3.2 The Beneﬁts of WebGL
the web. From a web developer’s point of view, this is a natural progression for
web-deliverable media types: ﬁrst there was text, then images, then video, and n ow
interactive 3D. From an OpenGL developer’s point of view (our point of view), we
have a new way to deliver applications: the web. Compared to traditional desktop
applications, the web has several advantages.
Plugins aside, browsing to a web page does not require an install, nor does it require
the user to have administrator privileges. Users simply browse to a URL and expect
their content. As application developers, having such a low barrier to entry enables us
to reach the widest possible market. In our work at Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI),
many of our users do not have administrator privileges and have to go through long
processes to have new software installed. WebGL helps us overcome these barriers.
The web provides a convenient way to reach all the major desktop operating systems:
Windows, Linux, and OS X. In fact, part of our motivation for using WebGL at AGI
was to support multiple platforms. We have found very few differences across plat-
forms, with the biggest difference being the presence of ANGLE on Windows, which
translates WebGL (OpenGL ES 2.0) to Direct3D 9, as discussed in Chapter 39.
As of this writing, which comes less than a year a fter the release of the WebGL 1.0
speciﬁcation, desktop bro wsers supporting WebGL include Chrome, Firefox, Safari,
and the Opera 12 alpha. Internet Explorer ( IE) does not support WebGL; however,
several workarounds exist, with our preferred option being Google Chrome Frame.
Chrome Frame is an IE plugin that does not require administrator privileges to install
WebGL, to IE. IE’s networking layer is still used, but pages that include a meta tag
requesting Chrome Frame are presented using Chrome Frame and are able to use
Even with multiple developers actively working in the same code base using dif-
ferent operating systems and browsers, we have found very few differences across
browsers, especially Chrome and Firefox.
Another advantage of WebGL is that web browsers supporting WebGL are start-
ing to become available on tablets and phones. See Figure 3.1. Currently, Firefox