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Samsung releases prototype WebCL implementation for WebKit

OpenCL may be a great API for giving applications access to the GPU for non-graphical computing in order to leverage its raw power for achieving greater performance levels, but the prominence of web-based apps means that there is a need to grant web developers the same low-level access in order to ensure that browser-based apps do not deliver sub-par performance, even when running off powerful hardware. This is where WebCL comes in, and it seems that the new standard has just been given a major boost in the form of Samsung's contribution of a prototype implementation for the WebKit rendering engine.

We all know that OpenCL, along with NVIDIA's CUDA, are vital in bringing the benefits of general-purpose computing on GPUs (or GPGPU) to everyday applications in order to provide users with higher performance levels in their daily computing tasks. However, the growing importance of web-based applications means that there is a need to port OpenCL's GPGPU capabilties into a more web-friendly format in order to ensure that online apps can gain access to the same low-level hardware needed to deliver greater performance. And the good news is that users may not have to wait too long for GPGPU support to make its way down to web apps, for word has it that Samsung has released a prototype implementation of WebCL for use with the WebKit rendering engine.

According to a report published by Ars Technica, Samsung's prototype implementation was used to showcase how the technology "can be used to increase the frame rate of an animated N-body simulation on the Web". When put to the test against an identical simulation which made use of conventional JavaScript to achieve the same results, the JavaScript version was capable of achieving framerates of only up to 5-6 fps. This is in stark contrast to the same demo that was powered by Samsung's prototype WebCL implementation, which scored a maximum speed of up to 114 frames per second.

Samsung's prototype implemention of WebCL is reportedly only compatible with Apple's Safari web browser at this point of time, although Ars Technica has also claimed in that the Korean electronics giant has already open-sourced its WebCL implementation under the BSD license. Technically, this means that there is nothing to stop browser developers from checking out the source tree from Google Code (which is where the project is hosted) and collaborating to implement some form of rudimentary support in other WebKit-based browsers such as Google's Chrome.

In addition,  Nokia has also developed its own implementation of WebCL which is apparently designed for use with the Gecko Runtime Enviroment, as it is currently compatble only with the Firefox web browser. However, not all Firefox users will be able to take advantage of Nokia's implementation any time soon, as it only works with Firefox 4 and not the recently-released Firefox 5. This leaves Internet Explorer and Opera as the only browsers to lack any working implementations of WebCL, although we believe that this situation will change once more complete specifications of WebCL are made available by the Khronos Group.

Of course, neither Nokia's and Samsung's implementation will work if you do not have OpenCL-compatible hardware.And if you need a good reason to upgrade your machine with some OpenCL-compatible hardware, well, here is one: apparently, Nokia is claiming that WebCL can be used for BitCoin mining, and for as much as up to US$10 a day. Yep, we are not making this up.

Source: Conceivably Tech via Ars Technica

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