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I hope you can confirm or disprove whether I understand this correctly. I know for certain that Java Applets can have hardware acceleration and I wonder if this is the only known way to have graphics hardware acceleration in web pages or is there another way?

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Whilst Java Applets can provide hardware acceleration they aren't the only known way. As per David's answer, Flash version 11 had hardware acceleration added but you can also use Silverlight or even HTML5 canvas with a hardware accelerated browser. –  Deco Oct 17 '12 at 8:20

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I can't speak for the Java applets, but in flash version 11, code named molehill during development, hardware acceleration was added.

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My understanding is that Flash hardware acceleration doesn't do 3d, whereas there are OpenGL libraries for Java applets that do (which is the reason Minecraft can be played "in the browser"). That's not what the question was, though. Silverlight also has hardware acceleration through DirectX, but a full 3d implementation is in its infancy there AFAIK. –  jozzas Oct 17 '12 at 6:23
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If you're thinking of flash pre v11, you are correct. With FP11 you can now have real hardware accelerated 3d. There are 3 major players in the API realm for this, Alternativa (alternativaplatform.com/en/technologies/alternativa3d), Away3d, and Flare3d –  David Peterman Oct 17 '12 at 14:07

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