A New VRML Year

Dateline: 1/6/99

****** VRML99 is Coming ******


OK stop sipping that champagne and get back to work :-)

One of the great things about VRML is how no one is ever satisfied. The VRML Consortium is not the Web3D Consortium and 3D technologies of all sorts are simply exploding on the scene.

Some of the technologies are proprietary systems, some are file format based, and some are standard's based. What's the difference and why should you care?

Proprietary systems generally (this is overgeneralized of course) have superior performance because a single organization or even just a few people can craft a solution. They are also totally dependent on that organization or person. Feedback and the views of people outside the developing group are rarely heeded in this type of process. In addition the lack of a consensus building process inevitably leave certain user groups disenfranchised.

A file format base system is something like the new 3DML from the folks at Flatland. It's and interesting high performance system. It's big strengths are the assumptions it makes for authoring virtual worlds. It's big weaknesses are the assumptions it makes for authoring virtual worlds. The worlds all have this DOOM-like look. The performance is terrific however and the idea of a simplified for of 3D markup is a good one and can lead to such things as VRML "profiles". A VRML profile would be a compliant extension to VRML for specific types of VRML worlds. This is an idea I hope the community pursues as it has the potential for easing the virtual world authoring process.

Finally we come to that maddening process know as standards development. The specific process VRML went through has been reported much better by others and needs no repeating. One aspect of standards that really gets overlooked is the value of the development process for including many technical points of view. Views are heard people are sometimes beaten into submission, sometimes the loudest voice get more weight, but in the end, the technology gets shaken out in a much better way.

In addition one aspect of the VRML process typical of the Internet standards process, and atypical of most ISO standards is an emphasis on implementability. Unimplementable standards (and there are a lot of em) are a joke and a bane to the old style formal standards processes. ISO appears to recognized these problems. Fast-track standards processes coupled with requirements for implementations, by standards developing consortia particularly in the Information Technology field, is helping to keep the standards development process relevant.

Oh and by the way in case you didn't notice that plug for VRML99 at the top of this article, yes it has virtually nothing to do with this article...so what...register anyway and join the fun!

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