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Why Hasn't 3D Taken Off For the Web? 320

Posted by samzenpus
from the adding-some-depth dept.
First time accepted submitter clockwise_music writes "With HTML5 we're closer to the point where a browser can do almost everything that a native app can do. The final frontier is 3D, but WebGL isn't even part of the HTML5 standard, Microsoft refuses to support it, Apple wants to push their native apps and it's not supported in the Android mobile browser. Flash used to be an option but Adobe have dropped mobile support. To reach most people you'd have to learn Javascript, WebGL and Three.js/Scene.js for Chrome/Firefox, then you'd have to learn Actionscript + Flash for the Microsofties, then learn Objective-C for the apple fanboys, then learn Java to write a native app for Android. When will 3D finally become available for all? Do you think it's inevitable or will it never see the light of day?"
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Why Hasn't 3D Taken Off For the Web?

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  • by hessian (467078) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:09AM (#42934339) Homepage Journal

    I suffered through the VRML list back in the day when people first wanted to make 3D cyberspace.

    There's a conflict: you either model 3D functional worlds, or the underlying structure, or you create a language which can draw things in 3D.

    The problem with the latter is that it's not stand alone, but requires people to come up with an intersection of code, resources and aesthetics.

    What people actually need is the former, which is the ability to create functional 3D models and describe them in a language like HTML, and have the browser itself create an interactive world from that.

  • A better question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:10AM (#42934355)

    Why should take off? What's the drive behind it? What need does it satisfy?
    You can't push out something without a market. Flash created a market for 2D web graphics, and now HTML5 standardizes that based on the experience we had in the Flash years. Unity is doing the same thing for 3D, but it will take a while before 3D on the web becomes common enough to need standardization.

  • 3D will come ... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:10AM (#42934359)

    3D will come when it's worth a damn. Everything 3D is either FPS or gimmick. There are a few tiny edge cases, but everything else is FPS or gimmick. Given how much more 3D content costs to create and how tough it is to do well (only FPS and a few edge cases), it's not worth the trouble, kind of like 3D tv's.

  • Because... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:15AM (#42934389) Homepage Journal

    First of all, it's NOT 3D. It's fixed optical stereo. Which leads to headaches due to many bad cues for your visual system, and only barely looks 3D if you hold still and pretend there's only one fixed viewpoint in the world. Which isn't true, and under the circumstances of pretending there is, you lose a great deal of interesting visual information. You get one view out of a huge number of possibilities.

    Secondly because real 3D is hard; consumers don't have display devices for it yet.

    Third, because real 3D is extremely data heavy at some point in the process; even if your connection was fast enough to get your POV out to the server and the server and connection fast enough to get the data back to you, the server still has to cough up a lot of data that's different every time from a very large base. If the display device is doing the job, it has to have all the data, all the time.

    It's NOT 3D. You have been marketed.

  • Passing fad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kylegordon (159137) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:20AM (#42934427) Homepage

    3D is a passing fad generated by the media companies to try and push more units. Consumers haven't picked up on it as they hoped, and the web is unlikely to do so either. The real future is in higher definitions and larger screens.

    And anyway, who needs 3D when you've got this? https://github.com/404.html [github.com]

  • by methano (519830) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:30AM (#42934521)
    The whole bunch of people who think about graphics on the web are always behind. The underlying framework for 2D (.svg etc.) is just now being developed and embraced. Back in the 90's when we really could have used such things due to such low bandwidth availability, we were bit mapping everything.

    Apple understood this back in 1984 when they did all the primitive stuff in ROM. But as Apple faded and MS took over in the early 90's, intelligent graphics for the masses went missing. MS even killed a Mac graphics capable database (FoxBase) by buying it and taking out it's graphics capabilities. 3D? not likely anytime soon.
  • Headache? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:18AM (#42934871)

    Your friendly radiologist would like to be able to solve your head pain by reading your MRI study in 3D without having to pay 6 digits for a PACS viewer. That is one legitimate, if infrequent, scenario where 3D support in multiple browsers would be welcome.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:08AM (#42935363) Homepage

    3D doesn't offer much more than a wow factor... a factor which wears off pretty quickly. The exception to this is in games and simulations.

    Every TV and Movie production featuring 3D has been met with "that was pretty cool, but gives me a headache or was too distracting and I couldn't enjoy the story."

    The best 3D appears in our heads.

    If we were to enjoy a 3D production in the future, it would have to most resemble a stage play allowing the viewer to experience the sensation of being a bystander watching the thing play out. We're simply not there yet... no holograms which is just about the only way to make it happen. It won't stop people from trying and failing again and again, but I think some people get it. Effective 3D would enable people to see things from any and all angles.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:39AM (#42935685)

    > What is the 3d web going to give me that 2d doesn't?

    At the risk of getting down modded: your thinking is the typical two dimensional can't-think-outside-the-proverbial-box. 3D has a time and a place for certain interactive and educational applications.

    To put things into perspective.
    http://workshop.chromeexperiments.com/stars/ [chromeexperiments.com]

    For teaching about the science of waves, caustics, etc.
    http://madebyevan.com/webgl-water/ [madebyevan.com]

    For people to explore creativity without needing an over-priced program
    http://derschmale.com/demo/farbe/watercolour/FarbeWaterColour.html [derschmale.com]

    For rapid prototyping and fun playing around with shaders
    http://www.iquilezles.org/apps/shadertoy/ [iquilezles.org]

    Just because _you_ can't see a need or use for it does not imply it is useless for everyone else.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:56AM (#42935843) Journal

    How is the porn industry struggling? There will never be a possibility that there won't be people willing to make porn... in multitudes. As a consumer, that seems pretty successful to me

    The problem the porn industry has is that you don['t need to be in the porn industry to make porn any more. Also, as there is more free porn on the internet than you can ever do more than skim through, the number of people willing to pay for porn must be pretty small nowadays.

  • by Spiridios (2406474) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:40PM (#42936875) Journal

    You're still downloading the game and resources, it's just disguised as the startup being painfully laggy, with the added fun of having to download it all again if you want to play on another machine or your browser decides to clean house.

    But for the casual gamer, it means going to some website and just playing a game. A "downloaded" game, requires the casual gamer to worry about things like where to save the installer, scanning the installer for evil viruses, running the installer, answering questions like "where to install" and "next". Why do you think Windows and Mac are moving to an app store model? Sure, there's profit, but there wouldn't be any profit if people thought they were no more convenient than downloading from random websites.

  • by Ghostworks (991012) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:33PM (#42938047)

    There's no doubt that it's useful for something: the fact that standalone 3D applications exist is proof that it's good for something. And yes, it would be better to have a portable, universally-understood format for those applications to increase the utility of any such program. But that's not the question. The question is why it hasn't taken off for the web. I suggest that it is because 3D graphics can only harm most of the web-browsing experience.

    First, recognize that those areas where it is necessary tends to be as embedded media or shareable, free-standing programs. It's good that you can get at them through the web, and it's great that you don't need to install specialized software, but they're not really web-native any more than a form-base calculator or a flash game is web native. It's just something that happens to be served up through a browser.

    Second, recognize that the modern web is not 2D. it is more like 2.5D, or perhaps 2.ND for an arguable value of N. Content is not static, but updates (such as this page). Content is tailored to the specific user (such as facebook). Content on even a "static" page now leverages CSS-based drop-down menus, pop-ups, and forms that require user interaction to reveal information that already exist client-side. And these are the successful "2D+" technologies. I won't even touch the unsuccessful ones like entirely Flash-based websites.

    We still recognize such things as "pages", and they have enabled new techniques, but there have also been tradeoffs. Some examples:
    1) those CSS-based menus now keep you from finding information as quickly as you could have before. On the old web, if I wanted to find a phone number for a particular location of restaurant chain, I could load their page and cnt+F for my area code... and there it was. Now, I can try to use similar means to accelerate the search (cntl+F on "tel", "contact", "locations", etc.), but that will usually only help me find the specific link/menu quicker. In general, I now find the information every bit as slowly as someone who types 20 words a minute and doesn't know cntl+F exists.
    2) On the old web, you could bookmark a page and be pretty confident that -- so long as the site itself remained live -- that information would ways be there and associated with that address. Now it is relatively easy to loose track of information unless you save a local copy, even when the information itself is still on the web. (The USPTO website is notorious for this, with it's ASP pages that serve up dynamically-named TIFF images of patents are live for 2 weeks or so.) This loss of functionality began almost two decades ago, so there are many who don't even remember what a reliable web was like.

    The modern web is prettier, but also more mouse-dependent, less reliable in terms of finding old data, and a lot more dependent on our feudal web-lord of choice (i.e. Google) to glue the whole damn thing together

    So given that we're talking about adding on a new layer of presentation, we have to ask what it would buy us, and what it would cost us, and whether the net would be better off for it overall. First, we'd be able to simultaneously take in a lot more data in one visual slice, but it would be less searchable. It may also only be really useful if each data point is itself visual. It will also be easier to construct pages where some information is pushed to the fore while other information becomes either peripheral, or completely hidden. So what is this good for? Street-view? Sure. Augmented reality? Sure, But we don't really have it yet. Niche content as describe above? Sure, but that's not going to drive the technology of the underlying web.

    So let's take another step back. What is the problem that 3D attempts to solve for everyone? I would argue that that problem, by and large, doesn't exist yet. There are two technologies -- 3D printing and Augmented Reality (of the markup-a-picture-taken-with-my-phone variety, not the cyberpunk-HUD-in-glasses variety) -- which could give mor

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