What some modern readers may not realize, is that even before the Shockwave Flash plug-in allowed it, and before WebGL inherited the responsibility of displaying 3D content in a Web-browser, there existed A more-straightforward way to display 3D scenes within our Web-browser, which was referred to as “VRML”.
Most browsers today lack the ability to display this format of content, but I usually make sure to custom-compile a version of the plug-in which does this, which is named “FreeWRL”.
When doing so, I need to set up the configuration of the source-tree with the following line:
./configure --enable-plugin --with-plugindir=/usr/lib/mozilla/plugins --with-target=motif --with-imageconvert=/usr/bin/convert --with-unzip=/usr/bin/unzip --enable-libeai --enable-docs --with-wget=/usr/bin/wget
And, even if I give this command, often, the Firefox plug-in will not be built, because an additional dependency which I may not have installed, would be
This build-dependency gives our computers the header files necessary, to compile old-fashion plug-ins, which ‘Netscape’ and ‘Firefox’ allowed as add-ons, to view additional content-types embedded within the browser. And, Mozilla recently gave notice, that they would be dropping support for this plug-in API shortly. However, ‘firefox-esr’, available under Linux, still supports this plug-in API.
What I find additionally, is that even if I get the most-recent versions of ‘FreeWRL’ to compile, the resulting program does not work correctly, and that I need to compile an older version instead.
Well on the box which I name ‘Plato’, I just recently compiled and tested v2.3.3 of ‘FreeWRL’ and found that it still works. What I was also reminded of, was that support for VRML 1.0 was dropped a long time ago, and that only VRML97 / VRML 2.0 is still supported for on-line viewing. Thus, VRML 2.0 was already defined, in 1997.
Content can still be found on the Web, even though the examples are sparse. Other examples, not linked to here, such as the NASA examples, were simply hosted on a non-NASA computer, and then abandoned, which means that most NASA VRML-links are broken links. Further, some graphics students will display their VRML-worlds, as proof that they’ve achieved some level of competency in graphics in general, but will fail to publish a URL.
There is something to be said for on-line content. Some people might think, that the .WRL-File can simply be downloaded and translated into another format. But in truth, 3D content requires that multiple files exist, such as for example texture-files, which would make the model above more interesting.
In 3D gaming, end-users are often not aware of such “Resource Files”, because with copy-protected games, many resource files are compressed into a single file, which actually contains a virtual file-system, the contents of which would be, texture-images, 3D model-geometry, game-scripts, etc.. And then, in 3D gaming, that single resource-file can also be encrypted…
It’s important for me to be able to view the scenes in-browser, because on the Web, the additional files that are needed, are actually additional URLs, which the end-user doesn’t see.