3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 80: Web 3D--Charting a Course
Lesson 80 - Web 3D--Charting a Course - Part 2
Shout Interactive is not the only company offering a Java applet solution to the delivery of 3D content. Blaxxun Interactive, a German company that has been a prominent player in the VRML world, is offering a package called Blaxxun3D. Like Shout3D, a free version may be downloaded, but a per-domain license fee is required in order to remove an occluding banner from the applet window. The license is $499. This alone would favor Shout, but $500 is not an unreasonable amount to pay if the product offered significant advantages.
I spent a significant number of hours with Blaxxun3D recently and was left with the impression that Blaxxun Interactive is not focused on making the package useful to outside developers. Like Shout Interactive, Blaxxun Interactive is primarily a multimedia content provider for the Web (and their client list of European companies is very impressive.) Like Shout, Blaxxun has developed this new technology to deliver their own content work for clients. Shout is pursuing a strategy of both selling their content to clients (like their impressive new 3D Holiday Shop on www.excite.com) and selling their development tools to a wide audience. To that end, the Shout package comes with a Wizard tool and a significant amount of critical documentation, most notably the source code to Java applets that implement interactivity. I'm not pretending that this stuff is made easy. It's not. But Shout clearly wants to establish a customer base using its toolset and is willing to provide guidance. The documentation to the Blaxxun3D package--at least what was made available with the free download--was so slender that I could never pretend to learn the package from this alone. My sense is that Blaxxun is not really serious about creating a broad developer base, but is rather pursuing a strategy of selling their services to clients who will pay the applet license fee in addition to other development costs. In such a strategy, the $499 license fee makes good sense.
The most confusing and challenging issue to those trying to make sense of the emerging Web 3D picture is the status of Java3D. The Java language and its enabling technology are the creation and property of Sun Microsystems. In its continuing efforts to expand Java, Sun has developed a package of Java classes named Java3D to implement an extremely powerful and ambitious vision of realtime interactive 3D, both on and off the Internet. Any reasonable person would wonder why they should bother with Java class packages developed by Shout or Blaxxun (or anyone else) when Sun has developed their own, and which is available for free.
Thank God there's an easy answer to this question. Java3D is part of Java 2. The Java language has passed through three evolutionsÂJava 1.0, Java 1.1 and now Java 1.2, which is called Java 2 for marketing purposes. The whole reason for the use of Java as the foundation of Web 3D is that a Java Virtual Machine (or JVM, the software that runs Java programs) is provided in the Microsoft and Netscape web browsers. Thus these browsers are able to run applets, including those such as Shout's and Blaxxun's that implement an interactive 3D rendering application. Java 1.0 (Java 1.0.2, to be specific) is supported in all browsers back as far and Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 3. Java 1.1 is supported in the JVM's of the later versions of these browsers. To make sure that its content is most widely supported, Shout uses only Java 1.0.2, and thus can be used with all browsers from Version 3 and above. Blaxxun uses Java 1.1, and can be used only with Netscape and MIE 4 and above. It's still a common general practice to write applets using only Java 1.0.2 to reach the largest audience, even at the cost of omitting the more advanced features of Java 1.1
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Created: Nov. 22, 1999
Revised: Nov. 22, 1999