The term includes all Web3D technologies using three-dimensional computer graphics in WWW applications.

Web3D applications usually use a browser plugin in order to move the rendering of 3D models, possibly combined with user interaction in the Web browser. With the proliferation of high-performance 3D graphics cards and corresponding 3D APIs (such as Direct3D or QuickDraw 3D) the conditions have been created to enable 3D displays for everyone on the web - a technique previously often only professionals with specific applications in CAD ​​, Architecture and design field was accessible.

A number of manufacturers has developed since the mid- 1990s, web 3D software, based partly on widely used languages ​​such as JavaScript and Java, partly on own developments. With the bursting of the New Economy bubble in 2000, this development was significantly undermined, and many products have been discontinued. Moreover, the hitherto seen as a basis or model VRML standard its support lost by SGI. The market did not react with the expected demand on Web3D.

For further development and establishment of free Web3D technologies, the Web3D Consortium was founded later, which is divided into small working groups for various applications, including transport, security, and syntax. In 2004, the description of the X3D language was explained by the consortium as a new 3D web standard (ISO / IEC 19775 ). X3D replaces the older VRML97 and uses the data description language XML.

Another path for the development of spatial visual representations on the Web arises from virtual worlds like Second Life and computer games. Here, different manufacturers are working on browser plug-ins for 3D display, so that no separate application more needs to be installed.


The various software technologies can be classified as the following categories:

  • Standard Compliance - compliance with recognized and / or common standards
  • Installed base - spread in browsers having to re- install any software; depends on the size of the support community
  • Abstraction - to program efficiency, 3D capabilities


  • JavaScript is integrated into the browser, and thus has the highest installed base, but knows the language itself no standardized 3D capabilities; the abstraction is loaded, if necessary, depending on the 3-D library.
  • Java is somewhat less frequently present in the browser, there is also a stronger version dependency. With Java 3D but a programming interface is supplied that abstracts common 3D features and structures, and thus the programmer makes work easier. A number of libraries are based on it to expand this concept, but without even follow standards.
  • VRML and X3D recently go a step further by providing higher-level abstractions on the basis of clearly defined standards. Basic functions such as the movement of the model are included in standard Renderers usually. Free programmability, as for interactions, but limited. To display in popular browsers render a VRML plug-in is always to install, with a number of commercial and open source versions are available.
  • Adobe Flash ( formerly Macromedia Flash) following the manufacturer's own product as originally no open standards, but can boast a wide installed base, since flash functions are now integrated into most browsers. With ActionScript 3, it follows, since June 2006, the ECMAScript standard. The format and language ActionScript offer but at heart only simple 3D features that must be in practical 3D applications usually supplemented by additional libraries.
  • Adobe Director from the same manufacturer provides with Shockwave 3D is a much more powerful 3D programming environment and also supports hardware rendering APIs OpenGL and Direct3D, so that the performance of the graphics card is used. However, it is less common and requires on the user side to install a plugin from now 2.6 MB.
  • Solutions such as Hypercosm offer even higher abstraction and thus faster implementation of 3D applications by physical models, simulations, and interactions are already included in the language. Again, OpenGL is supported and it is a plugin necessary, the proliferation and the development community are small, but specialized users such as NASA does not scare.