One of the recent trends has been to start taking advantage of the graphics hardware for non-graphical computation as well. Graphics cards are specialized for highly parallel computations pertaining to 3d graphics, however their computing resources can be utilized for other tasks that can take advantage of the immense mathematical prowess of the GPU.
OpenCL or Open Computing Language, is an open framework for creating applications that take advantage of the GPU for non-graphic computations. It is developed by the same non-profit Khronos Group that is behind other open standards such as OpenGL, OpenAL, and WebGL.
While WebGL brings the power of plug-in free hardware accelerated 3dWhere to buy 299 rendering to the browser, WebCL aims to bring a similar advantage for web applications requiring heavy computation.
For those with an itchy fingers, Nokia and Samsung have released implementations of WebCL for Firefox and WebKit respectively. The Nokia version is unfortunately only available for FIrefox 4, and comes with stern warnings about the severe lack of security in this release. The WebKit version released by Samsung on the other hand is released in source form, and will require compilation.
WebCL is still a very new technology, and still in active development as Khronos set up a working group when it released the WebGL specification. WebCL will need to work not only on high powered personal computers, but all manner of portable devices that can access the web, as such it will require quite a bit of development before it is becomes part of the open web.
The following demonstrations should clarify how WebCL stands to benefit web applications when it is used in favorable conditions: