Khronos preps 3D acceleration standard for the web

— 4:59 PM on August 4, 2009

The Khronos Group is keeping busy at Siggraph. After announcing its new OpenGL 3.2 specification and talking to us about OpenCL, the organization has shed more light on the "Accelerated 3D on Web" working group, which it first teased in March.

Re-christened the WebGL working group, the team is developing "a JavaScript binding to OpenGL ES 2.0 to enable rich 3D graphics within a browser on any platform supporting the OpenGL or OpenGL ES graphics standards." This technology will rely upon the canvas element from the HTML 5 specification, too.

Support for OpenGL or OpenGL ES means WebGL should work on both conventional PCs and handheld devices with OpenGL ES support—like, say, an iPhone 3G S. Khronos President Neil Trevett told us he didn't want to speak for Apple's product plans, but the spec would nevertheless make an iPhone implementation possible "if [Apple] chose to do it."

Right now, the WebGL working group includes AMD, Ericsson, Google, Mozilla, Nvidia, and Opera. We may therefore see native implementations in at least the Chrome, Firefox, and Opera web browsers. Microsoft isn't a member of Khronos, but Trevett told us Khronos will "encourage" the company to adopt HTML 5 and WebGL in Internet Explorer.

So, when will we see the first WebGL implementations? Khronos is still developing the spec, but Trevett told us it's making "good progress," and early implementations should show up next year. As for what types of applications you can look forward to, Khronos needs to wait for prototypes before getting a "good feel for how complex an application you can program in JavaScript." Unsurprisingly, though, you shouldn't expect the same level of performance as with native 3D games.

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