There was a day when exploring that famed fractal, the Mandelbrot set, took a supercomputer. Now Google has created a Web application that--while not the highest-performing or most subtly-shaded rendering of this surreal mathematical landscape--shows the browser can now outdo the supercomputers of yore.
The Julia Map project uses a newer Web standard called Web Workers that lets the browser perform background processing tasks in parallel with the more ordinary user-interface chore in the forefront of a browser's thoughts, so to speak.
The application also uses HTML5's Canvas for 2D drawing and the Google Maps interface to control zooming and panning, programmer Daniel Wolf said in a blog post this week.
Web applications are all the rage as programmers seek to advance what browsers can do--Microsoft's IE9 Test Drive site, for example. But many advanced Web apps are demos more than actual useful apps. Mozilla's Web game contest, though, provides some examples of apps the average person might find more compelling.
Corrected 10:07 a.m. PT to detail the relationship between the Julia and Mandelbrot sets.