What Is a WebGL™ Browser?

A WebGL™ browser is a gateway to immersive, interactive 3D experiences right on your web page, without additional plugins. It harnesses the power of your computer's graphics processing unit to bring rich visuals and animations to life. Ready to see how your online adventures can become more vivid and engaging? Let's see what a WebGL™-enabled browser can do for you.
Eugene P.
Eugene P.

A WebGL™ browser is a program designed not only to display basic HyperText Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript®, and cascading style sheet (CSS) documents that are online, but also to interpret the special subset of these specifications known as WebGL™. Technically, WebGL™ is not a stand-alone language but a graphics library that uses the canvas element of the browser rendering engine to create a bridge between WebGL™ code, graphics hardware and the browser. This gives a WebGL™ browser the ability to render advanced three-dimensional (3D) graphics much faster than would otherwise be possible using other types of plug-ins and more conveniently than when using separately compiled programs inside the browser. Nearly all the major web browsers support WebGL™ natively, although those browsers that do not implement native support generally have third-party plug-ins that expose the necessary HTML components. While a WebGL™ browser is capable of rendering 3D graphics quickly because of the direct access provided to a computer graphics card, this is also the source of potentially large security holes that could allow a malicious program to execute harmful code on a remote computer.

In essence, a WebGL™ browser contains code that specifically links the functions included in a graphics library in a way so they are accessible through JavaScript®. Under the HTML language standard version 5 (HTML5), there is a special element known as a canvas that can be used to draw directly to an area of a screen without having to use plug-ins, or to work with HTML or CSS tags that might not be as precise as required. Within a compliant WebGL™ browser, JavaScript® is bound to a low-level graphics library and draws directly to the HTML5 canvas element, providing a platform for graphics that can be pushed directly from a graphics card to a display device.

WebGL technology creates graphics library, rather than displaying web pages using HTML coding.
WebGL technology creates graphics library, rather than displaying web pages using HTML coding.

The libraries used are the OpenGL® embedded systems libraries (OpenGL ES®), which are a subset of the standard OpenGL® library functions designed to work with mobile devices. One reason why a WebGL™ browser is possible is the lightweight nature of the WebGL™ libraries, which do not consume large amounts of resources and do not contain some of the more processor-intensive functions of the full OpenGL® implementation. A recurring issue with a WebGL™ browser, however, is that the drivers and hardware on a computer or device must be capable of running an OpenGL ES® application. Some operating systems, devices, hardware and even drivers do not have the capabilities to run a WebGL™ program and also do not have an easy solution short of replacing the graphics hardware installed.

Major concerns with the safety and security of a WebGL™ browser have prevented some major browser developers from fully implementing support for WebGL™. This primarily comes down to the direct access that the browser provides to WebGL™ code. When used maliciously, the graphics card can be manipulated to cause damage via the host system or, in a worst-case scenario, can be used as a gateway to execute or plant harmful computer code.

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    • WebGL technology creates graphics library, rather than displaying web pages using HTML coding.
      By: zothen
      WebGL technology creates graphics library, rather than displaying web pages using HTML coding.