Safari Completes Support For WebGL2
Written by Ian Elliot   
Wednesday, 23 February 2022

With Safari support now in place, at last it seems we are safe to assume that WebGL 2 is supported by enough modern browsers to make it worth using.


Khronos, the maintainer of OpenGL reported this news with the  headline:

"WebGL 2.0 Achieves Pervasive Support from all Major Web Browsers"

but this is just a nice and positive way of saying that Safari has finally caught up. If, like me, you think that Safari's development is too interwoven with Apple's commercial interests then presumably you will be surprised that it ever happened. Having 3D in the browser definitely weakens the control that Apple has over apps. Why write a 3D app when you can write a 3D website?

Currently we now have OpenGL 2 support on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari and Opera - which means as long as your user has a machine with a suitable graphics card and driver your OpenGL 2 app should just work.  Can I Use estimates that support is at 88% globally, with most of the lack of support being old browser versions which most run on old hardware that couldn't run OpenGL any way. Compare this to the 98% support for OpenGL 1.

The whole edifice rests on Google's work implementing ANGLE - Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine. This translates OpenGL ES calls to DirectX on Windows and OpenGL under other operating systems. In 2019 Apple added support for their Metal backend making it possible for ANGLE to run on native graphics on Apple machines.


So what does version 2 add?

The Khronos website claims:

".. key features including transform feedback, instanced rendering, multiple render targets, uniform buffer objects, occlusion queries, and much wider texture support"

This sounds a bit like icing on the cake but it translates to a number of things that make 3D programming easier.

The next step is for WebGL to evolve into WebGPU which will provide GPU accelarated computation as well as graphics but at the price of not being compatible whith WebGL. It seems we have to start over again with yet another standard.

Personally I'm glad that WebGL 2 is now widely supported but I will be waiting for WebGPU before upgrading anything. It looks as if it could be a long wait, but at least it has the promise of being the last major update.

What is really needed now are better tools to make advanced graphics easier.



More Information

WebGL 2.0 Achieves Pervasive Support from all Major Web Browsers

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 February 2022 )