Plug-in free 3D graphics for HTML5 Web browsers

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from Macworld UK. Visit Macworld UK’s blog page for the latest Mac news from across the Atlantic.

The Khronos Group has released the final WebGL 1.0 specification to enable hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in HTML5 Web browsers without the need for plug-ins.

WebGL has the support of major silicon and browser vendors including Apple, Google, Mozilla and Opera, with multiple browsers already shipping with WebGL implementations, including the beta releases for Mozilla Firefox 4.0, all channels of Google Chrome 9.0, an Opera preview build, and Apple Mac OS Safari nightly builds.

WebGL defines a JavaScript binding to OpenGL ES 2.0 to allow rich 3D graphics within a browser on any platform supporting the industry-standard OpenGL or OpenGL ES graphics APIs. The ability for Web developers to directly access OpenGL-class graphics directly from JavaScript and freely mix 3D with other HTML content will enable a new wave of innovation in Web gaming, educational and training applications and graphically rich user interfaces to make the Web more enjoyable, productive and intuitive.

There is already a thriving middleware ecosystem around WebGL to provide a wide diversity of Web developers the ability to easily create compelling 3D content for WebGL-enabled browsers. These tools include: C3DL, CopperLicht , EnergizeGL, GammaJS, GLGE, GTW, O3D, OSG.JS, SceneJS, SpiderGL, TDL, Three.js and X3DOM.

In addition to the WebGL specification, Khronos has created a comprehensive WebGL test suite that can be downloaded free of charge. Implementers of WebGL capable browsers can run the test suite and upload their passing test results in order be able to designate their implementations as conformant to the WebGL specification.

“WebGL enables an entire new class of applications on the web. Being able to take advantage of first-class 3D hardware acceleration in a browser on both desktop and mobile allows web developers to create compelling and immersive experiences for their users,” said Vlad Vukievi of Mozilla and chair of the WebGL Working Group.

“Nvidia helped to form the WebGL initiative as we believe it will fundamentally change the Web experience and we are committed to provide the optimal WebGL experience across Quadro and GeForce graphics on desktops and Tegra-based superphones and tablets,” said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president mobile content at Nvidia. “The Khronos WebGL Working Group is a uniquely productive forum that has brought together the expertise of both browser and GPU vendors. Khronos is committed to working with the Web community to ensure WebGL is a dynamic and enabling piece of the Web HTML5 ecosystem for both desktop and mobile platforms.”

“WebGL will finally free web developers from the confines of 2D without the need for a plug-in,” said Tim Johansson, lead graphics developer, Opera Software. “Once WebGL becomes pervasive, we can look forward to a new era in creativity on the Web. Opera is excited to be part of the WebGL initiative. We intend to support WebGL in our browsers, whether on computers, mobile phones or TVs.”

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