Web Graphics

Web Graphics are graphics technologies that are meant to be transferred and displayed via the WWW, usually in a browser. Thus, the programs are not platform specific, e.g. a C++  OpenGL program would not be considered a Web Graphics program. There are limitations placed upon Web Graphics systems such as limits on file size (since the graphics information must be transferred via the Internet)  and quality (since a platform specific compiled program may not be available). These programs are frequently interactive, although that is not a requirement.

Open Standards

VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) was originally developed in 1995, extended and standardized as VRML 97 in 1997. It is a full 3D Graphics systems that requires a browser plug-in for display. However, some companies, e.g. Blaxxun have developed small java programs that can be downloaded with the VRML file that will display a subset of VRML. Blaxxun has continued research on VRML technologies, as can be seen on their examples page.

X3D (eXtensible 3D) is VRML defined in XML and can exists in different versions or subsets. It is an effort of the Web3D Consortium. It requires a browser plug in.

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is a project of the W3C consortium. It  is vector graphics application that is defined in XML. It requires a browser plug in. Adobe has an SVG plug in and several examples. Since SVG generates vector graphics files, which are small and relatively easy to display, it can be used with hand held devices such as  PDAs. Pocketsvg.com has a 60 day evaluation license for a Pocket PC SVG viewer.

Proprietary Technologies

Sun Computers

Java3D is a product of Sun. It is a set of API's that work with Java 1.2 and above. It is controlled by Sun, but there is no charge for its use. It is available on the Sun Java site. at http://java.sun.com/products/java-media/3D/index.html. Sun has donates source code to the Web3D Consortium to help start the XJ3D project. Xj3D is a Java 3D loader built according to the X3D specification, an XML specification for VRML.


Adobe has its own 3D world system called Atmosphere.


Macromedia makes the most popular and irritating graphics program on the WWW - Flash. Flash is a vector graphics package, like SVG. It has the advantages of SVG of small file size and the ability to create interesting images and animations. According to Macromedia, 98% of all web users have a Flash plug in installed. Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio has introduced support for 3D on the Web.


HyperGraph Home page.
Last changed August 30, 2002 , G. Scott Owen, owen@siggraph.org