20 Technologies For 3D Worlds On The Web

Here's a list of 20 software projects, some of them opensource, others free, and others commercial but affordable. They all can be used to build 3D virtual worlds, that can be published in Internet.

Papervision: Stunning 3D Engine built with Flash. The visitor only needs to have Flash installed to see the 3D models online. It's opensource. (Wanna a good book for Papervision3D)

Alternativa3D: Flash engine for 3D virtual worlds. Again, the user just needs to have Flash installed to walk through virtual worlds.
DHTML: Dynamic HTML is one of the most powerful technologies for fast 3D, as is shown in the site of the superb 3D artist Gerard Ferrandez. He mixes 3D with poetry. His worlds make us think, make us dream. He really deserves a future deeper review, but for now enjoy his super-human mastering of DHTML.

Quest3D: Commercial development tool for creating real-time 3D applications without programming. The worlds created can be published to stand-alone executables, or embed the Quest3D application on other programs, or publish it on the web
Paperworld3D: LGPL game engine for developing virtual worlds and MMOGs in Flash. Based on existing open-source projects like PaperVision3D and Red5 (open source Flash server that supports streaming and recording audio/video).

3DzzD: Software 3D engine with physics engine, and all necessary tools to manage 3D scenes on an HTML web page. Users don't need to install anything, just enter the worlds.

FLAX3D: Users need Flash and Flux Player installed. Once installed, FLAX3D enables Flash programmers to quickly and easily add X3D scenes to their Flash movies.
3DXPlorer, This platform allows you to build your 3d world in the web, that people can visit. It's free for up to 200 visits per day. It is built with Java, so worlds are Java applets. Visitors only need to have the Java runtime installed.

QuicktimeVR: Technology for displaying panoramas in which the user is immersed. You can watch a demo visiting the virtual walk through the Monastery Gracanica. The user can rotate in 360 degrees and zoom.

Tries to combine Ajax with X3D so the 3D content may be modified by Ajax. Some applications for multiuser virtual worlds have been suggested.
Croquet: This is a platform for 3D virtual worlds that connect over P2P, so no server is needed. They can use many formats for models, which include 3DS and VRML. It is programmed in Squeak, a sort of SmallTalk.

3DMLW: Markup language for 3D on Internet that supports 3DS and OBJ models.

Project Wonderland: GPL project for virtual worlds platform written in Java.

Dryad: Build trees and forests navigating through them in 3D. Download the trees in OBJ format.

VastPark: An API for creating your 3D content and virtual worlds.
Xj3D: Java library and browser for X3D (and VRML) content. With it you can visualize X3D files and also use it as library so you can add a 3D window to your Java application. There's no light plugin for now, but you can use Xj3D to make a 3D visualizer application that loads X3D worlds.
If you are a programmer that uses Java and Netbeans IDE, the X3DV Module Suite will also help you to code in X3D and VRML without having to use another editor.
Blink 3D: Blink 3D is an authoring tool to build 3D worlds. You can visit these worlds online or offline. The viewer is free, and the authoring tool has free and paid editions. Here's a demo video:

FIVe3D: Done with ActionScript. Users just need Flash installed. It has MIT license, so your freedom to build over it is enormous.
CodeCity: CodeCity is an integrated environment for software analysis, in which software systems are visualized as interactive, navigable 3D cities.

X3D/VRML: The standards for 3D on the Web, developed by the Web3D Consortium. In my opinion, the best option. Users just need a decent VRML or X3D plugin, and the flexibility of these languages allows building almost anything. There are many tools that export to VRML, and some are appearing that use X3D. Again, the X3DV Module Suite can be useful combined with Netbeans IDE, excellent editor that can handle Java, PHP and other languages.

-Jordi R. Cardona-

© by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.

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Omind said...

I still prefer the X3D/VRML comformance as it seems to be the best, most open way to build and publish interactive 3D. Alot of the stuff out there is propriatary and difficult to use or non-existant.

Jordi R Cardona said...

Yes, this is a list of possibilities for 3D on Internet, but X3D/VRML gets the best performance, speed, quality of graphics in all viewers... Blink3D also has good quality, though.

And X3D/VRML is an elegant language, very understandable. And it's free for every use, commercial or not.

Also, Xj3D is improving very much, and if they launch a lighter applet plugin for web pages, it may be the definitive viewer.

Galdric said...

Interesting article. In fact, there are like 50 different technologies to display 3D on the web (plugins and flash libraries based included). Just a mess !

Jordi R Cardona said...

Hi Galdric,

This list has preference to list languages and APIs. It's not a list the best, just a list of 20 that called my attention, and I think that have something special or are good.

There should be more than 20 and more than 50, of course.

But I don't think that it's a mess that there are so many ways to use 3D on the web.

I hate monopolies.

I know that most of people tend to think and write saying that "I wish platform X or virtual world X imposes over the others as main standard for 3D or vw on the Web".

But I prefer variety and that all of them are kept alive, as diversity creates new things. Modern society tends to impose monopolies in everything, but it kills all innovation.

Internet is very big, and there's space for everything.

Anonymous said...

and what about java applet + jav3d?:)

Jordi R Cardona said...

Yes @Anonymous, in fact, 3DXplorer is what you suggest, a Java applet that uses Java3D

Emmanuel said...

do you know stonetrip ? http://www.stonetrip.com/
It can make 3D games in the browser. Try the demo : http://www.stonetrip.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=52

Jordi R Cardona said...

Yes Emmanuel it looks good, and I see it has server too.

Galdric said...

@jordi : you're absolutely right about diversity. i wasn't talking in a bad way (in fact didn't intend to) about all of theses possibilities because like you said, "diversity creates innovation" but still a lot of people are waiting for the upcoming area of an easy 3D use on the web, like 'standard', in the same way flash is used for animation.

I was just thinking maybe one day people won't wonder which technology they are going to use, but how good they will use it ;)

just a thought...

Thom Theriault said...

We've been very impressed with Sun's Project Wonderland. The community is growing and the project is really picking up steam. Some really great collaborative features are available. Sun seems to be putting more resources into the technology - which we see as a really good sign for the future.

Jordi R Cardona said...

Yes, that's a good point too. I understand. You suggest that there are too much divergent efforts.

This makes me think that the standard, approved by ISO, for easy 3D on the web has been invented.
It was called VRML and now is X3D.

But as it's free, commercial applications try to invent new systems that try to be better, or appear as better systems. Some of them also try to ruin the reputation of the open and free systems, so they appear as the new big thing.
These companies use to sell themselves as monopolists.

The same thing happens with other standards like OpenGL or Flash3D.

@Tom Theriault:
Yes, and it's all in Java. It's a very promising project.

Mudit said...

hey what about Shockwave ?

marketing (at) 3DXplorer.com said...

First thanks to Jordi for this full panorama of web3D.

Let me complete the information about 3DXplorer here:
1) There is no doubt about all the good things regarding X3D/VRML. What 3DXplorer brings is an upper layer, enabling non-developers, building sophisticated web3D spaces, in just a few hours, that can be visited without any client software download required. This makes the final world more accessible to all visitors, esepcially those who resist in installing unknown plug-ins on their computers.
2) Now while its not only targeted to developers, it still represents a web native development platform, as developers can do all type of applications (in HTML, Javascript, PHP, ...) with the API, and that the 3Dspaces are nothing else than interconnected (hyperlinks) web pages.
3) 3DXplorer does not use any Java3D component, just Java + OpenGL. And you can see that through the quality of the graphics. Example: http://www.3dxplorer.com/download_file/worlds/index_benaroyagrandlobby.html

Hopes this clarifies a bit more, our positionning.


Jordi R Cardona said...

Yes Shockwave, I must not have left it out of the list:


Jordi R Cardona said...

@marketing (at) 3DXplorer.com:

I like 3DXplorer. In fact, I included it in this list but will be reviewed deeper in an article that I'll publish soon about 6 systems to have 3D on a web. It will be a multi-review and will be a long article.

What I like most of 3DXplorer is what you say: users just need to have Java installed, which is almost universal. The navigation is also very smooth and easy.

Anonymous said...

Worth checking out sandy3d:


And away3d too:


Jordi R Cardona said...

Thank you for your suggestions Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Btw. 3DMLW has also Physics, works on most browsers and is open-source.

Comparing with X3D it is much simpler and it supports other model formats, so I recommend to check it out. Although it is a bit buggy yet.

Mark Zohar said...


Thank you for your review of SceneCaster. However, allow me to correct your comment that: "For now, you can't use your own images into the scenes". In fact, SceneCaster now allows users to upload and use their own photos, custom textures and 3D models in creating their personalized 3D scenes. See the following scene: http://apps.facebook.com/scenecaster/scenedetails.php?project_id=1000038705 as an example of how one of our users who is an artist is using SceneCaster to create a 3D gallery of her artwork for presentation on Facebook.


Jordi R Cardona said...

Thank you for telling me this, Mark. I've corrected it, and now it says:"For now, you can't use streaming video. But you can insert your own images."

I suppose you are talking about the review of SceneCaster in another post. I've corrected it there:

SceneCaster, ExitReality and ActiveWorlds plugin review

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