Web 2.0 – Now in 3D

Google for a long time has been at the forefront of web development technology. We’ve seen an amazing search engine develop and from the resources the engines pooled many applications like Gmail or Google Docs have been released. Google has now jumped the barrier into the web software arena – with the release of their browser Chrome and began an assault on the very nature of our web browsing experience. At the forefront of its assault is the paradigm shift in how we define a web site or web document – and what function requirements does the engine powering it need.

3d-specsAs a follow on from my last post on Web as a Software Platform I had a look into some of the other exciting technologies that Google has been coming up with. One in particular stood out to me – O3D. Google for the past year has been working on a browser plug-in that gives your web browser accelerated 3D graphics capacity. Essentially O3D gives a web-developer the ability to access the higher graphic components of your computer namely the graphics card and use it, through Javascript, to create stunning visual effects and 3D applications directly in your web browser.

Now you may be asking what does this mean? Well up until now to do any type of 3D styled effects external plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight had to be used. Now while O3D is also an external plugin not native to web browsers (for now) its advantage is that rather than requiring its developer to learn a new language such as Flash’s Actionscript – the developer can work natively in Javascript. In my personal opinion most Javascript engines, the two main players in the game at the moment being Mozilla’s TraceMonkey and Google’s V8 engine, are significantly faster and more compatible with web technology than Actionscript. More to the point, I feel that we’re getting to a point where the main players in the game are already defined – XHTML, CSS, Javascript – and that maybe rather than creating new languages we should be designing better standards for existing technology and developing better engines in our browsers to interpret their commands. A web-browser based alternative that works directly with the graphics processing power of your computer also means you can take direct advantage of your resources rather than using the limited capacity of Flash. It means there is a possibility that the latest graphics-intense games can be coded in such a way as to play directly out of your web browser.

Now the concept of 3D applications isn’t new – back in the early XML days a standard known as Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) was developed but didn’t go anywhere. In fact Google isn’t the only player in this new industry – Mozilla has teamed up with Khronos the overseers of OpenGL to begin developing their own open standard 3D web interface.

The question I would ask is where is this taking the net? There is no doubt that technology like this is really pushing the foundations of what is a web page. As I discussed in my previous article the very fundamentals of the web is changing. The internet is no longer just a way to just access information – it is now about a fully fledged browsing experience. I can imagine a web where all software streamlines perfectly with the net – where we use ‘the cloud’ on a day to day basis to store our files, where we use the net to load all our applications including games. At the end of the day though there’s no doubt this is an exciting time to watch the changes in the landscape of the web.

Creative Commons LicenseWeb 2.0 – Now in 3D by Marc Loney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

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