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A Week in Google: Here Comes the Web in 3D, Fiber Network to Follow

If you were disappointed at the postponed release of both Chrome OS and Google’s fiber-optic network, perhaps this will cheer you up: The Internet giant moved its WebGL 3D graphics API for JavaScript to beta, opening up a door for developers to begin creating three-dimensional Web apps. 

“Not Your Mother’s JavaScript”

Based on OpenGL ES 2.0 API, WebGL is now on by default in Google Chrome’s beta channel and is reportedly pretty standard when it comes to usage.

“While you may not find much WebGL content on the web, we expect developers to quickly create a lot of content given the power and familiarity of the API,” wrote Google software engineer Kenneth Russell in the official announcement. “To inspire developers and give users a taste of the kind of apps they can expect in the near future, we’ve worked with a few talented teams to build a few more 3D web apps.”

Teaser experiments include the WebGL Aquarium if you’re in the mood for fish, and Body Browser if you’re in the mood for learning about the different layers of anatomy. You’ll have to download a beta version of Chrome to tinker with them yourself, but the visual stimulation might be worth it:

Google 3D Maps

Speaking of 3D, Google Maps 5.0 for Android was released this week and as the proud owner of a Droid 2, let me tell you, it’s fantastic. New features include 3D buildings, auto-caching, and new hand gestures for tilting and rotating maps:

gmaps_3d.jpg

Because these maps are based on vector graphics instead of bitmap images, the application itself requires less space and — again, speaking from experience here — is much faster than its predecessor. Thanks to auto-caching an Internet connection is only required when initially mapping out a route, meaning you can plan a trip through dead areas and not worry about losing your way.

For visual navigators like myself, these updates are fantastic. Grab them for free from the Android market, but note that you’ll need a handset running 2.0 or higher to enter the third dimension.

Google Fiber-Optic Network

Google fans were on the edge of their seats in February when the company announced its high-speed Internet project. Fiber, which was supposed to hit one lucky community by the end of this year, promises to operate at 1GB per second (that's 100x faster than typical Internet connections). Unfortunately, the the number of applicants for project guinea pig was overwhelming, and Google responded by pushing back the release date to early 2011.

Even more unfortunately for some: The application process will remain closed— it is only the selection process that’s being extended. We would say this is great for the communities that had it in them to apply early, but the chances of being chosen are still quite low. 

Since we're in a visual mood today, here's a map of the communities that have applied. The small beige dots represent governments, and the large brown dots represent communities where more than 1,000 residents have applied:

google-fiber-map.jpg

 
 
 
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