Google’s plan to run native x86 code inside browser windows

The browser’s role is ever increasing. It already has become far more than a mere tool for accessing information. Today we use it to communicate, to collaborate, and to interface with applications. And if Google has its way, we’ll soon be able to use it to chalk up a few righteous frags, too.

Last week, a team of Google engineers demonstrated a copy of Id Software’s classic first-person shooter Quake running within a browser window at a frame rate comparable to an OS-hosted copy of the game.

How did they do it? Simple. The Google Native Client is a new set of components that allows Web browsers to download and execute native x86 code. It’s not an emulator, and it’s not a virtual machine. The code runs on the actual processor with access to memory and system resources and negligible loss of performance. It even gives browser-based apps access to modern, accelerated CPU instruction sets, such as SSE.