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Chrome Beta Includes C/C++ Engine: The Impending Transformation Of Web Digital Asset Management Systems?

by Naresh Sarwan on October 12, 2011

This Google blog article discusses the inclusion in their Chrome browser of a C/C++ engine using the same ‘sandbox’ security techniques as JavaScript.  The feature is called “NativeClient” and uses Google’s ‘Pepper’ API to allow interaction between the C/C++ and HTML5:

First, we’re pleased to announce the integration of Native Client into Chrome. Native Client allows C and C++ code to be seamlessly executed inside the browser with security restrictions similar to JavaScript. Native Client apps use Pepper, a set of interfaces that provide C and C++ bindings to the capabilities of HTML5. As a result, developers can now leverage their native code libraries and expertise to deliver portable, high performance web apps.” [Read More]

This is more for our technically oriented readers, but including a C/C++ engine into a browser opens a wide spectrum of possibilities in terms of desktop developers migrating to the web and the implications for how DAM systems get developed in the future.  Many (probably most) DAM systems use web interfaces, but even with AJAX, Flash etc. the experience is typically somewhat clunky and not as responsive as a desktop app.  The systems in use now are a trade-off between simplified deployment vs poorer UX.   This explains why many intensive DAM users prefer to rely on desktop tools like Lightroom to do their bulk cataloguing work before exporting assets to the web DAM that many of their colleagues use.

HTML5 provides a vastly improved user experience within the browser environment but it still depends on JavaScript which many ‘serious’ developers (as most C/C++ people would refer to themselves as) have a problem with.  In many ways JavaScript has survived by being standards based and having not much competition rather than because it is a good development language.  Being able to leverage existing C/C++ knowledge (and library code)  however, is more likely to hasten the ongoing transition of desktop development expertise towards the web and lower the demand for separate desktop applications.

The main flies in the ointment for NativeClient are the lack of HTML5 standards (although Google have more clout than most in that area) and potential security restrictions from corporate users that frustrate deployment.  The last point could be more difficult for Google to do anything about as Chrome still has a minority share of the corporate browser market.  If Microsoft follow the same path as Google, however, we may finally see the end of the specialist desktop DAM or cataloguing app and the transformation of ‘Web DAM systems’ into just ‘DAM systems’.

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