Almost Famo.us

Steve Newcomb is a really sharp guy. In a time when everyone thought search was sewn up, he created Powerset, a natural-language search engine that sold to Microsoft for a reputed $100M in 2008.  Now, he is bucking trends again with Famo.us, a framework that solves performance for HTML5 apps.

Newcomb managed to raise millions in investment for Famo.us on the strength of demos and team alone, a feat that many entrepreneurs in today’s  topsy-turvy venture capital climate would sacrifice a limb to emulate. I signed up for the beta;  I’ve been waiting for months to get more info. Apparently the team is in no hurry and, bucking another trend, has told the media that won’t release the product “until it’s ready.” The site has no technical info, but there are demo reels that show fancy rich web interfaces featuring gesture-based interaction a la Minority Report.

From what I have been able to glean from articles, and my occasional brush with Steve at the conferences we present at, is that Famo.us deals with performance by getting around HTML5 as much as it can. For a time, the company logrolled on the FUD created by Facebook after its massively inept early attempts at HTML5 development. This strategy will get harder over time as HTML5 proves itself worthy. In the meantime, the incredible Mr.doob recently decided to scratch an itch and create his own snazzy user interface demo, literally cribbing the Famo.us periodic table; except this one is all HTML5, rendered with Three.js, using a new CSS3 renderer plugin he wrote over a weekend.

css3d_periodictable

So this leaves me wondering… why does anybody need Famo.us? I suppose that I would have a better idea if they ever release the product.

Which leaves me with two things to say to Steve Newcomb:

  1. NEVER bet against standards.
  2. Release the beta already.
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4 comments so far

  1. trueshot (@trueshot) on

    I too have been impatiently waiting for something from famo.us. But I have to tell you that the threejs demo you linked to falls short of famo.us demo. On my galaxy nexus, it barely displays anything and what it displays is something like 2 frames per second. On an iPhone 4 it works pretty well.

    I am an idealist by nature and have definitely drank the coolaid on this. On anything that has a reasonable GPU, you get at least 30 fps and on a modern device I am seeing over 40 fps. Can threejs be fixed to work on Android? A point Steve makes is that to make it work on a range of devices only stripping out HTML5 works. Maybe he is correct. For sure, his demo works impressively on everything that has a GPU, which my main dev machine does not — but that is my fault, not his.

    In any case, unless it works pretty much everywhere, standard is not standard if you know what I mean.

  2. Neil Trevett on

    @trueshot >> Can threejs be fixed to work on Android?
    Yes of course. It could be more to do with CSS – what browser are you using?

    Having watched the painstaking, but very productive, interaction between browser and GPU vendors at the WebGL working group to ensure that the combination of browser stacks and GPU drivers are bug free – it’s hard to see how any worthwhile GPU Web technology can be stable unless it engages with GPU community. Is Famo.us intending to engage GPU vendors?

  3. Bill on

    Curious on your thoughts on all of this now that famo.us is out.

  4. tparisi on

    I’m cautiously optimistic. I think their library has a long way to go, and I wonder about its value relative to other libraries out there like Three.js that also do real 3D instead of pseudo- 3D. But at least they’re released and have to start playing by the rules like everybody else!


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