Browser makers hope WebGL will remake 3D

If you want to see the scale of browser makers' ambition to remake not just the Web but computing itself, look no farther than a new 3D technology called WebGL.

The WebGL vision is simple. You're running around in a video game universe, blasting radioactive aliens--but you got there by visiting a Web site, not by installing the game on your PC.

This sort of computationally demanding chore contrasts sharply to with today's Web, whose top-notch programmers strain to reproduce bare-bones versions of the rich capabilities open to applications running natively on a computer.

WebGL, while only a nascent attempt to catch up, is real. WebGL now is a draft standard for bringing hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the Web. It got its start with Firefox backer Mozilla and the Khronos Group, which oversees the OpenGL graphics interface, but now the programmers behind browsers from Apple, Google, and Opera Software are also involved.

Perhaps more significant than formal standards work, though, is WebGL support in three precursors of today's browsers--Minefield for Mozilla's Firefox, WebKit for Apple's Safari, and Chromium for Google's Chrome. Opera has started implementing WebGL, too, said Tim Johansson, Opera's lead graphics developer.

With a little tinkering--check the instructions and caveats below--you can give it a whirl, too. Overall, I was favorably impressed with the technology.

Its performance certainly isn't enough for a competitive first-person shooter, but it's approaching utility for casual gaming. And because of how WebGL elements can be integrated with the rest of a Web site's code, it's got some advantages.

What is WebGL? WebGL is one of a handful of efforts under way to boost the processing power available to Web applications. It marries two existing technologies.

First is JavaScript, the programming language widely used to give Web pages intelligence and interactivity. Although JavaScript performance is improving relatively quickly these days in many browsers, programs written in the language are relatively pokey and limited compared with those that run natively on a computer. … Read more

With draft standard, 3D Web closer to reality

3D graphics became ordinary first in games, then in operating systems, and on Thursday, it took a significant step toward being built into Web browsers as well.

The Khronos Group, which oversees the OpenGL graphics interface, announced that its work with Mozilla to bring hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the Web has reached draft standard form. The standard, called WebGL, lets programmers who use the Web's JavaScript language take advantage of the fact that video cards can handle 3D graphics with aplomb.

The group now wants commentary from Web developers and others who might be involved with WebGL so it … Read more

WebGL slips into Chrome, too, for 3D Web

When it comes to built-in support for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics, WebGL is being built into Firefox and the browser project behind Safari, and now Chrome is following suit.

"Preliminary WebGL support is now being compiled into Chrome," said Kenneth Russell a Wednesday message to a Chrome mailing list. But, he warned, WebGL itself is still under development and that new versions of the WebKit browser technology on which Chrome is based might cause incompatibilities for now.

WebGL can be used in the latest Chrome developer preview version--but only if "--enable-webgl" and "--no-sandbox" command-line … Read more

Firefox gets an early taste of 3D Web standard

A nascent technology called WebGL for bringing hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the Web is getting a lot closer to reality.

Last week, programmers began building WebGL into Firefox's nightly builds, the developer versions used to test the latest updates to the open-source browser. Also this month, programmers began building WebGL into WebKit, the project that's used in both Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome.

Wolfire Games picked up on the WebKit move and offered a video of WebGL in action.

Overall, the moves stand to accelerate the pace of WebGL development by making it easier to try … Read more