While researching trying to find a good software to recommend for X3D on the web, I came to the sad conclusion that most of the solutions, that initially were available, are in fact unavailable or have stopped their development.
We have come to the paradox that VRML has more effective software available than X3D.
As I plan to run a X3D course in the classic VRML encoding course in this site, I needed 2 kind of tools:
- One of standalone visualization, and debugging and easy error fixing in our files, that will most likely be Xj3D, because it gives very understandable error messages and has a strict syntax tolerance.
- Another to visualize the contents of a X3D file embedded in a web page. The reason to this is that Xj3D has not a browser plugin.
The problem comes with the last, as there is no decent X3D browser plugin, it seems. All of them have some probem.
Octaga: works great but shows a giant logo in a corner. Your visitors will have to buy the software to remove it, although it is not expensive (50 euro), but most of them won't do it, as browser plugins are universally conceived as free (do you imagine paying to see Flash content?), so your visitors will have a frustrating experience.
BSContact: The same as Octaga, but this time they ask you 300-2000 euro depending on the license type, which is exaggerated.
Xj3D: As said, it is a standalone, no plugin, application. There's an applet version that is rather buggy and no help docs. Passing urls from the browser to the application seems not easy, Firefox doesn't pass them.
Vivaty: Many people did not realize that it was a good browser plugin and just used it for Facebook. It was fast. Their shadow engine was not so good as BSContact or Octaga, but was quite cool. Unfortnatelly, Vivaty closed down, so this player may not be available soon. There is still hope that someone buys the code and makes a freely available X3D plugin, with no disturbing logos.
Cortona: Can't display X3D, just some nodes. Works great, although a bit slow, but only with VRML.
Instant Player: Has a plugin that hangs Firefox when you change of tab or refresh the screen. The plugin project was abandoned by the institution behind Instantreality. Can run a link in standalone when clicked in Firefox, although it's a little slow to open, because Instant Player is a heavy application.
FreeWRL: Recently, the project was abandoned. Anyway it had no browser plugin.
Kambi's View3DScene: Can open a X3D file when a link is clicked, not in the page but in a standalone window. It works great and has fantastic graphic possibilities, shaders and many custom nodes that can make awesome sceneries. The only drawback is the lack of sound. We hope they add it soon.
As things are now, there are still solutions, that may happen or not:
- Kamburelis, the developer of View3DScene, may consider the addition of sound if he gets enough test cases for sound nodes (this is, worlds made in VRML or X3D using sound nodes) to include in his test suite. I plan to contribute making some. May be the best solution for now, at least it is easy to trigger into Firefox or IE.
- The makers of BSContact or Octaga get enlightened and remove the horrible logo, getting thousands of visitors and becoming a standard de-facto plugin like Blaxxun did for some time.
- The makers of Xj3D develop a browser plugin bridge, that embeds a java window inside the web page, maybe using JavaFX.
- Cortona adds support for X3D.
This is the situation, and the paradox. Making something with VRML may be more visible to web users than making it with X3D.
I think this is more a marketing and planning failure than a development or technical failure. If X3D had been called VRML 3.0, many of the developers of the past had just upgraded their software and allow more or less powerful solutions. But they have perceived it as a different thing, just as many web users, and considered VRML 2.0 too old (who in earth had the idea to call it VRML97 ?) and X3D a not enough widespread thing.
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