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Google project promotes Chrome, JavaScript

Chrome Experiments is designed to showcase how Google's browser can handle sophisticated Web applications.

A fractal tree explorer is one application at Chrome Experiments.
A fractal tree explorer is one application at Chrome Experiments.
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Ever since Google launched Chrome in September 2008, Google has been touting how fast its browser can run Web-based programs written in JavaScript. Now the company has launched a site called Chrome Experiments designed to show off what fast JavaScript can enable and to encourage adoption of the browser.

Browser benchmark performance scores make for nice bar charts, but they can be detached from real-world computing needs. Chrome Experiments--which don't require Chrome but sometimes break without it--are a collection of taxing applications written in JavaScript that are designed to be more engaging.

Among the 19 examples so far available: beach balls bouncing from one browser window to another, control-tab animations, fractal trees, and 3D image modeling.

"To build these experiments, we reached out to a number of well-known Web designers and JavaScript developers including REAS, Mr. Doob, Ryan Alexander, Josh Nimoy, and Toxi, who have posted their creations on the site. We are also looking to constantly update the site with new submissions, so developers and designers are encouraged to build their own experiments and submit them through the site," Google said of the site.

JavaScript is used for many mundane features on the Web, but it's also the foundation of more sophisticated Web applications such as Google Docs. Unsurprisingly, given Google's Web application ambitions, the company wants to advance its maturity.

Google wants people to use Chrome.
Google wants people to use Chrome. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

So it should be no surprise also that when visiting the site with a non-Chrome browser, you're presented with a warning: "We highly recommend you launch this experiment in Google Chrome. It may run slower, or not at all, in other browsers," then offers a handy Chrome download link.

Google has been advertising Chrome, too, which is unusual for the company. Clearly it has high hopes for the browser.

Of course, all the experiments worked for me in Chrome, but I tried them in several other browsers as well, with mixed results. One of my favorites, Ball Pool, which lets you spray patterned circles that stack up, then shake the window to make them slosh around, was illustrative. On Firefox 3.1 beta 3, it worked fine. On the Safari 4 beta, it worked, but sometimes with edges of balls sliced off. With Opera, the balls moved smoothly, but shaking the window didn't work. With the Internet Explorer 8 release candidate, it didn't work at all.

The "Monster" application at Chrome Experiments performs 3D modeling with JavaScript.
The "Monster" application at Chrome Experiments performs 3D modeling with JavaScript. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET