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Google splits with Mozilla on 3D interwebs

VRML 2: Electric Googaloo

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One of the most heavily-flogged dead horses on the internet is getting 3D graphics into web browsers. But with Google now at the reins, maybe the old girl will actually come back to life.

The Mountain View search firm this Tuesday afternoon released an experimental browser plug-in called O3D, which it hopes will get developers freshly-excited about collaborating on a unified standard for three dimensional interwebs.

As Google describes it, O3D is an open source JavaScript API for making interactive 3D applications on web. It also takes advantage of a computer's graphic chip for fancy things like shader effects.

Making an open 3D graphics standard for web browsers sounds awful similar to the project Mozilla and the Khronos Group announced they were working on last month at GDC09. (And Google even chimed in with their support for the project as well).

Yet oddly, Google's O3D API isn't compatible with Mozilla's current implementation. Google choosing to do their own thing doesn't sound like a terrific way to promote a unified standard at first blush — but the company seems to think an actual standard for 3D is a few years off and common ground will be arrived at later.

O3D currently works on systems running Windows XP/Vista, Linux, and Mac OS X using common browsers like IE, Firefox, Safari, and Google's own Chrome.

Those curious about the project can download the test plug-in here to try out some samples of what O3D can do.

For the rest of us, Google has provided a video to see the plugin in action:

Of course, the argument here is that 3D web browsing standards have been attempted before and all (like VRML and X3D) failed. Google and other 3D-proponents counter that one should not to underestimate the demand for spinning 3D cubes on webpages, and claim it's a lack of suitably powerful machines and speedy internet that's kept the technology back.

Google doesn't say when it thinks the standard will come about, but it does say it's actively working with Khronos and the broader development community to see it through. ®

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