It has previously been necessary to install third-party programmes or plug-ins in browsers to create interactive media content for the web. A few years ago, 3D graphics processing on the Web was accomplished using Java programmes, which combined applets with JOGL (Graphical Processing Unit). It became challenging to rely on Java applets since they require the JVM to operate. People stopped utilizing Java applets a few years later.

WebGL came into existence in 2011 to offer cross-browser interoperability and to be completely integrated with web standards in response to the emergence of open web standards and the necessity to enable native graphics capabilities in web browsers. 

This article is a brief guide on WebGL and its latest updates. So, lets get started. 

What is WebGL? 

With the help of the potent WebGL technology, 60 frames per second, fully interactive 2D and 3D visuals may be seen in web browsers on desktops and mobile devices. Cool, huh? Indeed, it is! Groove Jones and other content producers can create games, interactive tales, 3D product demos, and mixed media experiences that frequently resemble apps across all platforms thanks to WebGL. It is a descendant of OpenGL’s ES 2.0 library, a low-level 3D API for mobile devices like smartphones. WebGL works nicely with current 3D graphics hardware and offers capability equivalent to ES 2.0 (Embedded Systems).

WebGL is a Shader-based API that uses GLSL and has components that are semantically comparable to those of the underlying OpenGL ES API. Developers acquainted with OpenGL ES 2.0 will identify WebGL as such. With a few modifications for what programmers anticipate from memory-managed languages like JavaScript, it remains extremely close to the OpenGL ES standard. The OpenGL ES 2.0 feature set is exposed by WebGL 1.0, whereas the OpenGL ES 3.0 API is exposed by WebGL 2.0.

Members of the WebGL Working Group include major browser manufacturers Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome), Microsoft (Edge), and Mozilla (Firefox).

WebGL vs OpenGL

OpenGL and WebGL are frequently compared. In 1992, the Kronos Group also produced OpenGL, an API for 2D and 3D graphics.
An API for 2D and 3D graphics that is cross-platform and cross-language is called OpenGL (Open Graphics Library). It is a set of instructions. The most recent version of OpenGL is 4.5.

Characteristics WebGL OpenGL
Origin OpenGL ES2 Complex System
Installation Operates in Browser Requires drives for Installation
Programming Language JavaScript C
Learning Curve  Medium More Complex
Used cases Web services

Video Games

Features       Fragment and Vertex Shader  Uses great variety of Shader

WebGL Functions

Contrary to popular belief, WebGL is not a graphics programme. Instead, it uses a client’s GPU engine to rasterize visual elements on an HTML canvas and code to create geometric shapes. 

In order to get a brief understanding that what and how do WebGL works it is very much necessary to understand the fundamentals of it. There are two types of component of WebGL: 

  • Vertex shader: The vertices’ locations are determined by a vertex shader, while the pixel colors are determined by a fragment shader. The computer must execute several computations throughout the shading process in order to produce visuals smoothly. The burden is frequently too high for the CPU to handle. WebGL makes use of GPUs to disperse the calculations more effectively because of this.
  • Fragment Shader: A function called a fragment shader determines and assigns colors to pixels.

To instruct the computer on how to draw pixels on the screen, they are used. The GL Shader Language, which is quite similar to C/C++, is used for shader even though the JavaScript language is used for the main programme code.

WebGL Rendering 

If you are web designer by profession, you should have came across this term once in a lifetime.

Just recently, design rush has ranked ONE Technology Services as one of the top web designers in the list of Web Designers in Illinois, 2022. 

The process of rendering involves utilizing software to create a picture from a model. In graphics, a virtual scene is defined using data from a render software that includes geometry, perspective, texture, lighting, and shading. This render application will produce a digital image as its result.

Both locally and remotely can render. If the picture to be rendered is excessively complicated, rendering will take place remotely on a dedicated server with the necessary hardware power to produce intricate sceneries. Another name for it is server-based rendering. The CPU has the ability to render locally as well. Client-based rendering is the term used for it.

To render 3D scenes, WebGL employs a client-based rendering strategy. Utilizing the client’s graphics hardware, all image processing is carried out locally.

Rendering Pipeline 

An item (the 2D/3D scene) must go through a series of steps in the rendering pipeline before it can be displayed on the screen. Drawing the ideal visual model or scenario from simple forms is the goal (geometric shapes expressed by their Cartesian coordinates X, Y, and Z). Each item in computer graphics is represented using a variety of triangles.

  • Vertices:  characteristics that, when recorded in a data structure like arrays, characterize the geometry of the object represented by its 2D or 3D spatial coordinates. Additional properties like as colors, textures, reflectivity, normal vectors (used for lighting), etc., can also be specified.
  • Primitive Generator: AKA assembler assembles basic triangles by connecting vertices.
  • Framebuffer: the frame of data representing the visible content of the screen is kept in the GPU memory.
  • Rasterization: is the procedure that divides the triangle previously described as a vector coordinate into smaller units known as fragments the information required to produce a screen pixel. It then interpolates values across the primitives for each pixel.

Web Browser/Mobile Browsers That Supports WebGL 

Following versions of web browsers fully supports the WebGL functioning: 

  1. Internet Explorer (11 Version and above) 
  2. Safari Version 8
  3. Firefox 36 and above 
  4. Opera 27 and above 
  5. Google Chrome 39 and above 

Mobile Browsers Include: 

  1. 42 Version of Chrome For Android (Partial Support) 
  2. 40 Android Browser (Partial Support) 
  3. 10 Black Barry Browser 
  4. IE model 10 (Partial Support)

However, Opera mini 8 lack the support for  WebGL. 

Three.js Library

Three.js is a JavaScript library that operates on the WebGL API and the MIT open source protocol. Ricardo Cabello founded the library, and it is presently maintained by a sizable community group. Updates are made to the library usually monthly. We should follow the instructions and the Three.js library’s most recent release number while utilizing it.

The main objective of this library is to make using WebGL easier. With just a few lines of code, we can generate 3D sceneries with animations without needing to understand complicated concepts like shader, matrix algorithms, etc.

Other Libraries for WebGL 

It’s true that there are libraries like Microsoft’s Babylon.js, Mozilla’s A-Frame, and Snapchat’s PlayCanvas that are intended to make using WebGL to develop stunning Web3D experiences easier. Each of these libraries has unique qualities and works well in a variety of situations. Future versions of the browser will even allow us to use the WebGPU APIs.