Monday, August 7th, 2006

Ajax3D – the Next Arc up the Hype Curve

Category: Editorial, Plugins

Overuse a term and it becomes meaningless. How much meaning is still in the term ‘Ajax?’ Media Machines tries to wring a little more buzz out of it — first take an X3D and VRML browser plugin with ECMAScript bindings (Flux), combine it with XMLHttpRequest and voila! You’ve got Ajax3D. At least that’s what you have according to their latest press release.

Media Machines, Inc., a leading provider of open source, real time 3D communications on the web, today announced Ajax3Dâ„¢, a Javascript-based software library and development paradigm for deploying online virtual worlds and 3D web applications based on Ajax and X3D. The company also issued an open call for participation in an industry forum at, dedicated to the research and development of online virtual worlds using 3D open standards and Ajax best practices.

A quick look at reveals a somewhat anemic collection of forums and ‘tutorials.’ You have to view source and download the javascript files to figure out what’s going on.

var browser = null; var context = null; var listener = null; var listenersSetup = false;
function initAjax3d(filename)
browser = null; context = null; listenersSetup = false;
browser = document.FLUX.getBrowser();
if (browser != null) {
listener = new Object();
listener.browserChanged = browserChanged;
if (filename != null)
browser.loadUrlS (filename);
context = browser.getExecutionContext();
// [snip]
function createX3DFromString(str) {
var scene = browser.createX3DFromString(str); var rootnodes = scene.getRootNodes(); var i;
// Do a bit of work to deal with the quirky X3D add/remove root node paradigm
for (i = 0; i < rootnodes.length; i++) { node = rootnodes[i]; scene.removeRootNode(node); context.addRootNode(node); } }[/javascript]

There’s no documentation to speak of, unless you head over to and read through their obtuse standards documents. To Media Machines’ credit, they did just release the source of their plugin to open source, so you could crawl through the code to figure out all of the bindings. Even so, how much is the ‘Ajax’ involved with ‘3D’? Not a whole lot. Certainly not enough to warrant the coining of a new term and the issuing of a press release.
Update 1: The site now does have some text to go with the tutorials. Was I too harsh in my assessment of Ajax3D as an excercise in hype? I don’t have anything against the 3D or VRML folks, but unless you can show me 3D without a plugin, I’m still a skeptic.

Posted by Dietrich Kappe at 5:45 pm

3.1 rating from 31 votes


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Hey, it’s “trademarked”, too!

Comment by Mark Wubben — August 7, 2006

oh no… not the 3D people….

Comment by Hubris Sonic — August 7, 2006

Ajax, it seems, is slowly degenerating into a term solely used to generate hype for various web products.
Look at ajaxWrite. It’s XUL-based, and it’s not even Ajax.

Comment by kourge — August 7, 2006

Because VRML was so great the first time around…

Comment by Karl G — August 8, 2006

It’s funny to see people disdain the return of 3D to the web. It’s a standard “hype cycle”:
1. “Technology Trigger”
2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations”
3. “Trough of Disillusionment”
4. “Slope of Enlightenment”
5. “Plateau of Productivity”

Where 3D technology is now getting to the points of ‘enlightenment’. Bandwidth is high, machines are fast, people are using technology for ever-increasing amount of their activites. They want to explore, interact. Anyways, 3D still has a future – altered realities, virtual realities, physical-space interaction, etc.

As for the term, if you actually split it apart, it makes sense: “Asyncronous Javascript And X3D”. It’s like flying through GoogleEarth and having 3D object downloaded as you approach the area.

Comment by Andrew Turner — August 8, 2006

[…] Ajaxian has an article discussing the press release and code for Looking at the comments, it’s funny to see people disdain the return of 3D to the web. Following history, 3D web technology is following the standard “hype cycle”: […]

Pingback by High Earth Orbit » Blog Archive » The ‘return’ of 3D — August 8, 2006

Wow.. that is so not even kindof really Ajax it blows my mind. Also, it didn’t work in IE 6 or Firefox (well. being VRML I’m not surprised).

Comment by Alexei — August 8, 2006

Hi folks,

Just a little information in response to various comments:

1) Dietrich – there is indeed accompanying text for the tutorials. However it was posted only yesterday. Sorry for the confusion.

2) Mark – r/e the “Trademark” – the intent there is that this trademark will be controlled by the (non-profit) organization that forms around There is no formal organization in place but we already have a mailing list of about 50 people interested in participating, mostly generated from a Birds of a Feather SIGGRAPH session I ran last week. We are going to grow the group organically.

3) Alexei – it *is* really Ajax and it *does* work in IE 6 and Firefox. So I’m not sure what you are talking about…

Comment by Tony Parisi — August 10, 2006

Well, it’s Asynchronous Javascript and it’s XML-encoded 3D, so I don’t know what else you’d call it other than AJAX3D. AJAX describes the use of XMLHttpRequest with Javascript, and that’s what’s going on here. What’s your issue? If you’re not a 3D person, then I can see that you might not care about this, but to me it looks pretty damn sweet and it’s certainly not an incorrect use of the term.

Comment by Viveka — August 10, 2006

Hmm, Worlds of Warcraft has millions of members – on a proprietary platform. Second Life has doubled in membership the last few months – on a proprietary platform. What if the Web/HTML was proprietary? It’d be a nice community with pretty great stuff – but not everywhere, all the time, added to by anyone who had the guts and chops. The argument about 3D is over folks – Xbox, PlayStation – we all have grown up with it and play in it most every day. Glad to see that it’s now possible on the Web. Very cool and gutsy.

Comment by AJP — August 10, 2006

Say what you like about VRML I guess. “Because VRML was so great the first time around…”. That’s a criticism with no substance. VRML is a 3D file format that is still widely supported by many CAD, 3D Modeling, and Laser Scan data packages. If you’re going to criticize, at least post some reasons and not something you’ve heard from someone else.

That said, X3D addresses many of the disired features that VRML was missing. The version of the spec under review now includes support layering/overlays, particles effects, and rigid body physics.

What VRML did do right was 3D for the masses, it allowed alot of us to get into 3D at a low cost, which would not have otherwise been possible. I’m an archaeologist by education. That’s the beauty of X3D, tools are out there that are open source, from plug-ins to Maya and Max, to the completely open source Blender. X3D is still 3D for masses, ECMAScripting (for all of us programming challenged folks) and all the graphics power you could hope for. If you don’t believe me, check out the X3D based game Cosmic Birdie from

Comment by Aaron — August 11, 2006

Also, Flux has fixed some bugs and added features, and those examples will run with very slight mods in two or three different X3D players in both IE and Ff, and getting better all the time. Yes it is real Ajax and yes it is real 3D. Tony was indeed brave and very considerate to the 3D community in hanging that out there. For somebody getting in to it, the SAI (the X3D DOM) is well documented in the standards at However, as in any developing browser, it may be tough to figure out exactly which of the interfaces are actually there.

Comment by Joe — November 27, 2006

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