Chapter 4

The goal of this work was to design and implement a virtual globe working in a modern web browsers with WebGL support without the need to install any additional piece of software (plugin, addon, extension, etc.). We have also placed emphasis on low CPU requirements.

Large texture management and rendering was identified to be the main problem of project realization. After extensive analysis of existing methods, potential implementation difficulties were described and two new approaches suitable for web browser environment were proposed.

Complex method of virtual globe visualization in modern web browsers with WebGL support was successfully designed and implemented. Most important aspects and key parts of the code were described in this document.


Figure 4.1: Alpha version of WebGL Earth on Google Nexus One

The results of this work are the base of the open-source WebGL Earth project ( Although the project is still in beta phase (WebGL specification has only recently reached version 1.0 and no browser passes all conformance tests at the time of writing this document), some contributions were already made by both academical (Leonardo Salom from AI2 Institute at Universitat Politècnica de València) and commercial (Tom Payne from CampToCamp S.A.) entities.

The application running at has already been visited by more than 65 000 users and has also been briefly demonstrated at the ESRI Summit in California, USA as an illustration of future development of modern web applications [NBJ11, time 11:18].

4.1 Future of the project

We are currently working on more detailed, high-resolution terrain support and dataset as well as 3D buildings layer (in collaboration with CampToCamp S.A.). A group of people from AI2 Institute is currently working on vector overlay support. Comprehensive WebGL Earth JavaScript API refactoring and extending is also planned in the foreseeable future.