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Start-up puts animation tools on the Web

As desktop applications such as email and scheduling have been popularized on the Web, a start-up gears up to move animation and graphics-intensive applications to the Web as well.

While Web entrepreneurs rush to move desktop applications such as email and scheduling to the Web, a start-up is gearing up to move animation and graphics-intensive applications to the Web as well.

WildTangent, a Redmond, Washington-based start-up headed by a former Microsoft engineer and group manager, has launched a second beta version of what it calls a "Web driver."

WildTangent's Web driver lets Web developers access DirectX application programming interfaces (APIs), which PC game developers rely on to provide the kind of graphics and animation found in desktop games such as Doom.

"What we've built is an architecture that lets Web designers access the multimedia hardware on the user's machine directly," said WildTangent chief executive Alex St. John. "We've just made every Web designer a game developer."

Prior to leading WildTangent, St. John worked at Microsoft, where he developed DirectX technology, a layer of software that sits between multimedia hardware and the application software. The new Web driver links DirectX to commonly used Web scripting languages such as JavaScript.

Microsoft has worked toward bringing the same kind of functionality to the Web through its Chromeffects project, which relies on XML tags. Chromeffects has stumbled on its way to market.

WildTangent also provides technology for compression, streaming, and caching of content, as well as for synchronization of audio and graphics.

The Web driver is available for the Windows platform only, and content created with it can be accessed using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and America Online's Communicator browser, versions 4.0 or higher. A software development kit is free from WildTangent. A final release of the product is expected this summer.