Native Client in Chrome. What, Why, and How?

With the release of Chrome 14 onto the Beta channel, there’s been a lot of talk about some new program known as “Native Client” that’s built into Chrome. Everyone says its a new feature, a new function…except, it really isn’t.

Thing is, Native Client has actually been built into every release of Chrome since 10 or 11. The Beta release of Chrome 14 is simply the first build in which it’s actually activated.

That’s not to say you can’t activate it in earlier builds of Chrome. You can, quite easily. I’ll explain how here. First, a brief explanation of just what Native Client is, and what it does.

What Is Native Client?

From the Google Code Index:

Native Client is an open-source technology that allows you to build web applications that seamlessly execute native compiled code inside the browser. This Google Code project is for maintaining the Native Client implementation, including compiler and browser support. If you’re writing a compiler, are interested in porting Native Client to a new browser, or are researching the security mechanisms underlying Native Client, you can find useful resources in this project.

Now at this point, a lot of you are probably thinking “….what?” I’ll explain.

See, most applications on Google Chrome are coded to run in Java. Trouble is, what if a developer doesn’t really know Java? Native Client to the rescue! It basically lets developers code native applications and programs for Google Chrome. For example, programs that usually run only in a Windows/DOS based environment? Could easily be coded to run in Native Client.

I can already name one pretty awesome way we’ve seen Native Client put into practice: NaClBox

Enabling Native Client

Even if you don’t have Chrome 14; enabling Native Client is actually pretty easily accomplished, and can be done one of two ways.

Method 1: Type “about:flags” into the omnibox(Chrome’s address bar), Then find and enable Native Client from the list.

Method 2: Start Chrome with the “–enable-nacl” flag in the shortcut. Type it next to the address in the “target” field.

Simple, right?

Leave a Reply