Google Chrome is implementing support ton run native x86 code from within the browser. One could argue that this is the turning point for transforming and migrating the desktop to the web. The final nail in the Desktop’s coffin. Of course one has to take a pragmatic look at this and realise the potential for serious security issues, giving up the system almost directly to a remote internet application is somewhat of a Pandora’s box for exploits and holes to be poked.
And who among us here remembers the same visionaries and their grandiose talk using terms like ‘paradigm shifts’ in the dawn of the Web, back in the Netscape days when Java was heralded to be this online world browser desktop that would change the desktop forever. The vision was certainly clear, but with obstacles of the day such as slow connection speeds in a dial-up era, lack of browser standards support in any regard or form. We have come full circle to this thinking now as web technologies have vastly improved and standards have somewhat levelled out into uni-lateral support across modern browsers.
The first stride forwards towards providing a quasi-desktop web was AJAX and DHTML, to simulate at least some interactivity and responsiveness. Flash has been around for a while, and more recently efforts from Adobe and Microsoft in the guises of AIR and Silverlight respectively, but these still have the problem of standards with propriety software. All these so-called WEB 2.0 makes use of AJAX and it works quite nicely. Gmail and Google Docs have taken email and documents on to the cloud for me and off the desktop.
There is also Google Gears which allows offline access to web apps and associated data, another important bridge away from the Desktop and onto the Web, or at least within the browser, but Gears is secure with only limited access to the local system.
Of course the power inherently available in running native x86 code opens up a world of hitherto unimaginable ports of Desktop apps, such as media intensive tasks like image editing, video processing and audio editing, and not to mention a new realm of gaming possibilities. It may have taken a while for the visions of Marc Andreeson and Co to become reality, like the story of Alexander Graham Bell and Elijiah Grey on the coming to be of the telephone, the vision is not enough to be recorded in history for fame and accreditation unless delivered on promises timely. The real concern that remains is how well sandboxed this native x86 code be.