3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 82: VRML to Web 3D Continued
Lesson 82 - VRML to Web 3D Continued- Part 3
I certainly hope that X3D (with or without the XML element) will appear and take root. But it is foolish to imagine that the efforts of the Web3D Consortium are driving the emerging world of 3D on the Internet. If VRML failed, the future is nonetheless being built on its fallen body. Let me explain what I mean.
First of all, everyone currently involved in the new movement in Web 3D has come out of VRML one way or another. VRML concepts and experiences have shaped all the players and their technologies. It is a common language and mindset for all who are seeking to make interactive 3D graphics work on the Internet. Everything that is emerging today, including the new X3D standard, are reactions to experience with VRML. The situation is much like that in the programming world in the development of object-oriented languages. The famous Smalltalk language shaped all the fundamental ideas that found their way into the major commercial languagesÂJava and C++.
But VRML's role is far more important than this. We live in a world of de facto standards, not official ones. VRML has become a de facto standard simply because, having been around so long, its export tools are embodied in every significant 3D package. I can't think of a single major 3D modeling or animation program that does not provide for exporting as VRML files. This is not necessarily because these program anticipated large-scale use of VRML on the Web, but often because the VRML file format serves as an excellent means of archiving work in a nonproprietary format. One way or another, VRML has found its way into the 3D mainstream as a file format, and that means that 3D content can be created in VRML using any of the packages currently in wide use in industry.
This does not mean that it's easy to create content in VRML. On the contrary, you must understand a great deal about VRML to use it effectively in its true realtime, interactive context, and can hardly just rely on simple export tools. But the geometry and keyframed animation necessary for realtime Web 3D can nonetheless be developed using standard applications with VRML export.
Thus the position of VRML does not rely any longer on the patronage of a big corporation like SGI or on the efforts of an official standards body like the Web3D Consortium. It is in large measure independent of these, and can serve as the best basis for new Web 3D technologies. This is why I so strongly believe in the initiatives of Shout Interactive and Blaxxun (and others), who have found such exciting new ways to deliver VRML content without plug-in applications. These companies are a step ahead of the Web 3D Consortium in having defined a core subset of VRML, built a lightweight player, and provided for extensibility. In fact, it's not really clear to me that any governing standards body is necessary. VRML is still alive because its useful in a new environment in which individual companies can put it to work for their own purposes. It's in their own interests to stick close to the existing VRML standard.
I'll see you again in the next millennium.
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Created: Dec. 24, 1999
Revised: Dec. 24, 1999