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WebGL: Up and Running by Tony Parisi

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So, where do we go from here? We’ve seen what it takes to build a WebGL application. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but now that we’ve been through it, I think you would agree that it’s not rocket science either. Sure, there are some new concepts—even a few downright foreign ideas in there—but nothing we can’t tackle with a little practice.

By now I hope you can imagine developing a production site with WebGL and how it will fit into your infrastructure, as well as how to tune it to meet your own needs. This book covered several topics you will inevitably touch upon in your projects—WebGL API concepts, 3D graphics programming, the Three.js toolkit, and content creation, to name a few—but these are just the tip of a deep iceberg. The feature set is so powerful, and the possibilities so vast, that there is still much to learn on the road ahead.

WebGL has moved from the infant stage into toddlerhood; it has a lot of growing up to do, but we can clearly see outlines of the adult that it will one day become. The standard is well thought out and thoroughly vetted, but the ink is only just dry; the first browsers shipped with the final version 1 specification just over a year ago. In my experience, the implementations have been rock-solid. I tested the examples in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari; they all looked great and performed well, and most importantly, they worked identically across the browsers. The tools are still mishmash and need a lot of work, but they will get there. Thanks to open source, a global development community, and blazingly fast JavaScript virtual machines, there is no telling what kind of great tools we’ll see in the coming months.

Three.js is my favorite library, but it’s not the whole universe when it comes to coding in WebGL. Alexander Rodic’s amazing jellyfish forest wasn’t built with Three.js; neither was Google’s incredible human body simulation. Take a look at the other toolkits. You may find another runtime that you like more, or that fits the application requirements better. Or you may get inspired to write an engine yourself. I’ve made no secret of my opinion that the WebGL API was not designed for mere mortals; but perhaps you’re one of those demigods who can think in buffers and matrices all day long. If that’s the case, I look forward to taking your engine for a spin someday.

The places we can take WebGL are virtually limitless. In this book, we barely scratched the surface on graphics. We stuck to the basics and, in the interests of ramping up fast, remained aloof regarding programmable shaders. It’s too bad, because that’s where most of the raw power lies. On the other hand, shaders are a bit of a powder keg. Now that you have a firm grounding in the fundamentals of 3D application development, it probably makes sense to go write a shader or two—if for no other reason than to be able to say you did. We also breezed through topics ranging from information design to game development, disciplines that are going to get a fresh infusion of energy from readers like yourself, using the world as your WebGL development sandbox.

WebGL is a canvas: paint it with broad strokes or fine, push it, pull it, and shape it to your needs. WebGL is a tool: leverage it to extract maximum value. WebGL is a new medium, with new rules and responsibilities: take care and use as directed. Most important, WebGL is 3D in your browser, right here, right now. No more future promises; we have arrived.

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