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WebCL: OpenCL For The Browser

Standards

Published on 05 July 2011 09:57 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Standards
20 Comments

First there was WebGL to bring OpenGL to the web-browser, and now there's WebCL to do the same for bringing OpenCL to the web. The Khronos Group is getting ready WebCL, to bring OpenCL to modern web browsers with JavaScript support. Early WebCL support is already available for the WebKit rendering engine.

WebCL is expected to work in a similar way to WebGL, but to instead harness the compute power of modern graphics processors. There are currently a few basic WebCL demos for those running Mac OS X with a modern NVIDIA GPU that supports the OpenCL 1.0+ specification. Samsung is largely behind the work on bringing WebCL to WebKit while Nokia has been working on a WebCL extension for Mozilla Firefox. Those interested in learning more about WebCL can visit the Khronos Group Wiki page.

When WebGL initially came to web browsers on Linux, there were problems. In particular, the AMD Catalyst driver wasn't up to par, but generally more broken was the state of Mesa and its OpenGL ES 2.0 support across the different hardware drivers. It's not even until Firefox 6.0 where more GPU Linux drivers should be white-listed. On the WebCL side, there will be even greater problems than there was with supporting WebGL on an open-source stack. There currently is no working OpenCL support for the open-source GPU drivers.

Being worked on this summer as part of Google's Summer of Code (GSoC) is OpenCL over Gallium3D, which has had some code developed for a few years known as "Clover", but it's not yet in a usable form. Recently the OpenCL-Gallium3D milestone was hit of building native OpenCL kernels, but Clover remains out of master and still has a lot of work ahead before it's ready for adoption by end-users. Even when OpenCL-over-Gallium3D is there, it won't do any good for those with the Intel classic driver or those just wishing to use OpenCL on the CPU; well, unless the OpenCL state tracker is made to work with Softpipe or (more ideally) LLVMpipe. At least though the modern NVIDIA and AMD drivers support OpenCL 1.0+ when paired with modern graphics processors.

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