Processing via JavaScript – Rise of the Browsers

Processing is a “open source programming language and environment” initiated by Ben Fry and Casey Reas at the MIT Media Lab.

An extremely powerful environment, it is simple to get started too. In fact I have my 5 year old using it to produce primitive shapes and colors instead of messing about with Microsoft Paint.

In that context it came as a complete surprise to see Processing mentioned in the same sentence with JavaScript. After all one does not associate significant graphics rendering capabilities with the browser. And Processing running on JavaScript on a browser somehow did not reconcile with my assumptions on this area.

This was John Resig, author of JQuery, doing a reverse birthday present to himself by making interpreting and running of Processing code possible in JavaScript.

Now go read that sentence again. Done? Good. I see this as a defining moment in how the JS language is wielded and what it makes possible within the browser.

The benefits of piggybacking on the Processing language are obvious. The rich set of libraries surrounding it can accelerate sophisticated visualizations on the browser.

But the larger implication is around what it does to perceptions of browser as a platform to deploy graphics intensive apps. Check some of the samples to get a taste of what I mean. [Note: There are specific browser version requirements to run the samples. Firefox 3.0 should be okay for most.]

Right now, the only legitimate reason for anyone to use Flash, AIR, Silverlight and the usual RIA suspects is to produce intensive graphics. Of course streaming media is another area but let us ignore that for now.

Might sound premature but if it were me the next generation financial information apps, with all their complex real-time charts and models can be run on the browser. Wonder if the Thomson Reuters and Bloombergs of the world are watching this?!

And as a side note, Silicon Graphics, the once graphics powerhouse had been delisted from NASDAQ last week. Evolution of technology is not without a sense of irony!

There are factors around browser compatibility, the uptake of Canvas element across browsers will be addressed in a matter of time. Applications can always be packaged with a specific version of the browser as a prerequisite.

I am reminded of the quote, “The meek shall inherit the earth”. Here it shall be the browser inheriting the desktop of devices worldwide. The rise of the browsers have begun!

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