Google Chrome 94 Beta Opens The Taps For In-Browser Game Streaming

Google Chrome
As video game streaming from the cloud becomes more prominent, Google is tinkering with the inner workings of its Chrome browser that could potentially benefit the medium. Some of those tweaks are being tested in the Chrome 94 beta, available to try out now for Android, Chrome OS, Linux, macOS, and Windows.

One of the challenges with game streaming is dealing with latency. Today's services have gotten better about it, but there is still room for improvement. That is one of the areas Google is looking to address on the browser side of the equation, as far as in-browser game streaming goes. And specifically, with the WebCodecs API.

"A low-level codec API would better support emerging applications, such as latency-sensitive game streaming, client-side effects or transcoding, and polyfillable media container support, without the increased network and CPU cost of JavaScript or WebAssembly codec implementations. The WebCodecs API eliminates these deficiencies by giving programmers a way to use media components that are already present in the browser," Google explains in a blog post.

The WebCodecs API in the Chrome 94 beta enable developers to better leverage existing video and audio decoders and encoders, as well as image decoders and raw video frames. These elements are not specifically tuned for cloud gaming, and that is where WebCodecs could come into play.

Google is also tooling around with a WebGPU API. This is the successor to WebGL and WebGL2, and the upshot is it gives developers access to more modern features, such as GPU compute and lower overhead access to GPU hardware.

"This is an improvement over the existing WebGL interfaces, which were designed for drawing images but could only be repurposed for other kinds of computations with great effort. WebGPU exposes modern computer graphics capabilities, specifically Direct3D 12, Metal, and Vulkan, for performing rendering and computation operations on a graphics processing unit (GPU)," Google says.

Having lower level access to GPU hardware is one of the keys to improving performance. And along with WebCodecs, these tweaks to the Chrome browser could facilitate better game streaming in the long run. The timing is interesting too, with Microsoft having gutted its Edge browser and rebuilt it around Chromium, the same underlying engine that drives Chrome.

This is purely speculation, but it is conceivable that Microsoft is encouraging Google in this regard, given that Microsoft is one of the players in the game streaming space with Xbox Cloud. Of course, so is Google with Stadia, so there is plenty of motivation already.