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What is the reach of WebGL for the desktop web?


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With all the WebGL news of late I thought it was a good idea to discuss the current state of WebGL's reach. It's not just about browser vender support. Don't get me wrong I think WebGL is progressing fast and will allow for great 3D content on the web. It will evolve and understanding how it will evolve can help you make choices or help drive WebGL awareness.


The other major factor for WebGL that I think is not discussed much is the graphic driver support in the browsers that do support WebGL. Take a look at the blacklist/whitelist wiki page for WebGL here:



Current driver support:

Chrome >2009

Firefox >2010


Just take those numbers actually limits a lot of laptop and pc's from running WebGL content. Of course the driver support will get better but its not as simple as just time to go back to older drivers. 


Your thoughts on WebGL reach?


Here is the full article here:


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Chris yeah, just the browser reach has a way to go. But once that is up there is still other considerations that people don't discuss much, for example graphic drivers. 


Another good link for some subjective WebGL API availability or commonly used API's in connection with WebGL is http://webglstats.com (which shows a more rosy picture then the 31% of browsers support WebGL)

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True, but have you looked at the list of pages where that information is gathered from? Mostly tech related websites where you can consider the userbase to mostly use very modern numbers.

The numbers from caniuse are usually very accurate with a broad user spectrum.

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Can we please switch back to rosy stats again. Gamers spend big bucks on hardware: http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey

Might not be the best thing for casual games right now... but there is an audience capable of playing. 


Also visuals. Please: http://goodemos.com/demos/pb/index.html ( Pearl Boy Demo )

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So...anecdote time.  I have a very old GeForce card (approximately 8 years old perhaps) in an ageing desktop chassis.  Despite its age, there is still an nVidia driver which was released recently enough to allow it to be whitelisted.  However, since the card itself is so old, there's just no point running any WebGL content of any real interest/complexity.  From talking to users, I don't have a sense that a significant percentage is being affected by the blacklist any more, and obviously, as time goes by, there will be fewer and fewer people affected.


~31% of browsers support WebGL.

I think you have to be careful about interpreting caniuse numbers for WebGL support.  You should really reference the total figure which is 53.59% because the site penalises Firefox for not (yet) having a software fallback in the event of a driver being blacklisted.  I think that's rather harsh, personally.  (Also, note there's a bug about this in Mozilla's Bugzilla DB).


Ultimately, we've seen rapid uptake of WebGL across browsers and device categories over the last couple of years and the last few months in particular have been interesting (particularly the news about Windows Blue/IE11).


For me, the big disappointment is Safari, both on OS X and iOS.  Apple's silence on their longer term plans for WebGL is frustrating.  But there are always alternatives.  For example, check out Ejecta on Github.

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caniuse's estimation is probably inaccurate for WebGL, since it doesn't take in to account the complicated driver/OS/hardware blacklists. Sites like webglstats and Steam have certain audiences which probably bias the stats. The best resource IMO is Benoit Jacob's graphics feature statistics, based off data coming in from Firefox crash reports:



Based on this, over all operating systems Firefox users get WebGL just over 66% of the time. This is about double what it was in summer 2011, so it's improving steadily.


Other tidbits from the data (remember it's specific to Firefox and current to the time of this post):

- about 92% of Windows 8 users get WebGL

- 84% of Windows 7 users get WebGL

- ...but it's dragged down by Vista (about 25%) and XP (27%)

- 96% of Android users get WebGL


Forecast: as XP and Vista decline, graphics drivers continue to improve, the regular churn of people throwing away old hardware and getting new (WebGL compatible) kit, and increasing browser support (Safari/Opera/IE11/Mobile?), I'm fairly sure we'll see 90%+ support overall in a couple of years.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I guess one other thing to factor into this is that your game doesn't have to work on 90% of the web... especially not today. It's a game, not a website, so chances are your audience is already a special segment of the population.


Sure, if you make a poker game - you might run into problems with compatibility because everyone wants to gamble. But if you make a 3D FPS using physics, you might find your audience is prepared (with the odd exception).


As webGL grows, it's going to be really interesting to see how people implement graceful degradation for lower end machines. It seems inevitable if this platform keeps growing.

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This is really exciting and something I am wanting to learn right now. I have an idea for a personal website to incorporate a 3D game styled interactive website to a personal website. It would be something different but it would take a long time for one person to do. I want a challenge. 

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