Links: maps.google.com/gl and www.chromeexperiments.com/detail/mapsgl/

To view Google Maps using WebGL just click the "Want to try something new?" button in the bottom left. As you will see, StreetView no longer requires Flash Player and scrolling/zooming around the map is much smoother.



MapsGL changes the way how maps and images tiles are rendered both on the server and client side. Previously it was the server that had to pre-render the image tiles before they were sent to the client. With the new technology vector data "for the map is sent to the browser" and rendered there on the fly.

The effect here is that less data needs to be transferred from the Google Maps server to the client PC. The new technology enhances image transitions in Maps by "loading 3D metadata along with image tiles" to enable rich 3D transitions between "different levels and angles of imagery".

MapsGL requires graphics card that can run WebGL content. Google will automatically block the experiment in cases where the graphics card does not support the technology. The developers note furthermore that MapsGL will fall back on a hybrid approach if the graphics card has poor performance on some operations. This would mean that Google Maps would use pre-rendered raster tiles for the background and only dynamically rendered labels on top of these. (Source)
If you like the Google Maps app for Android and you wonder why it looks better than the desktop Google Maps, there's a new experimental interface that uses WebGL and it's available in Chrome 14+ and Firefox 8+. If you click "Want to try something new?" in the Google Maps sidebar and enable MapGL, you'll see a completely new Google Maps interface that shows 3D buildings and no longer uses Flash for Street View.

"We've rebuilt Google Maps from the ground up. Our enhanced Maps provide improved performance, richer 3D graphics, smoother transitions between imagery, 45° view rotation, easier access to Street View and more," explains Google.

Google says that the new interface requires Chrome 14 or Firefox 8 (beta), Windows Vista/7 or Mac OS 10.6+ or Linux and a graphics card that supports WebGL. (Source)