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Google, Mozilla back 3D interwebs

Accelerated API

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GDC 09 Open-standards industry consortium the Khronos Group is forming a working group meant to bring accelerated 3D graphics to the interwebs.

Known as Accelerated 3D on Web, the working group was announced on Tuesday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The goal is to create an open, royalty-free standard that will 3D-ify what is now a flat, essentially rectangular web.

An established, open set of 3D APIs (application programming interfaces, which are essentially agreed-upon sets of commands that software developers use to communicate with hardware) that's agreed upon by all browser developers could not only provide the web with a new visual dimension, but could also support applications not yet imagined.

The working group was formed in response to a request from Mozilla and has already attracted another heavyweight member: Google. In a statement, Google engineering director Matt Papakipos said: "With more and more content moving to the web and JavaScript getting faster every day, the time is right to create an open, general-purpose API for accelerated 3D graphics on the web."

During the announcement at GDC, Mozilla's Vladimir Vukićević - who holds the sublime title of Infrastructuralist - cited three reasons that "now is the right time to look at adding 3D to the web."

The first, Vukićević said, is the continuing increase in JavaScript performance. The second is the ongoing increase in the hardware and software available to support web 3D. The third, he said, is that "The browser market right now is a pretty vibrant space."

Vukićević is upbeat about the competition among browser developers. "We coexist in a kind of an interesting environment," he said. "We certainly compete - there's a lot of competition going on, especially in performance and user experience - but at the same time we often cooperate and collaborate in making sure that new capabilities are exposed across browsers in a uniform fashion."

The goal for the new working group, Vukićević said, is "to make sure that current web applications can be enhanced with improved user experience and an improved visual experience, but at the same time to also enable new innovations and new classes of web applications."

The working group will explore incorporating the capabilities of the Khronos Group's open-sourse OpenGL desktop-graphics and OpenGL ES 2.0 embedded-graphics standards with the widely used web-scripting language ECMAScript, a standardized outgrowth of JavaScript. The working group will also accept and explore other proposals from its members.

Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group said that the announcement was a "call to participation," adding that "Anyone is welcome with open arms to make sure we get a quorum of the industry to bring 3D to the web."

And Trevett had a favor to ask: "If you know anyone who's interested in the web, let them know that this is ongoing." So, Reg readers, call your chums at Apple, Opera, and Microsoft - the developers of Firefox and Chrome already being on board - and point them to the Khronos Group's member-info page.

Apple, by the way, is already a major Khronos Group member, being the initiator of the group's OpenCL standard, but no mention was made at the announcement of its possible participation in the Accelerated 3D on Web working group.

The Accelerated 3D on Web working group will start up next month. ®

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