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Last modified: April 21, 2006
VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) and X3D


Web3D Consortium: Open Standards for Real-Time 3D Communication. "The X3D ISO standard defines a royalty free runtime system and delivery mechanism for real time 3D content and applications running on a network. It supports several file format encodings and programming languages, providing unsurpassed interoperability for 3D data and significant flexibility in manipulating, communicating and displaying scenes interactively. X3D incorporates the latest advances in graphics hardware, compression and data security to provide the best performance and visual impact in an extensible architecture that supports ongoing evolution. X3D's XML-encoded scene graph enables 3D to be incorporated into web services architectures and distributed environments, facilitating the movement of 3D data between applications."

The Web3D Consortium is a member-funded industry consortium committed to the creation and deployment of open, royalty-free standards that enable the communication of real-time 3D across applications, networks, and XML web services. The Consortium works closely with the ISO, MPEG and W3C standardization bodies to maximize market opportunities for its membership. All Consortium members are empowered to participate in Consortium Working Groups to contribute to Consortium specifications before public deployment - and are able to network with some of the leading experts in Web3D technology to accelerate the delivery of their cutting-edge 3D platforms and applications. To encourage broad industry involvement, the Web3D Consortium has enabled open membership at all levels so that any individual, academic institution, organization, or company may join to participate in further development of the X3D, X3D-CDF, X3D_Med, H-Anim, XMSF and other specifications." [from Web3D web site 2006-04-21]

Specification Publication Summaries

[February 28, 2002] "The Web3D Consortium was formed to provide a forum for the creation of open standards for Web3D specifications, and to accelerate the worldwide demand for products based on these standards through the sponsorship of market and user education programs. Web3D applications have been actively pursued by many organizations for quite some time. This community has spearheaded the development of the VRML 1.0 and 2.0 specifications, which provide the basis for the development of associated applications. The organizations involved in this effort felt that the creation of an open consortium focused exclusively on Web3D would provide the structure necessary to stabilize, standardize, and nurture the technology for the entire community. Today, the Web3D Consortium is utilizing its 1500-2000 strong Internet development community, and its broadbased industry support to systematically move the VRML97 ISO Standard forward. Our many prominent technical activities include the Extensible 3D (X3D) specification, which is extending VRML97, using the Extensible Markup Lanquage (XML). Through the well-coordinated efforts of dedicated Working and Task Groups and ISO/W3C Liaisons, the Web3D Consortium is maintaining and extending its standardization activities well into the next Millennium." [website description]

[August 02, 2004]   Web3D Consortium Forms Working Group to Develop X3D Binary File Format Encoding.    The Web3D Consortium and Sun Microsystems have announced the creation of a new X3D Binary Format Working Group. X3D is an "Open Standards XML-enabled 3D file format to enable real-time communication of 3D data across all applications and network applications. It has a rich set of features for use in engineering and scientific visualization, CAD and Architecture, Medical visualization, Training and simulation, multimedia, entertainment, educational, and more." Other development initiatives within the Web3D Consortium include an X3D GeoSpatial Working Group, X3D Programmable Shaders WG, Web3D Consortium Medical Working Group (MedX3D), CAD3D Working Group, and Visual Simulation (XMSF) WG, and Humanoid Animation WG. The Consortium's new X3D Binary Format Working Group has been chartered to "develop both an encoding of X3D to enable advanced compression of 3D data to shorten the transmission time of models and scenes across a network and a data encryption scheme to protect sensitive model information. The working group is open to any member of the Web3D Consortium and has already received significant contributions, including patented, advanced geometry compression technology from Sun." The X3D Binary Format "will be extensible through the use of a pluggable architecture to enable specialized compression techniques on a per-node or per-geometry type basis. This flexibility can be used to deploy highly efficient mesh compression regimes that are ideally suited to a particular model. X3D's encryption scheme will leverage the XML encryption work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C),further strengthening the ongoing liaison between the two standards bodies." The X3D binary format is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2005, and will be an open, royalty-free specification. X3D itself is "an open standard that has no royalties associated with it; the Web3D Consortium has a strict policy about not requiring any IP encumbered technologies to be required, and a long-standing agreement with ISO to release the X3D specifications fee-free to the public." The X3D Consortium is currently "advancing X3D as an integrated 3D graphics and multimedia framework in the ISO process for Information technology — Computer graphics and image processing."

[August 18, 2003]   Web3D Consortium Advances Specifications for 3D Web Applications.    Several recent announcements from the Web3D Consortium and its members highlight the progress of the Extensible 3D (X3D) specification and development of commercial software to support 3D authoring and browsing. The standardization milestones and industry momentum point to the emergence of a 3D Web. "X3D is a major upgrade from the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 97 standard, retaining backwards compatibility with a huge base of available 3D content, but utilizing an open profile/components-based architecture enabling custom-crafted scalable implementations. X3D incorporates numerous advanced 3D techniques including advanced rendering and multi-texturing, Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) Surfaces, GeoSpatial referencing, Humanoid Animation (H-Anim), and IEEE Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) networking." Key X3D specification documents have been approved for ISO FDIS status, and the X3D Task Group has issued an X3D Compressed Binary Encoding Request for Proposals (RFP) for encoding of the abstract functionality described in X3D Abstract Specification. The Task Group "expects to create a format definition that combines progressive geometric compression with XML serialization, encryption and authentication, all in a streamable format by the end of calendar year 2003. The Web3D Consortium has also formed the Extensible Modeling and Simulation Framework (XMSF) Working Group to enable large-scale X3D deployment for simulation using Web Services. The Consortium continues executing a strong strategic partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), ensuring the broadest possible X3D interoperability with the growing family of Extensible Markup Language (XML) specifications. X3D is gaining significant commercial momentum with the first commercial-grade X3D browsers, recently announced at SIGGRAPH from a number of companies."

[February 28, 2002]   Web3D Consortium Publishes Draft for Royalty-Free Extensible 3D Standard.    The Web3D Consortium has announced the public availability of the draft X3D ('Extensible 3D') royalty-free standard which will be submitted to the International Standards Organization (ISO) in August 2002. The normative Annex A of 'Part 3: Data encodings' presents the Extensible Markup Language (XML) encoding in the form of a DTD; there is also a draft XML Schema for the Extensible 3D (X3D) tagset, representing the draft Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 200x. The X3D standard "enables new opportunities for the creation and deployment of state-of-the-art 3D graphics on small, lightweight web clients, and the integration of high-performance 3D into broadcast and embedded devices." Web3D also announced that the X3D Interactive profile "has been accepted by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as the basis for lightweight, interactive 3D graphics in the MPEG-4 multimedia standard; this profile defines a small footprint subset of X3D that enables interactive 3D functionality for MPEG-4 Systems." [Full context]

[August 09, 2001]   Web3D Consortium Announces Launch of X3D Open Standard for Web Three-Dimensional Technology.    An announcement from the Web3D Consortium describes the launch of the X3D Open Web3D Standard as "a new-generation successor to VRML to bring rich and compelling 3D graphics to the Web for a wide variety of applications and devices." Demonstrations of commecial X3D browser applications will be shown at the upcoming SIGGRAPH 2001 exhibition in Los Angeles. The X3D working group created the foundation for the X3D initiative by defining the X3D Core specification, capturing the geometry and behaviorial features of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language in XML. The working groups and supporting companies continue to define, implement, and promote the XML bindings for X3D. The X3D standard "is being developed under the Web3D Consortium's standardization process that provides full and open access to the specification for interested companies and eventual submission to the International Standards Organization for ratification to provide long-term stability for Web3D content and applications." [Full context]

Earlier information on VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) and its relationship to SGML/XML may be found in the "Related Standards" document, sub Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) - ISO/IEC 14772-1:1997. A few links are included here as well.

In December 1998, the VRML Consortium expanded its charter and became the Web3D Consortium. The Consortium URL will become

Principal References

General: Articles, News, Reports

  • [April 21, 2006] "FreeWRL 1.17 Released." Posting by John A. Stewart (April 16, 2006). "The FreeWRL team is proud to announce the release of FreeWRL Version 1.17 — the VRML/X3D browser for OS X and Unix computers. The OS X code is in "Universal Binary" format, so it runs full speed on both G4 and Intel Mac computers. This version also brings together code that has been submitted for X3D Interchange Conformance testing, with an improved user interface. FreeWRL runs standalone, but will run as an html browser plugin. Plugin code for I386 computers is included in the source/binary distributions. For 64 bit processors, and for Universal Binary OS X computers, we will release the plugin interface when the code is deemed stable." Accroding to the SourceForge summary, "FreeWRL is an Open Source, cross platform VRML2 and X3D compliant browser, with script and EAI support. Platforms supported: Linux; Mac OS/X, and other Unix-style platforms. A Windows port is not yet started, but will eventually happen." [notice 2006-04]

  • Announcement 2004-08-02: "Web3D Consortium Announces X3D Compressed Binary Encoding Initiative. Open, Compact File Format to Enable Rapid Delivery and Encryption of X3D-Based Content. Working Group Accepting Key Technology Contributions from Sun Microsystems and Others."

  • Web3D Consortium announcement 2004-07: "ISO votes to advance X3D to International Standard." Summary: "both parts of the X3D Abstract Specification are now approved for advancement to International Standard, ISO 19775..." Posted to the WWW-VRML Public Email List; see the Public Mailing List Home Page.

  • [August 06, 2003] "Extensible 3D: XML Meets VRML." By Len Bullard. From (August 06, 2003). "The Virtual Reality Modeling Language is very much alive and being used to solve real problems. In this article, we will examine the new VRML standard, Extensible 3D (X3D), as well as software and other resources available to support it. Examples and a short tutorial on the new X3D XML-format are provided. A real-time, 3D multimedia language is not meant to be ubiquitous in the sense that all web designers will learn and apply it. VRML is a language for animators and modellers who are specialists. VRML is meant to be perform well. If that requirement had been made of HTML, HTML would be Postscript. Even in the fields it is designed for, more optimum languages exist for more narrow applications, but VRML nicely hits the sweetspot of complexity, capability, and performance. And for those who value standards, it is standard. To those who say it is a dead language, has no real use, or solves no real problems, they're simply wrong. With VRML the artistry of 3D animation and the disciplines of software programming and object-oriented design merge in a multimedia/hypermedia modeling language to enable some of the most compelling and useful content on the Web. The new web 3D standard is X3D/ Extensible 3D. Open source libraries and commercial plugins have already been released in beta for this new standard. Exporters from commercial editors and dedicated editors are in development. Freeware editors are already available. The original syntax for VRML 1.0 and VRML97 is the so-called curly bracket syntax familiar to C and C++ programmers. It is compact, has very fast parsing speed, and is context free... While the decision to provide an XML syntax was quite controversial in the early days of designing the successor to VRML97, few dispute the wisdom of that decision today... There are three outstanding browsers that support the XML-encoding now. First, Xj3D is a Java browser. The second, Flux, is an Active-X plugin for use inside Internet Explorer. The third is Contact, an OCX for Internet Explorer from Bitmanagement Software GmbH... It's now possible to create real-time simulations using a powerful combination of XML and VRML. The potential for applying XML technologies such as XSLT to combine higher level language descriptions that can then be rendered into free-roaming worlds full of intelligent and even mischievous objects is on the horizon. There are interesting aspects of X3D such as GeoVRML and Human Animation (standard avatars) as well as scripting with exciting applications to such diverse domains as virtual theater and public safety systems. The challenge of creating real-time 3D applications using a standard XML application language for the Web has been realized..."

  • [July 29, 2002]   Web3D Consortium Publishes X3D Final Working Draft.    The Web3D Consortium recently announced the publication of a final working draft for the X3D 'Extensible 3D' specification. Relevant XML DTDs and schemas are presented in Annex A of Part 3, 'Extensible Markup Language (XML) Encoding.' X3D "enables the creation and deployment of state-of-the-art 3D graphics on small, lightweight clients, and the integration of high-performance 3D into broadcast and embedded devices. X3D also works seamlessly with World Wide Web technologies including the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and the Document Object Model (DOM), providing extensive application-development capabilities. X3D satisfies these demanding requirements with an advanced componentized architecture that enables compact client players with add-on components, as well as a set of profiles designed to meet the demands of a variety of applications. Earlier this year the X3D Interactive Profile was accepted by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as the basis for lightweight, interactive 3D graphics in the MPEG-4 multimedia standard. The Web3D Consortium will deliver X3D with a rich set of base components and profiles with additional components and profiles to follow in the near future. The Web3D Consortium has also issued a Call for Implementations, inviting companies to evaluate and implement products using this open, royalty-free specification in preparation for submission of X3D to the International Standards Organization (ISO)." [Full context]

  • Announcement 2002-07-23: "Web3D Consortium Releases X3D Final Working Draft. Call for Implementations in Advance of International Standard Submission. X3D SDK Available From Web3D Consortium at SIGGRAPH 2002. Web3D Consortium Establishes Java Rendering Working Group to Define Graphics API Bindings for Java."
  • "A URN Namespace for the Web3D Consortium (Web3D)." By Aaron E. Walsh (Mantis Development Corp.; WWW). IETF Network Working Group, Internet-Draft. Reference: 'draft-walsh-urn-web3d-00.txt'. March 25, 2002, expires: September, 25 2002. "This document describes a Uniform Resource Name (URN) namespace for the Web3D Consortium (Web3D) for naming persistent resources such as technical documents and specifications, Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and Extensible 3D (X3D) files and resources, Extensible Markup Language (XML) Document Type Definitions (DTDs), XML Schemas, namespaces, style sheets, media assets, and other resources produced or managed by Web3D." [cache]

  • [February 26, 2002] "X3D Open Web3D Standard Now Available. Adoption by MPEG-4 Group, Cooperation With World Wide Web Consortium, and Open Source Implementation to Propel Commercial Adoption of Royalty-Free Standard." - "The Web3D Consortium today announced the availability of the draft version of the X3D ('Extensible 3D) standard to bring state-of-the-art 3D graphics to the Web and broadcast environments for a wide variety of applications and devices. The draft specification was unveiled on Sunday, February 24, 2002 at the Web3D Symposium in Tempe Arizona, the industry's annual technical conference, and will form the basis for commercial implementation and evaluation of this open, royalty-free standard in preparation for submission to the International Standards Organization (ISO) in August of this year. The specification is available at X3D enables new opportunities for the creation and deployment of state-of-the-art 3D graphics on small, lightweight web clients, and the integration of high-performance 3D into broadcast and embedded devices. X3D satisfies these demanding requirements with an advanced componentized architecture that enables compact client players with add-on components, as well as a set of profiles designed to meet the demands of sophisticated applications, including: an Interchange Profile for exchanging X3D content among authoring and publishing systems; an Interactive Profile to support delivery of lightweight interactive animations; an Extensibility Profile to enable the development of add-on components and robust applications; and a VRML97 Profile to ensure interoperability between X3D and VRML97 legacy content... In related news, the Web3D Consortium announced today that the X3D Interactive profile has been accepted by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as the basis for lightweight, interactive 3D graphics in the MPEG-4 multimedia standard. The X3D Interactive Profile defines a small footprint subset of X3D that enables interactive 3D functionality for MPEG-4 Systems. By enabling interactive 3D for devices with limited processing power, the X3D Interactive Profile defines a standard for 3D destined for low-power computers, set-top boxes, mobile phones, and personal digital assistants as well as more capable devices such a desktop devices and gaming consoles. The Interactive Profile will enable interoperability between X3D and MPEG-4 content, providing a consistent platform for 3D graphics and application development across Web and broadcast environments..." See also the version 0.8 XML DTD, 16-February-2002. [source]

  • [February 28, 2002] "VRML Successor Aims For 3D Web." By Richard Karpinski. In Internet Week (February 27, 2002). "The Web3D Consortium this week debuted a new specification it hopes will succeed where past efforts have failed and make 3D graphics a mainstream part of the Web. A draft version of the new X3D -- or Extensible 3D -- standard was unveiled this week. It will be submitted to the International Standards Organization (ISO) later this year. Backers hope X3D will have more success than VRML (virtual reality modeling language), which garnered plenty of attention but never took off. Developers envisioned using VRML to build 3D shopping malls, branded online characters, and interactive product models, among other applications. Whether such uses ever catch the imagination of the everyday Web user remains the big question. Clearly, game boxes like PlayStation 2 and Xbox have made 3D graphics a mainstream phenomenon... In a boost to the fledgling standard, the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) has chosen X3D as the basis for lightweight 3D graphics in the MPEG-4 standard. X3D is built using a Java-based toolkit and XML schemas for lightweight delivery and fast performance. Source code is available under the GNU Lesser General Public License, which could also help the standard take hold..."

  • X3D specification

  • Extensible 3D (X3D) Document Type Definition (DTD) - X3D compromise DTD, [cache]

  • X3D compact DTD, [cache]

  • " Part 5--XML encoding (X3D) - " Part 5 contains the XML encoding of the abstract functionality (X3D style encoding).

  • GeoVrml.dtd - providing profile support for the GeoVrml Specification. [cache]

  • [July 14, 1999] A communiqué from Len Bullard (Intergraph Public Safety) announces the availability of a X3D FAQ document from the X3D Task Group: Extensible 3D (X3D) - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Excerpts illustrating the relevance of X3D to XML: "X3D stands for Extensible 3D. It is a next-generation, extensible, 3D graphics specification that extends the capabilities of VRML97. (VRML-NG, for Next Generation, was an early name for what is now X3D.) X3D is being developed by the X3D Task Group, an official task group of the Web3D Consortium. Participation in this group is open. X3D will be fully backward compatible with VRML97. This will be achieved by having a VRML97 extension that sits on Core X3D and provides all of the functionality of a standard VRML97 browser. VRML97 is an ISO standard. XML was adopted as a syntax for X3D in order to solve a number of real problems: (1) Rehostability - VRML97 syntax is foreign to all but the VRML community. It is similar to the SGI systems on which it is based, and to some object notations. But the dominant syntax in use world wide, is SGML. Markup has proved to be the best solution to the long life cycle problems of data archival and rehosting. (2) Page integration - XML page based integration goes directly to the problems of keeping the system simpler so more people can develop for it, in both content and implementation. (3) Integration with the next generation web - The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) are putting a lot of effort into the development of XML. XML support is expected in the next generation of web browsers. It looks like XML is going to be here for a while and so we need to get on board this boat to enable tighter integration with next generation web technologies. The X3D Task Group is looking at various other W3C standards that relate to XML. Technologies that are of particular interest to the X3D include: SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia), SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics), XHTML (the W3C's XML-ization of HTML), and DOM (Document Object Model). The Web3D Consortium is a member of the W3C and by this virtue the X3D Task Group is able to closely monitor the progress in each of these areas and assess the best way to proceed in each case. . ."

  • "Integrating XML and VRML: A Technical Discussion." By Daniel Lipkin [Oracle Corporation]. "Although designed originally for different problem domains, the two technologies of VRML and XML have much to offer each other, and there are a variety of areas where tighter integration between the two can provide powerful benefits. . . This paper investigates additional potential areas of synergy and suggests useful next steps." [local archive copy]

  • [February 10, 1999] "Web3D Consortium Launches X3D Standardization Initiative for Web & Broadcast 3D Graphics. X3D Standard to Define Interoperable, Lightweight Components for 3D Web And Broadcast Applications. Combines Lightweight Runtime Delivery Engine, 3D File Format and XML Integration. Strong Industry Support for Proven Standardization Process." - "The Web3D Consortium today announced that it has initiated the process to define X3D, a next-generation componentized 3D standard that includes integration with XML. Standing for 'Extensible 3D,' X3D is defined as an interoperable set of lightweight, componentized 3D standards that flexibly address the needs of a wide range of markets, including Internet and broadcast applications. With strong industry support, the Web3D Consortium is driving a fast-paced process to produce a draft standard by mid-1999. X3D is building upon the success of the VRML 97 ISO standard with clearly defined backward compatibility with existing VRML content." [X3D was previously informally referred to as 'VRML NG' - Len Bullard]

  • [December 15, 1998] Len Bullard wrote on XML-DEV: 'For discussions relative to the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML), I have created an XML DTD for the current VRML97 nodes. This is a direct mapping of the existing nodes as defined in the ISO specification in a profile matching that of proposals made for a geometry subset. Completing the DTD for all VRML97 nodes is straightforward and may be done. Another DTD has been created by Daniel Lipkin (Oracle) which abstracts the VRML model one level higher (nodes with type= attributes and formal productions for datatypes). This DTD can express all of the current VRML nodes.'

  • [December 17, 1998] DTD work from Len Bullard:

  • [December 17, 1998] DTD work from Daniel Lipkin, and discussion: email posting 'DTDs for VRML', from the VRML DB working group, and discussion.

  • "Visual XML: Authoring, Publishing and Viewing Structured Information." White Paper, by Dan Ancona. Also the printable version: See the related announcement.

  • VRML Database Working Group

  • [August 26, 1998] Recent activity in the VRML Database Working Group includes a Metadata Node Specification, for which Oracle Corporation has provided a free sample implementation. "The Metadata node allows access to the contents of any Extensible Markup Language (XML) document. It is intended for use with a variety of common metadata formats, such as Resource Description Format (RDF). The url field contains references to a list of XML documents. The strings in this field indicate multiple locations to search for data in decreasing order of preference. This field may also contain XML code in-line. . ."

  • Metadata Design Justification

  • [December 15, 1998] "VRML Consortium Expands Charter to Become Web3D Consortium. Name Change Reflects Expanded Charter to Provide a Suite of Interoperating Standards for 3D on the Internet; Consortium Initiating Definition of Next- Generation Lightweight Component Standards for 3D Web & Broadcast Applications." - "The Web3D Consortium is a 65-member non-profit organization with a mandate to develop and promote open standards to enable 3D Web and broadcast applications. . . [As of December 15, 1998, the consortium has] initiated an internal, fast-paced process to define an interoperable set of lightweight and extensible component 3D standards to flexibly address the needs of a wide range of Internet and broadcast applications. This process has the backing and support of key industry members and is expected to promote interoperability with standards such as DHTML, XML, DOM and MPEG-4 to encourage the ubiquitous deployment of reliable 3D content."

  • [July 22, 1998] "VRML Consortium Expands Charter to Include Multiple 3D Technologies for the Web. Consortium Launches Next-Generation VRML Standard Process Including Source Code of Sample Implementations." - ". . . the next generation of VRML which is expected to include XML and DHTML Integration." [local archive copy]

  • Main entry - Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) - ISO/IEC 14772-1:1997

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