updated 01:10 pm EDT, Thu October 13, 2011
Beta now available to Chrome and Firefox browsers
Google has incorporated WebGL into Google Maps. The improved app, Google MapsGL, leverages computer-based hardware 3D graphic acceleration to provide richer visuals and animations. The functionality, availabile as a beta, initially will be supported on Chrome 14+ or Firefox Beta.
WebGL is a cross-platform low-level graphics API. It works with a user's browser without requiring any additional software or plug-ins. With it, the map viewing experience is much better with 3D buildings, transitions between imagery is smoother, and switching to Street View is almost instantaneous and seamless.
It is not known when Google Maps GL will be supported either Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari browsers. Microsoft has labelled the underlying WebGL technology as a security risk, while Apple will allow it to be incorporated into its iOS 5, but only for developers and not the general public.