WebGL Technology for Web-Based 3D Graphics — a Hype or a Future of the Web Applications?

Author: Bob Apr 19, 2023 10 min read

Users are becoming increasingly demanding of the quality of websites’ visual components. That is why developers strive to create unique and memorable visual effects that allow people to enjoy a more realistic and interactive experience.


In this context, WebGL represents a significant step forward in the development of web technologies, and its use is already actively expanding in various areas. In addition, more and more websites and applications are beginning to use for creating high-quality 3D graphics, including games, animations, data visualizations and more. 


So, in this article, we will take a look at the main advantages and disadvantages of this technology to find out why you should start working on this framework right now!


Ready to take your web graphics to the next level?


The History of WebGL Development

This framework allows web content that uses an API based on OpenGL ES 2.0 to render three-dimensional graphics. This is done without using plug-ins in the HTML canvas element in browsers that support it. All programs consist of control code, which in turn is written in Javascript. And all the special effects are performed on the GPU. These elements are mixed with other HTML elements and assembled with various parts of a web page or its background.


This technology grew out of experiments on Canvas 3D by Mozilla’s Vladimir Vukićević, who developed the Canvas 3D prototype in 2006. Both Mozilla and Opera created their own separate implementations in late 2007.


In early 2009, Mozilla and Khronos formed the WebGL working group, and the consortium published the first draft of its specification on December 10, 2009. The group’s chairman, Arun Ranganathan, said the specification is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2010. The final revision was presented on March 3, 2011, in San Francisco. In May 2011, it was discovered that it had significant security weaknesses, such as denial of service and allowing scripted attacks.


In May 2011, Context Information Security published a report that detailed several security issues in current implementations of WebGL 2.0 from Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and generally, in the WebGL 2.0 specification itself. According to the report, It allows Turing-perfect programs that appear on a computer from the Internet to get to the privileged mode of graphics drivers and hardware. The report also cites examples of actions that create security problems; these actions cause a denial of service and cross-domain image theft. The report concludes by stating that “browsers with web 2.0 built-in and enabled by default expose the user to the risk created by these problems.”


Later, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a warning that “It contains many significant security issues. The impact of these problems includes arbitrary code execution, denial of service, and cross-domain attacks.” US-CERT also urged users and administrators to review the Context report and disable WebGL to try to reduce the risk.


The Khronos group, which includes representatives from Mozilla and Google Chrome, responded to the concerns by suggesting possible solutions and future development methods. After looking into a study from Context, Mozilla decided to stop supporting cross-domain images in Firefox. At the same time, the Khronos group revised the WebGL 3D graphics datasheet to improve security against denial-of-service and open-source attacks. The proposed approaches are still under the development process and are not widely deployed by graphics vendors.


The Context was unhappy with the Khronos group’s decision to make the move by fixing the WebGL graphic and decided that the solution was not effective concerning the problems posed. In a follow-up article, Context provides readers with even more examples of security vulnerabilities in recent web 2.0 implementations on various platforms. Signs of these issues range from system crashes to information leaks. Context continues to question whether WebGL graphics were specified, designed, and implemented with security in mind.

Evolution of 3D graphics on the Internet

WebGL 3D graphics has a long history of evolution, starting with the first three-dimensional objects in web pages in the early 1990s. One of the first formats for three-dimensional pictures online was the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML), developed in 1994. This format allowed the creation of volume objects and scenes that were viewed with special browsers such as CosmoPlayer and Netscape Navigator.


However, VRML was quite difficult to use and required a lot of computing resources, which limited its distribution. Instead, a new format appeared – X3D (Extensible 3D), which was easier to use and allowed to do more complex models.


With the development of technology, new formats for the 3D graphics appeared, such as Collada, OBJ and FBX. They allowed better development of realistic models that were applied in various fields, including animated films, the game industry, architecture, and medicine.


Modern technology also creates interactive 3D models for training, virtual tours and much more. Such models use it, which allows 3D graphics displayed in a web browser without additional plug-ins.


Three-dimensional graphics are now becoming more and more common, and this opens up new possibilities for various fields. Most modern websites, WebGL games, and applications use 3D graphics to enhance the user’s visual experience. With the development of VR and AR technologies, three-dimensional graphics on the Internet are becoming even more important, opening up new possibilities for creating unique virtual worlds and applications.



What are the main advantages and disadvantages of WebGL technology?

WebGL graphic technology creates complex and dynamic visuals without additional plugins or software. Despite its widespread use, it has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered in advance. In this part, we will explore WebGL technology‘s main pros and cons, examining its impact on the user experience, performance, and security of web applications.


What are The Top 5 Benefits of Using WebGL?

In addition, many libraries and game engines use WebGL graphics. They do not allow you to create all 3D content from scratch and simplify application development. But here are some of the main advantages of using WebGL graphics.


  • Text editor. Development by using only a text editor and a browser. 


  • The full range of browser features. This framework offers plenty of helpful features, including user input control, graphical processing, audio playback, and more. This allows developers to create more interactive and functional applications.


  • JavaScript programming language. The use of JavaScript, one of the most popular languages in the world, makes the development process easier and more efficient.


  • High performance. Here comes the best way to use the graphics card resources to process graphic elements, allowing you to achieve high performance even when working with large and complex 3D models.


  • Automatic memory management. It simplifies the development process and reduces the risk of application errors. 


The top 5 limitations of WebGL

Nevertheless, like any other technology, It has its limitations. Now we’ll take a look at the 5 main disadvantages and flaws of WebGL graphics and how they affect projects.


  • Security risks. WebGL 2.0 technology allows direct access to a user’s graphics card, which is potentially exploited to access sensitive data or cause security vulnerabilities in web applications.


  • Limited compatibility. It is supported by all web browsers or devices, which limits its accessibility and reach.


  • Learning curve. WebGL graphics is a relatively new technology, there is a learning curve for developers who are not familiar with it, which could slow down the development process.


  • Performance issues. While the framework offers high performance, on the other hand, it is not suitable for all types of applications and requires additional optimization to run smoothly on some systems.


  • Complexity. Developing complex 3D graphics applications with it’s a difficult and time-consuming process, requiring specialized knowledge and skills that not all developers possess.


How to Use WebGL in Games, Visualization, and Education?

As we already mentioned, WebGL is a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 2D and 3D  graphics within any compatible web browser. It is widely used in games, visualizations, and education to create engaging and interactive content for clients and users. We collected the top 5 steps which will lend you a hand to start using WebGL, no matter which industry you are in.


  • Learning the basics. Before you begin using WebGL graphic design, you should have a basic understanding of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. There are online tutorials and courses to make your learning process more manageable. 


  • Choosing a WebGL framework. Many frameworks are available that simplify the process of creating WebGL content. The list of popular frameworks includes Three.js, Babylon.js, and PlayCanvas. They offer pre-built components and tools that save you time and effort.


  • Creating. Once you have learned the basics of the web and chosen a model, you can start creating the project. You are free to write your code in any favorite text editor or an integrated development environment (IDE). Most WebGL frameworks have examples and demos that you can use as a starting point.


  • Testing. After creating your content, you should test it to ensure your project works properly.  Using a local web server or a cloud-based service will be perfect to host and test your content in different web browsers.


  • Deploying. Once testing is over and all necessary changes were done, you can deploy it to a web server or cloud-based platform. Also, it will be great, if you share the content on social media platforms, blogs, or other websites.


There is a wide range of applications, including but not limited to WebGL games, visualizations and education. By following these steps, you will develop engaging and interactive content that will assist you to achieve the goals and educate the audience about products.


What is the Future of WebGL?

It has already become one of the most important tools for creating interactive 2D and 3D graphics in web browsers. In the future, it will continue to evolve and improve along with other web development technologies.


One of the areas of WebGL development is improving graphics performance as well as optimization. New versions of browsers and drivers for graphics cards will support a broader set of features and improved performance, allowing even more complex and more colorful renderings.


We are also expecting to see improvements in WebGL 2.0 development tools and libraries that will make interactive graphics in web browsers easier and faster. The wider adoption of VR technology could be one of the factors driving the development of WebGL 2.0 and the creating of better and more engaging VR applications for the browser. In addition, WebGL graphic hopefully will be used in many new applications shortly, such as machine learning or data analysis. 



Wrapping Up

It is safe to say that WebGL 3D graphics is the future of the Internet, which opens up new possibilities for creating interactive and visually appealing web applications. However, it is necessary to consider the limitations and choose the right tools for specific tasks. 


Despite all the disadvantages, in the future, this technology will allow the creation of spectacular visual effects and interactive applications that will attract a larger number of clients. To use it to full potential, you need to be aware of the latest trends and consider each project’s peculiarities. Contact us to give you a hand, even with the craziest project you may have!


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