3D Graphics in the Browser

3D graphics and animation can be truly captivating with all the right details in place: details like lighting and shadows, reflections, and realistic textures. But until now, it has been hard to deliver a compelling 3D experience, particularly over the Internet.

Why? Mostly because creating a 3D experience in games and other applications requires data — lots and lots of data — to display intricate textures and shapes. In the past, these large amounts of data demanded more Internet bandwidth and more computing power than most common systems could handle. All that has changed very recently, and all for the better: browser-based 3D has arrived.

Modern broadband helped solve bandwidth needs. Many homes and offices now have broadband speeds that dwarf the connections of even ten years ago. As a result, it’s possible to send large amounts of data over the Internet — data that is needed to display realistic 3D experiences in the browser. In addition, the computers we use today are so much more powerful than what we had in the past: processors and memory have improved such that even a standard laptop or desktop today can handle the complexity of 3D graphics.

Neither broadband nor raw computing power would matter without substantial advancements in the web browser’s capabilities. Many modern browsers have adopted open web technologies like WebGL and 3D CSS. With these technologies, web developers can create cool 3D effects for their web applications, and we can experience them without needing additional plug-ins. On top of that, many modern browsers now take advantage of a technique known as hardware-acceleration. This means that the browser can use the Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, to speed up the computations needed to display both 3D and everyday 2D web content.

So why is 3D in the browser a big deal? Because now it joins HTML5, JavaScript and other nifty new technologies in the toolkit that web developers can use to create a powerful new generation of web applications. For users, this means great new ways to visualize the information we find useful, and more fun online with engaging 3D environments and games.

Most importantly, 3D in the browser comes with all the goodness of web apps: you can share, collaborate, and personalize the latest apps with friends all over the world. Definitely more data and fun that everyone can use.

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