On our most recent episode of the Chrome Cast Podcast, we had a few minutes where we delved into the power of the modern web. With websites like what we see from The Masters, the growing capability of what can be done in a browser continues to be a fascinating development.
In that conversation, I jokingly asserted that more mature gaming wasn’t in the cards for browser-based games anytime soon, and as if the internet was listening and ready to rebuke that statement, a new blog post from the Chrome Developers Blog came out regarding WebGPU: a new web-based API that allows for far more local hardware GPU operations to happen right in the browser. To hear Google express the importance of it:
The updated WebGPU API will be available by default in Chrome 113 and will ship for ChromeOS devices that have Vulkan support, for Windows devices with Direct3D support, and for macOS. Linux and Android will be supported down the road, as well as Firefox and Safari. For now, to try this out, you’ll need to jump to the Beta Channel of Chrome 113 that just rolled out recently.
Why this will matter
Having access to more of the raw power of any device’s GPU is a big deal and will make for a far more powerful web moving forward. While I don’t see this expanding to the point of AAA games making their debut directly on a URL, I could see this finally getting browser games to the next level where things like we currently see on Android or iOS could eventually be run directly in a Chrome instance.
For Chromebooks, this is extremely exciting. No, it doesn’t mean that tomorrow we’ll have a bunch of new, sweet 3D games to mess with, but it does mean the application abilities in web browsers like Chrome are about to seriously improve. So many things that we do on our devices need GPU support, so allowing the web to tap into that bit more of that hardware on your Chromebook, laptop, or Macbook in a more-useful way should make for even more immersive experiences down the road.
See it in action
The Chrome team has actually compiled some trials if you want to give this a go and see what WebGPU is capable of. Babylon.js and Three.js both have some examples of WebGPU in action if you want to hit those links and take a peek. Again, this is all quite new and not something we’d expect to see developers leveraging right out of the gate. But in time, I can’t wait to see what comes of this development.
With the long-standing argument that Chromebooks are “just a browser,” the idea of that browser becoming ever more powerful makes me quite happy. As the web continues to evolve, we get closer and closer to the reality where a browser might just be all you need. We aren’t there yet, and Chromebooks are clearly far more capable than simply the Chrome web browser; but we still love seeing big moves on the open web. And this one is a big one.