There are litany of technologies hidden in every browser, things from the obvious HTML rendering and Javascript code engine that drives every website, to the practically unused WebAudio and High Resolution Timing API. Each of these technologies has a specific purpose. But coders prioritise what they implement differently, so until the feature is available in the majority of browsers, web developers resist using them.

For instance, the Web Audio API will enable websites to have sound effects (subtle ones, hopefully) that enhance the experience of a site, but it isn’t available in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer prior to the new Edge browser. Consequently there’s little point investing time and money in implementing something that 25% of web users who are browsing with earlier versions of Internet Explorer wouldn’t hear.

One technology that’s lurking in every modern browser is almost ready for the mainstream. And it’s big.

WebGL is a modified version of the OpenGL graphics standard – the same graphics technology that drives the video games made by Microsoft and Sony. WebGL isn’t quite as powerful, but it’s close, and it means developers can start to try new, exciting things.

WebGL was included in Microsoft Internet Explorer in version 11, and iOS Safari in version 8.4. These were the last bastions holding back 3D on the internet. Now websites can reasonably implement 3D content with the expectation that most users will be able to see it.

A website with a 3D menu is now an option. Simple online games, on a par with the games that we played 7 or 8 years ago, could be delivered entirely in a browser with no need for a plugin. An ecommerce website could have models of products for the user to interact with and customise. WebGL adds a whole new dimension, quite literally, to the browser.

As an example, try moving this chair (drag with your left mouse button held down), or customise it by clicking on the 5 different fabrics.


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