If not for Microsoft, I’d bet the farm on HTML5-based Web apps. Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera, and a few mobile browsers all support the OpenGL standard and are all developing web apps for future implementation. Even Microsoft has accepted HTML5 but have their own ideas about the future.
The key element to web app development we don’t often hear about is WebGL. This framework is vital to the Web’s 3D revolution and Apple Et. al., have all adopted it, except Microsoft. Because WebGL 1.0 is not yet part of the HTML5 specification Microsoft will use this as leverage to push their own 3D framework; DirectX 3D.
Those of you old enough to remember will recall, Microsoft undermined the adoption of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) in 1998 by pushing for the adoption of Vector Markup Language (VML) along with Hewlett-Packard, Autodesk, Macromedia to the W3C. To date, the only one still supporting VML is Microsoft and is used in IE and Office.
Back then, much of the Mac community was heavily vested in Netscape, which provided a superior web experience compared to IE’s inferior and primitive interface and feature set. Then in 1997, Microsoft paid Apple 150 million dollars to make Internet Explorer the default browser on the Mac platform and gave us IE 3.0 (Windows users had IE 4.0) and so it began with the browser wars, which ultimately led to a felony conviction for M$.
Today, all major browsers support SVG, except any version of Internet Explorer, and has proven to be the best platform for delivering vector graphics, raster graphics, and text in a single container. Even Microsoft has since relented and stated IE9 will finally support SVG.
It took Microsoft twelve-years to admit they were motivated by profit by pushing for their proprietary platform instead of going with the more popular and open one.
Well, here we go again. OpenGL is the superior platform and once again Microsoft is going to oppose it and will instead push for DirectX 3D as the rendering standard for web browsers. It’s the SVG/VML war all over again. The same war that set the internet back 10-years by using misinformation and unethical practices to promote Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
OpenGL is an open standard and the API’s are freely available, and more importantly, it’s managed by the non-profit Kronos Group [Warning: Kronos page NSFW] Interestingly enough, OpenGL was developed by Silicon Graphics in 1992 and the founder of SG, Jim Clark, saw Mosaic had tremendous commercial possibilities and provided Marc Andreessen the seed money to launch Netscape, nee Mosaic.
It’s difficult to imagine what a 3D web browser experience has to offer, but trust me once you’ve experienced it, you won’t settle for less. Imagine being able to not only scroll up and down and back and forth, but how about scrolling in and out?
Add depth on the Z-axis to the web experience and we are talking about a truly revolutionary web experience. We’d be able to scroll down aisles in a store, look in every direction using 360-VR, and perhaps this could all take place in real-time while rubbing shoulders with real people perusing the aisles or standing online to pay for purchases.
But wait a minute! Microsoft has other plans. They have plans to push their own web 3D standard any day now. Watch them as they offer a feature set of DirectX 3D as an alternative to WebGL, which is not a standard yet, and because it isn’t, that gives Microsoft the latitude to reject WebGL and present their own proprietary option.
When they do it will be just like 1998 all over again; a divisive turf war over the superior standard; Microsoft on one side, Apple, Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Opera on the other. Luckily, Microsoft’s presence on the web is non-existent and there’s no reason to believe that what they have to offer is grounded in reality. So it remains to be seen which platform will prevail. In other words, Microsoft shouldn’t be able to freeze the market on a promise.
However, don’t underestimate Microsoft’s ability to smear OpenGL or cloud the issues with misinformation campaigns designed to freeze WebGL’s adoption.
Web apps are in our future but that could be delayed for another ten-years.