|Original author(s)||Mozilla Foundation|
|Developer(s)||Khronos WebGL Working Group|
|Initial release||March 3, 2011|
2.0 / January 17, 2017
On February 9, 2022 Khronos Group announced WebGL 2.0 support for all major browsers.
WebGL 1.0 is based on OpenGL ES 2.0 and provides an API for 3D graphics. It uses the HTML5 canvas element and is accessed using Document Object Model (DOM) interfaces.
Shaders in WebGL are written in GLSL and passed to the WebGL API as text strings. The WebGL implementation compiles these strings to GPU code. This code is executed for each vertex sent through the API and for each pixel rasterized to the screen.
WebGL evolved out of the Canvas 3D experiments started by Vladimir Vukićević at Mozilla. Vukićević first demonstrated a Canvas 3D prototype in 2006. By the end of 2007, both Mozilla and Opera had made their own separate implementations.
In early 2009, the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group started the WebGL Working Group, with initial participation from Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera, and others. Version 1.0 of the WebGL specification was released March 2011. As of March 2012, the chair of the working group is Ken Russell.
An early application of WebGL was Zygote Body. In November 2012 Autodesk announced that they ported most of their applications to the cloud running on local WebGL clients. These applications included Fusion 360 and AutoCAD 360.
Development of the WebGL 2 specification started in 2013 and finished in January 2017. The specification is based on OpenGL ES 3.0. First implementations are in Firefox 51, Chrome 56 and Opera 43.
Main article: ANGLE (software)
Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine (ANGLE) is an open source graphic engine which implements WebGL 1.0 (2.0 which closely conforms to ES 3.0) and OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 standards. It is a default backend for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox on Windows platforms and works by translating WebGL and OpenGL calls to available platform-specific APIs. ANGLE currently provides access to OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 to desktop OpenGL, OpenGL ES, Direct3D 9, and Direct3D 11 APIs. ″[Google] Chrome uses ANGLE for all graphics rendering on Windows, including the accelerated Canvas2D implementation and the Native Client sandbox environment.″
WebGL is widely supported by modern browsers. However, its availability depends on other factors, too, like whether the GPU supports it. The official WebGL website offers a simple test page. More detailed information (like what renderer the browser uses, and what extensions are available) can be found at third-party websites.
There has been an emergence of 2D and 3D game engines for WebGL,  such as Unreal Engine 4 and Unity. The Stage3D/Flash-based Away3D high-level library also has a port to WebGL via TypeScript. A more light-weight utility library that provides just the vector and matrix math utilities for shaders is sylvester.js. It is sometimes used in conjunction with a WebGL specific extension called glUtils.js.
As with any other graphics API, creating content for WebGL scenes requires using a 3D content creation tool and exporting the scene to a format that is readable by the viewer or helper library. Desktop 3D authoring software such as Blender, Autodesk Maya or SimLab Composer can be used for this purpose. In particular, Blend4Web allows a WebGL scene to be authored entirely in Blender and exported to a browser with a single click, even as a standalone web page. There are also some WebGL-specific software such as CopperCube and the online WebGL-based editor Clara.io. Online platforms such as Sketchfab and Clara.io allow users to directly upload their 3D models and display them using a hosted WebGL viewer.
Starting from Firefox Version 27, Mozilla has given Firefox built-in WebGL tools that allow the editing of vertices and fragment shaders. A number of other debugging and profiling tools have also emerged.