I live online. I store all my email, documents and pictures in the cloud. Except for work, the only application I regularly use on my computer is a web browser. It gives me access to everything I need. Nearly everything: Although those days when web browsers were only designed for light weight tasks are gone, some compute intensive applications, like photo editing, still force me to leave my browser environment and use a native application instead.
If applications were like road traffic, then web browsers used to be the country roads: Capable of handling some traffic at slow speeds but too underdeveloped to take a heavy load. This no longer is the case. Browser vendors have invested into their browser’s execution engines, increasing the speed limit on their country roads significantly. Still, native applications have a performance advantage.
This advantage is no longer just due to slower execution speeds. If you look at modern processors, they all come with some form of vector extensions that allow the processor to execute multiple operations at the same time. Keeping with the road analogy, native applications run on multi lane highways. Intel’s 2nd generation Core series just introduced AVX, which doubled the number of lanes compared to previous processor generations. Another performance boost available to native applications is the use of multiple roads: Most modern systems feature a multi-core processor.
Will River Trail be the end to native applications? Probably not. Will it lead to improved web applications and new kinds of usages for the web browser? Hopefully so! River Trail is available todayas an add-on to the Firefox web browser. You are invited to join us and refine it, make use of it, change the web. We have built a computing high-way for the web browser. Let’s make use of it.