologies like HTML5, the V8 engine, Native Client (NaCl), etc. have enabled apps that just a few years ago (heck, even a few months ago) weren't possible. You even write Chrome extensions and applications using the same HTML5 and JavaScript that you would use to create a site, and they just work across OSes. All you need to do is visit the Chrome Web Store to see what the result has been – there's been a veritable explosion of creativity in the kinds of things you can now use a browser for.

2. The short ship cycle has become a very virtuous one

I have to admit that a few years ago I was initially skeptical of the whole 6-week release cycle and auto-update policy that Chrome follows, but seeing it in action has erased all of my doubts.

The short development cycle enables new technologies to be introduced and integrated in a way that is predictable and usable for developers, starting with the Canary build, then the dev channel, then into the stable build. Developers can try these features out, get them integrated into their apps, and get those new features into the hands of users faster than ever before, thanks to the auto-update.

These apps can then use real-time analytics and performance measuring feedback to help developers fine-tune their code and find and fix errors faster than ever before, as well as deliver new features with a higher precision of knowledge of how they'll actually be used. This results in far more stable, consistent, and feature-rich applications for customers, and the cycle then repeats.

When I first started working as a software engineer 20 years ago (wow!) on shrink-wrapped packaged software, products and update patches were delivered on floppies directly to end users, who (hopefully) manually installed them. Some did, some didn't, so you never had a good idea how consistent your product codebase was out in the wild. It was also a huge bottleneck on getting updates out to customers – since shipping floppies (and later CDs) was expensive, you needed to gather as many updates as you could into a batch before sending them out to minimize costs.

Short ship cycles, along with auto-update and distribution over the Web, have largely eliminated these kinds of bottlenecks. The amount of time lapse between the introduction of new features into Chrome and when they get into users' hands has been greatly compressed.

3. Web developers are true developers in every sense of the word

I was one of the original Dreamweaver developers at Macromedia back in the 90s, and back in the early days of the Web I began to notice that the term “developers” got applied to people who used “real” languages like C, C++ and Java. Coders that used other languages, like JavaScript and VBScript were derisively referred to as “script kiddies” - in other words, people who made cute little animations  like image rollovers and did form validation logic, but not much else.

Fast forward to today, and I don't hear that term used much anymore. There are many reasons for this, but some of the big ones in my estimation are:

  1. The sheer scale of what is now possible in a modern Web application requires a lot of traditional engineering discipline knowledge and computer science theory,
  2. JavaScript itself has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and even though there are still some shortcomings, it has evolved into a very powerful language,
  3. Scripting languages have been embraced by industry titans like Google who have created some pretty impressive apps.
As a result, JavaScript developers are demanding many of the same tools and platform capabilities that more traditional developers have had for many years now. Chrome strives to provide these developers with the tools and platform they need to build the next and future generations of Web apps.

The last three months here at Google have been absolutely exhilarating – it's great to see the excitement around Chrome, Web apps, and the Web store. In the short time I've ben here so far, I've been amazed at the level of effort the Chrome team puts out to create a world-class browser and platform. I feel honored and privileged to be part of such a great team, and I'm really looking forward to helping Chrome move the web forward and redefining what's possible with Web applications.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Year, New Job, New Blog

Now that we've passed both the Western and Chinese Lunar New Years, I thought it would be a good idea to establish a new place for me to talk about the things I'm doing here at Google. I hope you find the information I talk about here useful, and please feel free to send me feedback and ideas for further discussion. Welcome!