|Original author(s)||Mozilla Foundation|
|Developer(s)||Khronos WebGL Working Group|
|Initial release||March 3, 2011|
|Stable release||1.0.2 / March 1, 2013|
Shaders in WebGL are expressed directly in GLSL.
WebGL evolved out of the Canvas 3D experiments started by Vladimir Vukićević at Mozilla. Vukićević first demonstrated a Canvas 3D prototype in 2006. By the end of 2007, both Mozilla and Opera had made their own separate implementations.
In early 2009, the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group started the WebGL Working Group, with initial participation from Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera, and others. Version 1.0 of the WebGL specification was released March 2011. As of March 2012, the chair of the working group is Ken Russell.
Early applications of WebGL include Zygote Body. In November 2012 Autodesk announced that they ported most of their applications to the cloud running on local WebGL clients. These applications included Fusion 360 and AutoCAD 360.
Development of the WebGL 2 specification started in 2013. This specification is based on OpenGL ES 3.0.
WebGL is widely supported in modern browsers. However its availability is dependent on other factors like the GPU supporting it. The official WebGL website offers a simple test page. More detailed information (like what renderer the browser uses, and what extensions are available) is provided at third-party websites.
- Google Chrome – WebGL has been enabled on all platforms that have a capable graphics card with updated drivers since version 9, released in February 2011. By default on Windows, Chrome uses the ANGLE (Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine) renderer to translate OpenGL ES to Direct X 9.0c or 11.0, which have better driver support. On Linux and Mac OS X the default renderer is OpenGL however. It is also possible to force OpenGL as the renderer on Windows. Since September 2013, Chrome also has a newer Direct3D 11 renderer, which however requires a newer graphics card.
- Mozilla Firefox – WebGL has been enabled on all platforms that have a capable graphics card with updated drivers since version 4.0. Since 2013 Firefox also uses DirectX on the Windows platform via ANGLE.
- Safari – Safari 6.0 and newer versions installed on OS X Mountain Lion, Mac OS X Lion and Safari 5.1 on Mac OS X Snow Leopard implemented support for WebGL, which was disabled by default before Safari 8.0.
- Opera – WebGL has been implemented in Opera 11 and 12, although was disabled by default in 2014.
- Internet Explorer – WebGL is partially supported in Internet Explorer 11. It initially failed the majority of official WebGL conformance tests, but Microsoft later released several updates. The latest 0.94 WebGL engine currently passes ~97% of Khronos tests. WebGL support can also be manually added to earlier versions of Internet Explorer using third-party plugins such as IEWebGL.
- Microsoft Edge – The initial stable release supports WebGL version 0.95 (context name: "experimental-webgl").
- BlackBerry 10 – WebGL is available for BlackBerry devices since OS version 10.00
- BlackBerry PlayBook – WebGL is available via WebWorks and browser in PlayBook OS 2.00
- Android Browser – Basically unsupported, but the Sony Ericsson Xperia range of Android smartphones have had WebGL capabilities following a firmware upgrade. Samsung smartphones also have WebGL enabled (verified on Galaxy SII (4.1.2) and Galaxy Note 8.0 (4.2)). Supported in Google Chrome that replaced Android browser in many phones (but is not a new standard Android Browser).
- Internet Explorer - WebGL is available on Windows Phone 8.1
- Firefox for mobile – WebGL is available for Android and MeeGo devices since Firefox 4.
- Firefox OS
- Google Chrome – WebGL is available for Android devices since Google Chrome 25 and enabled by default since version 30.
- Maemo – In Nokia N900, WebGL is available in the stock microB browser from the PR1.2 firmware update onwards.
- MeeGo - WebGL is unsupported in the stock browser "Web." However, it is available through Firefox.
- Opera Mobile - Opera Mobile 12 supports WebGL (on Android only).
- Sailfish OS - WebGL is supported in the default Sailfish browser.
- Tizen - WebGL is supported
- Ubuntu Touch
- iOS – WebGL is available for mobile Safari, in iOS 8.
Content creation and ecosystem
There are also some 2D libraries built on top of WebGL like Cocos2d-x or Pixi.js, which were implemented this way for performance reasons, in a move that parallels what happened with the Starling Framework over Stage3D in the Flash world. The WebGL-based 2D libraries fall back to HTML5 canvas when WebGL is not available.
Creating content for WebGL scenes often means using a regular 3D content creation tool and exporting the scene to a format that is readable by the viewer or helper library. Desktop 3D authoring software such as Blender, Autodesk Maya or SimLab Composer can be used for this purpose. Particularly, Blend4Web allows a WebGL scene to be authored entirely in Blender and exported to a browser with a single click, even as a standalone web page. There are also some WebGL-specific software such as CopperCube and the online WebGL-based editor Clara.io. Online platforms such as Sketchfab and Clara.io allow users to directly upload their 3D models and display them using a hosted WebGL viewer.
Additionally, Mozilla Firefox implemented built-in WebGL tools starting with version 27 that allow editing vertex and fragment shaders. A number of other debugging and profiling tools have also emerged.
X3D also made a project called X3DOM to make X3D and VRML content running on WebGL. The 3D model will in XML tag
WebGL has not only been used in 3D web design and gaming, but also by some researchers for scientific purposes. For example, in a book named "Cellular Automata" the authors have used this technology to simulate Debris flow for the article "Visualization of molecular structures using state-of-the-art techniques in WebGL" tried to simulate molecules with it. More basic examples like simulation of the solar system are made many times by developers.
NASA developed an interactive web application called Experience Curiosity to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. This Blend4Web-based app makes it possible to operate the rover, control its cameras and the robotic arm and reproduces some of the prominent events of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The application was presented at the beginning of the WebGL section at SIGGRAPH 2015.
Similar technologies for 3D in a browser
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- Official website
- WebGL /Canvas 3D Preview in WebKit r48331
- WebGL Demos from Google Chromium (deprecated and broken), all the samples of which seem to have ended up at webglsamples
- Mozilla Developer Network
- Unofficial WebGL Games Community
- Matti Anttonen & Arto Salminen Building 3D WebGL Applications
- WebGL Fundamentals