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Original author: 
Peter Bright

Mozilla today announced a collaboration with Samsung to produce a new browser engine designed to take full advantage of processors with multiple cores.

For the last couple of years, Mozilla Research has been developing a new programming language, Rust, that's designed to provide the same performance and power as C++, but without the same risk of bugs and security flaws, and with built-in mechanisms for exploiting multicore processors.

Using Rust, the company has been working on a prototype browser engine, named Servo.

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Original author: 
Peter Bright

Mozilla wants the Web to be a platform that's fit for any purpose. That's why the company is investing in Firefox OS—to fight back against the proliferation of platform-specific smartphone apps—and it's why the company has been working on WebGL, in order to bring 3D graphics to the browser, Emscripten, a tool for compiling C++ applications into JavaScript, and asm.js, a high performance subset of JavaScript.

The organization doesn't just want simple games and apps in the browser, however. It wants the browser to be capable of delivering high-end gaming experiences. At GDC today, the company announced that it has been working with Epic Games to port the Unreal 3 engine to the Web.

The Unreal 3 engine inside a browser.

With this, Mozilla believes that the Web can rival native performance, making it a viable platform not just for casual games, but AAA titles.

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It starts as just another toy to play around with in a few minutes of distraction in your Web browser – as if the Web were short on distraction. But then, something amazing can happen. Like a musical Turing Test, you start to get a feeling for what’s happening on the other side. Someone’s stream of colored dots starts to jam with your stream of colored dots. You get a little rhythm, a little interplay going. And instead of being a barrier, the fact that you’re looking at simple animations and made-up names and playing a pretty little tune with complete strangers starts to feel oddly special. The absence of normal interpersonal cues makes you focus on communicating with someone, completely anonymously, using music alone.

Dinah Moe’s “Plink” is the latest glimpse of what Web browser music might be, and why it might be different than (and a compliment to) other music creation technology. You can now create private rooms to blow off steam with a faraway friend, or find new players online. It’s all powered with the Web Audio API, the browser-native, JavaScript-based tools championed by Mozilla. That means you’ll need a recent Chrome or Firefox (Chrome only at the moment; this is a Chrome Experiment), and mobile browsers won’t be able to keep up. But still, give it a try – I think you may be pleasantly surprised. (Actually, do it right now, as you’ll probably be doing it with other CDM readers. I expect greater things!)

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/plink/

Thanks to Robin Hunicke, who worked with multiplayer design and play at That Game Company’s Journey on PS3 and now on the browser MMO Glitch. I think her friends were more musical than most, because the place came alive after she linked from Facebook.

The browser is becoming a laboratory, a place to quickly try out ideas for music interaction, and for the code and structure that describe music in a language all their own. As in Plink, it can also benefit from being defined by the network and collaboration.

Dinah Moe’s experiments go in other directions, as well. In Tonecraft, inspired by the 3D construction metaphor of Minecraft, three-dimensional blocks become an alternative sequencer.

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/ToneCraft/

There are many reasons not to use Web tools. The Web Audio API still isn’t universal, and native options (like Google’s Native Client) have their own compatibility issues, stability concerns, and – because of security – they don’t do all the things a desktop application will. Desktop music tools are still more numerous, more powerful, and easier to use, so if you’re a reader out there finishing a thesis project, you might look elsewhere. (Actually, you’re probably in trouble, anyway, by any nation’s academic calendar, given it’s the First of May, but I digress.)

But think instead of this as another canvas, and the essential building blocks of interface design, code, and networking as shared across browsers and desktop apps. Somehow, in the light of the Internet, its new connectedness, and its new, more lightweight, more portable code and design options, software is changing. That transformation could happen everywhere.

If you need something to help you meditate on that and wait for a revelation to occur to you, I highly recommend watching a soothing stream of dots and some pleasing music as you jam with your mouse.

Of course, in the end, like a digital mirror, it might inspire you to go out to the park with a couple of glockenspiels and jam the old-fashioned way. But maybe that’s another reason to make software.

(Here’s a video, in case you’re not near a browser that supports the app!)

More, plus reflections on adaptive music:
http://labs.dinahmoe.com/

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Mozilla has teamed up with Web design studio Little Workshop to develop a Web-based multiplayer adventure game called BrowserQuest. The game is built with standards-based Web technologies and is designed to be played within a Web browser.

With the technical capabilities offered by the latest standards, Web developers no longer have to rely on plugins to create interactive multimedia experiences and application-like user interfaces. As we reported earlier this month, modern standards are making the Web an increasingly viable platform for game development.

BrowserQuest, which is built with JavaScript and HTML5, is a compelling demonstration of how existing standards can be used to create browser games. It uses the HTML5 Canvas element to render a tile-based 2D world, HTML5 audio APIs to support sound effects, WebSockets to facilitate communication with the backend server, and localStorage to save the player's progress.

The game's remote backend, which enables the real-time multiplayer gameplay, was coded in JavaScript and runs on top of Node.js. The load is balanced across multiple Node.js instances on three separate severs. At the time this story was written, the backend was successfully handling over 1,900 simultaneous players. The status of the BrowserQuest backend can be monitored through the game's real-time dashboard interface.

The developers focused on using widely-supported standards so that the game would work well across a wide range of desktop and mobile browsers. It works just as well on a tablet device, for example, as it does on a desktop computer.

The future looks even brighter, as there are a number of pending Web standards that will greatly enhance support for building games on the Web in the future. Features like 3D graphics and support for game controller peripherals, for example, could eventually take the browser beyond the realm of casual gaming. You can refer to Mozilla's wiki to see an overview of the work that the organization is doing to improve browser-based gaming. For more details about BrowserQuest, see the Mozilla Hacks blog or check out the backend server code on GitHub.

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Standards-based open Web technologies are increasingly capable of delivering interactive multimedia experiences; the kind that used to only be available through plugins or native applications. This trend is creating new opportunities for gaming on the Web.

New standards are making it possible for Web applications to implement 3D graphics, handle input from gamepad peripherals, capture and process audio and video in real-time, display graphical elements in a fullscreen window, and use threading for parallelization. Support for mobile gaming has also gotten a boost from features like device orientation APIs and improved support for handling touchscreen interaction.

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revealingheart writes "Mozilla has announced the release of the Mozilla Public License 2.0. The new version provides for compatibility with the Apache and GPL licenses, improved patent protections and recent changes in copyright law. The full license text is available online. Mozilla has updated their wiki with plans to upgrade their codebase; Bugzilla has also said that they will update (with an exemption to keep the project MPL only). The MPL was previously incompatible with other copyleft licenses like the GPL. The new version is compatible (unless exempted) and doesn't require multiple licenses (as currently stands with Firefox and Thunderbird). This will allow Mozilla to incorporate Apache-licensed code; but will mean that their software becomes incompatible with GPL2 code."



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Google has announced a new set of APIs for its Chrome web browser, which are designed to connect applications and sites across the web. Web Intents, as Google is calling its new meta-website API, allows websites to pass data between each other — for example, to edit a photograph or share a URL with friends.

Developers at Mozilla have been working on a similar framework for Firefox, and now Google says it will work with Mozilla to develop a single API that works in both web browsers.

The Web Intents API was originally conceived by Paul Kinlan last year. Kinlan, who is a Chrome Developer Advocate at Google, borrowed the idea from the Android platform, which uses Android Intents to pass data between Android Apps.

So just what are Web Intents? Well, the easiest way to understand them is by example. Take the sometimes overwhelming proliferation of buttons on web pages that allow you to do something with the current page, whether it’s Like, Tweet, +1, Read Later, Add to Instapaper and so on. Rather than adding a dozen little badges to your site, Web Intents creates a bridge that connects your site to any website your visitor wants to use. Web Intents define an API for your site to use and another API for the receiving site to use. Plug them together and transferring data becomes a quick and easy process, both for users and developers.

That’s a huge step up from the situation today. Perhaps the biggest win is that Web Intents put your visitors in control — they can select which actions they’d like to perform and which external sites they’d like to handle those actions. Some might share your page on Facebook, others on Twitter, still others might save it to their Instapaper account and so on, all from the same three lines of code you added to your site.

That’s not, however, all that Web Intents can do. The broader goal of Web Intents is to provide a generic means of communication between websites for tasks as varied as editing photos, listening to music or shortening URLs.

The second half of the video below demonstrates Mozilla’s take on how Web Intents ("Web Activities" in Mozilla’s parlance) might work.

For some sample code and working examples, head over to the new WebIntents.org site and check out the examples (the image example is particularly good at showing off the potential power of Web Intents).

For some more background on Web Intents, check out Paul Kinlan’s blog, particularly his overview post on the brief history of Web Intents. Tantek Çelik, the creator of microformats, also has a nice post on what he calls Web Actions (same thing, better name). Çelik breaks down the idea behind Web Intents and how they benefit not just developers, but users as well.

As Çelik writes, "web actions have the potential to change our very notions of what a web application is from a single site to loosely coupled interactions across multiple, distributed sites…. In that regard, web actions have the potential to become a building block for distributed web applications."

Image: Aidan Jones/CC/Flickr

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