WebGL brings 3D acceleration to browsers

August 5, 2009 // 10:57 a.m.

Tags: #3d-acceleration #3d-browser #3d-web #flash #html-5 #khronos #opengl #opengl-es-20 #plugin-free-3d #the-khronos-group #web #web-browser #webgl

While support for native video and audio has been dropped from the HTML 5 specification after cross-browser compatibility concerns and squabbling between big companies, plugin-free 3D acceleration still looks like a goer - at least, according to the Khronos Group.

As reported over on Electronista, the non-profit standards consortium has revealed a few details about its up-coming WebGL 3D acceleration standard - and it's turning into something that should please gamers no end.

The general principle behind WebGL is to offer a JavaScript binding to the group's OpenGL ES 2.0 system, allowing code run within the browser to access the graphics hardware directly in the same way as a standalone application can. As the technology would rely solely on JavaScript to do the heavy lifting, no browser plugin would be required - and it would be compatible with any browser which supports the scripting language alongside the HTML 5 'Canvas' element.

While there are obvious applications for the technology in web-based gaming, the system offers more than that: a high-quality, fast 3D rendering engine which can operate entirely within the browser could lead to far more impressive interfaces to websites, for instance - and possibly even threaten Adobe's Flash technology as the de facto "make my site pretty" standard.

The WebGL specification - which the Khronos group will be offering royalty-free - has some pretty heavy industry backing, too: the current working group includes graphics giants AMD and Nvidia, along with browser specialists Mozilla and Opera, and mobile manufacturer Ericsson. Google is also a part of the group, pledging support within its Chrome browser for the new standard.

The WebGL technology is due for a public release some time in the first half of next year, with support in both Firefox and Chrome expected - presumably to be followed by alternative browsers once the system has seen enough demand.

Does WebGL sound like your dreams come true, or are you frightened by the thought that all those hideous Flash-only marketing pages will now have access to 3D acceleration? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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