To help out the adoption of WebGL, the Khronos-backed API originally started by Mozilla that seeks to let web developers tap into modern graphics processors via the web-browser natively, has caused Google to get into the graphics driver game.
WebGL binds to OpenGL ES 2.0, and with the Microsoft graphics drivers being more DirectX-optimized rather than OpenGL, Google’s playing to Microsoft. Google wants more users to be able to use WebGL, particularly when running the Chrome browser, so they have just announced the Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine. The objective of ANGLE is to just take the subset of the OpenGL ES API exposed by WebGL and to translate those extensions into their DirectX 9.0c equivalents.
At the end of the day this allows you to enjoy WebGL from your DirectX 9.0 graphics card driver and not need to worry about any flaky OpenGL support on Windows. This is somewhat similar to Wine’s DirectX implementation where they are doing the opposite of converting Direct3D API calls to OpenGL so that they can run on Linux, Mac OS X, etc.
Google is making the Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine code available under a BSD license, but they’re only targeting Windows users with this code and potentially mobile platforms. Mentioned on their blog is, “This requirement isn’t a problem on computers running OS X or Linux, where OpenGL is the primary 3D API and therefore enjoys solid support.” While that is the case, it’s actually an issue first of whether the Linux user has any OpenGL support by an open-source or proprietary driver or if it’s broken (like was the case with ATI Catalyst and Lucid, until yesterday). Fortunately for open-source users, as of late the OpenGL ES support in Mesa and Gallium3D has improved a lot.
Those interested in learning more about Google’s Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine can read about it on the Chromium Blog.
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