Microsoft has hitherto viewed WebGL as a security threat
Is Microsoft getting ready to ditch its earlier stance on WebGL (Web-based Graphics Library)? If changes inside an early Internet Explorer 11 build are anything to go by then Microsoft’s opposition to the 3D acceleration standard could be on its last legs.
Don't expect Microsoft to endorse WebGL (Web-based Graphics Library), the Khronos Group's cross-platform, low-level 3D graphics API for the web. Though it's supported in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, and will be coming to future versions of Apple Safari and Opera, Microsoft is refusing to support WebGL in its current form because several security risks make it harmful, the Redmond software giant said.
Today's browsers are all moving towards hardware accelerated graphics, bringing with them rich online content and a new era of web surfing. That's the upshot, anyway, The tradeoff, according to a British security consultancy, is that your graphics card driver could make you susceptible to denial of service (DoS) attacks and cross-domain image theft. At the heart of the perceived problem is WebGL, which allows browsers to use the OpenGL graphics API.
There's a new stable build of Google's Chrome browser available today, and according to the sultan of search, it's the fastest build yet. But speed isn't the only addition. The latest Chrome version adds a couple of other goodies previously only available on beta builds, including WebGL, Chrome Instant, and the Chrome Web Store, Google announced in a blog post.
Mozilla has delivered the seventh Firefox 4 beta, albeit almost a couple of months behind its original beta schedule. The open source outfit had originally scheduled the release of the “feature complete” Beta 7 for September 17, 2010, but ended up pushing back the release of both the beta and the release candidate, which is now expected to arrive in early 2011.
According to Mozilla, the new features translate into a snappier and much more exciting browsing experience.
However, the latest Dev channel release, version 7.0.536.2, is a lot different and boasts a large number of enhancements, including built-in Google Instant search results, WebGL 3D support, and support for accelerated composting and 3D CSS transforms. The release also addresses a number of issues with previous versions.
“A lot of the work that's being done in 7.0 is largely not user facing and in some cases is a legitimate work in progress. With our new release cycle and about:labs, I'd suggest you stay tuned, things are going to start moving quite fast,” Anthony Laforge, Google Chrome product manager, told unimpressed comment posters on the Google Chrome Releases blog.
The Catalyst 10.7 drivers for graphics cards isn't the only piece of software AMD released this week. The chip maker also announced its OpenGL ES 2.0 driver, the first driver for desktops to support WebGL, which is designed to bring plug-in free 3D graphics to the Internet.
"AMD is a steadfast supporter of industry standards, including those that unlock the power of GPU acceleration," said Manju Hegde, corporate vice president, AMD Fusion Experience Program. "At AMD, we see the future of computing as being intensely visual, requiring a variety of rich media 2D and 3D applications. With functionality like the OpenGL ES 2.0 driver and technology breakthroughs made possible by AMD Fusion APUs, we aim to deliver the ideal development platform for immersive experiences both online and natively on virtually any PC form factor."
In addition to porting 3D to the Web, AMD's new driver also makes it possible for software developers to use desktop PCs and workstations powered by AMD graphics when creating apps based on OpenGL ES 2.0 for smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices, AMD said.
Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome), Mozilla (Firefox), and Opera (Opera Software) are all contributors of the WebGL Working Group.
The Khronos Group is asking for comment from web developers interested in working with the new standard. Those involved see the WebGL development moving at a rapid pace if awareness remains high. "I anticipate us moving toward a spec that is not provisional, not merely a draft, in early 2010, the first quarter," said Mozilla’s Arun Ranganathan. Building 3D support into the framework of the internet could revolutionize web applications and games. Full on 3D shooters may not be in the cards right away due to other browser constraints, but we can dream.
If this sounds intriguing, that’s just what Mozilla is banking on. Mozilla is hoping that early adoption of WebGL could give it an important edge over the still dominant Internet Explorer. Keep an eye on this one folks.