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Apple iOS 5 gets web 3D...for ads only

iAds does WebGL

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Apple's iOS 5 mobile operating system will include support for WebGL, the emerging standard building hardware-accelerated 3D graphics with JavaScript. But WebGL will only be available to developers building iPhone and iPad advertisements via the company's iAd platform.

Apple man Chris Marrin recently revealed this news on the public WebGL mailing list. "WebGL will not be publicly available in iOS 5," he said. "It will only be available to iAd developers."

WebGL 1.0 was officially released in March, providing a standard means of mapping JavaScript to the existing OpenGL graphics interface. Originally developed at Mozilla, WebGL defines a JavaScript binding to OpenGL ES 2.0. To use it, you need not only a browser engine that supports the spec, but also a device with OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics hardware and the appropriate drivers. The iPhone and iPad include OpenGL hardware.

On the desktop, WebGL is supported by the stable version of Google's Chrome browser, Mozilla's Firefox, Opera, and the nightly builds of WebKit, which serves as the basis for Apple's Safari browser.

It's unclear why Apple is limiting WebGL to advertisements on iOS 5. But the company has a habit of rolling out technologies in bits and pieces on the platform. With the last major release of iOS, for instance, Apple included a new JavaScript engine with its Safari browser, but this was not available from the Safari engine used by local iOS applications. Developers using iAds, of course, are a more contained group than the sea of developers building web applications.

Presumably, Apple is testing the technology with a small numbers of devs, before rolling it out to a larger audience. But iAds is at least an amusing choice. ®

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