Standards for thee, but not for me

Strange news today… Mozilla announces an initiative for “3D on the Web”.

Now, both VRML97 and Extensible 3D are already full ISO/IEC standards.

But Mozilla’s proposal relies upon further proprietary extensions to the experimental CANVAS tag, as opposed to Apple’s 3D extensions to Cascading Style Sheets, both of which are part of the contentious HTML5 discussions, some of which may eventually wind up as a W3C Recommendation, which might then possibly become an actual ISO/IEC Standard. (Yes, it’s convoluted. 😉

But such de-jure standards for Web 3D as ISO/IEC 14772 and ISO/IEC 19775 already do exist.

And projects like Papervision3D are already very successful, and work quite well in Firefox, or any browser brand, right now. You’re welcome to contribute to this or any of the other existing opensource 3D projects that play in peoples’ browsers today.

De-facto standards for Web 3D already exist too.

Thinking just a little past the press release and the coding strategies… how will the runtime code be distributed? If it’s only embedded within one or two browser brands, that’s a clear non-starter, at least for non-hobbyist audiences. If the renderer is available as a new cross-browser plugin, then that enfranchises the range of browser brands, but imposes adoption costs upon consumers. A rock and a hard place.

Mozilla folk? I share your overall goals about advancing web technology. But think things through, objectively. It may be fun to re-invent stuff yourself, but it’s more productive to work well with others.

And you’d lose the moral fulsomeness of the “Web Standards for The Open Web!” pitch when focusing on your own proprietary alternatives to existing standards.

“Standards for thee, but not for me”… that’s not the most convincing approach!

13 Responses to Standards for thee, but not for me

  1. John Dowdell says:

    Later: There seem to be a couple of different levels of understanding on the issue… the proposed spec describes an API for connecting graphic accelerators and browsers, with eventual hope of consistent JavaScript access under the CANVAS/HTML5 rubric. But readers come away with the idea “3D on the Web: It’s Go Time“. Discussion will be mixed, at multiple levels. When we’ve got de-jure and de-facto 3D standards, the hypertext group could benefit from more focus than forking, imho.

  2. John Dowdell says:

    At Google Code Blog:
    “For years, developers have tried to create rich 3D experiences on the web. However, the lack of a common way to render 3D graphics in the browser has forced them to use workarounds like special purpose plugins or software rendering frameworks. As a result, web users have generally experienced lower quality graphics compared to what can be found in today’s desktop apps.”

  3. Ronald Maxine says:

    As opposed to the proprietary Flash?

  4. anon says:

    Will the new work that Mozilla does be proprietary, or will it all be open and free?

  5. Daniele Menegotti says:

    Adobe teaching to Mozilla what ‘open’ means?
    I don’t buy this.

  6. foresmac says:

    I know several web developers who are interested in the concept of a 3D Canvas programmable with JavaScript. So Mozilla’s goals look to be inline with what developers are asking for. I can’t fault them for that.
    [jd sez: I’m up for people creating things. But after years of hectoring that “flash shoulda been based on svg”, this CANVAS push into hypertext (!) seems astoundingly audacious.]
    P.s. For the love of all that is holy, I think the word (or phrase, rather) you mean to use is “du jour.”
    [jd sez: Not sure… you mean for de jure?]
    P.p.s. Your officiousness in regards to all things non-Flash is pretty off-putting, and frankly does little to bring people to your cause.

  7. Kevin Newman says:

    I think you have really mis-characterized a great deal about the Mozilla 3D initiative – even comparing it to a similar Apple initiative, in a way that suggests they are dissimilar. They are similar because they are both using the same open source pipeline. They both create “proprietary” (in quotes, because it’s in all in the open) extensions to existing standards, then sometimes they even submit those ideas for standardization. Other times they just borrow conventions from other vendors, and have them borrow conventions as well, in that defacto way. And sometimes they even lose the standardization battle (Javascript 2.0), but the open innovation still occurred. It would be hard to argue that MS’s IE has out innovated the open source browser engines like WebKit and Gecko, or shells like Firefox and Chrome, or even the proprietary browsers like Safari or Opera, both of which borrow from and contribute to standards – board certified and defacto.
    I’m concerned that this post highlights a real lack of understanding of the advantages that Open Source holds, with true collaboration, and friendly competition.
    Your company’s own experiences with Tamarin, the Flex Framework, the Open Screen project, WebKit (in AIR) and others should have taught something about the value of this openness. Mozilla didn’t end up using much of Tamarin, because they felt that their own engine could be made to perform better. At the same time, they did fine a jewel at the center of Tamrin that they were able to leverage into a very advanced tracing engine, which may even have application in the Flash Player at some point. With the Open Source components of the Flex Framework it’s even harder to miss the advantages Adobe has netted.
    [jd sez: I’d agree somewhat with “mischaracterization”, as the first comment here shows… Vlad’s earlier post was about device-to-browser communication, but the message at the top level yesterday was “yay! web3d standards!”. There already are *actual* standards for web 3D. This example shows that much of the Flash-bashing is internally contradictory; an argument of convenience. Group-consensus itself is great, where appropriate.]

  8. daniel says:

    [jd sez: I published this, as well as a few of the above comments, because they’re living examples of the ad-hominem vs ad-rem approach to online debate.]

  9. daniel says:


  10. Robert O'Callahan says:

    VRML and X3D are retained-mode 3D scene APIs, in the same way SVG is a retained-mode 2D scene API. Canvas3D is an immediate-mode 3D API like regular is an immediate-mode 2D API. Retained mode and immediate suit different kinds of applications; X3D and VRML are no substitute for Canvas3D.
    Apple’s 3D CSS transforms proposal is effectively another retained-mode API, so again it would make perfect sense to support it alongside Canvas3D.
    The announcement was about Mozilla working with Khronos, who are a standards organization — they manage OpenGL — to standardize Canvas3D. So I don’t know why you’re describing this as “proprietary extensions”. It’s true that it’s based on a Mozilla experiment (that we never shipped in a product). Most good standards started out as the experiment of one vendor, and that’s OK.
    Canvas (2D) has been shipping in every major browser but IE for a few years now, when will you feel ready to drop the “experimental” tag?
    [jd sez: Howdy ROC! Things are no longer “experimental” when there’s a clear path to realworld deployment, to realworld audiences. Cross-browser conformance testing is a clear step before that. And all the reasons you cite for CANVAS not using existing standards apply just as well to SWF.]

  11. Scott Barnes says:

    heh, forking the web, ahh how time flies.
    I don’t know, i first started my career on VRML as it was supposed to be the “web” as we know it today..
    Part of me embraces this (especially given my 3D passion and the web + VRML background) other parts of me obviously just *sighs* and i’m sure it will be one more thing we’ll either ignore or contend with in the near future.
    Such is the way of the web!

    Scott Barnes.
    Rich Platforms Product Manager

  12. skierpage says:

    The “clear path to realworld deployment, to realworld audiences” for Canvas, or any other WHATWG/HTML5 technology, is to use any browser that implements enough of it to be useful. (In other words, anything but the sad joke that is MSIE.) The fascinating examples at seem to work fine in both my browsers of choice.
    I don’t see how installing a better browser is “a non-starter”. Your corporate blinders make you see Flash’s ubiquity as a feature, but the rest of the world sees it as dumbing down all browsers to a low common denominator, one that’s closed source and controlled by one company. The recent explosion in advanced browser features shows there’s an alternative path for web advancement that’s working pretty well (apart from the dead weight that is Microsoft).

  13. John Dowdell says:

    Check out “Mozilla In The News” blog* yesterday:
    Title: “Mozilla, Khronos and 3D Web Standards in the News”
    An obvious lie, because it does not mention the 3D Web Standards of VRML97 and X3D. It instead refers to an initiative it is proposing as “3D Web Standard”. Very presumptuous, quite misleading.
    Bodytext: “Earlier this week The Khronos Group announced an initiative with Mozilla to bring accelerated 3D graphics to the Web in hopes of improving online games and other Web applications. The initiative has garnered excitement among the press, with discussions around the benefits of having games available directly from a Web browser, the eventual integration of 3D features into Firefox, and what this might mean for the competition.”
    This emphasis on games and “the competition” is quite different from Vlad’s original proposal about finding some OpenGL subset that browser vendors might call upon.
    (* Warning: That “Mozilla In the News” page apparently does some unadvertised sniffing of browser plugins… it made this call out on my machine:×960&c=24&j=1.7&v=N&k=Y&bw=1137&bh=806&p=Default%20Plug-in%3BShockwave%20Flash%3BQuickTime%20Plug-in%207.1.3%3BShockwave%20for%20Director%3B&%5BAQE%5D )
    (To “skierpage”, you’re still caught up in “so long as the audience acts like me we’ll get along fine”. Read “Let’s Use Microsoft Runtimes!” for a little bit of corrective reality.)