Platinum Technology?s decision to place the source code to its Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) software in the public domain may boost the market for three dimensional (3D) Web technology.
The software company plans to hand the source code of its two VRMLbrowsers and VRML authoring tools over to the Web3D Consortium, an industry group which counts Platinum and Microsoft among its members.
The Consortium, which was formerly named the VRML Consortium, will decide within the next 90 days how and when the source code will be made available to developers.
But Platinum?s move is reminiscent of Netscape?s decision a year ago to open up the source code of its Communicator browser. Platinum?s primary motivation was also cost cutting as it announced earlier this week that it would cut 1,000 jobs, or 15 per cent of its workforce.
Neil Trevett, president of the Web3D Consortium, said Platinum?s decision would ultimately benefit the development of 3D technology for the Web, however. ?Open source is definitely the way to go. It allows technology to be developed and deployed much faster,? he said.
Platinum has been a driving force behind the development of 3D Web technology and standards, especially since last year when it acquired two key companies in the space in the shape of Intervista, which developed the World View VRML browser, and Cosmo, a former Silicon Graphics unit.
The company said it intended to use the offerings to develop 3D visualisation tools and would integrate them into its core systems management applications and development tools.
Jeff Schultz, Platinum?s vice president of marketing for Internet commerce, said the firm remained committed to 3D Web technology. ?When Platinum first acquired this technology, it was always with the intent to make Web 3D ubiquitous. We now believe the way to do this is to open up VRML,? he explained.
But Schultz and Trevett both admitted that VRML had been losing steam. Although it was approved as a standard by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) in 1997, it never gained universal acceptance, and last year, its fortunes took a turn for the worse when Microsoft announced a competing 3D technology called Chromeffects.
But the software giant shelved Chromeffects late last year, and the Web3D Consortium is now hoping to revive VRML?s fortunes by developing a new version of the technology called X3D.
This will be a componentised, extensible version of VRML to enable vendors to develop lighter and faster VRML viewing technology, and Trevett claimed that the Platinum source code would help speed up its development.
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