TL;DR - Babylon.js is frick’n awesome for many reasons, but backward compatibility and the promise of content longevity may be the most underrated and important reasons of all.
I started off in VRML & X3D, both ISO standards for 3D on the web starting in the mid 1990s. Yes, I’m old. For its time it was groundbreaking technology and we created some awesome stuff with it, despite the hardware and software constraints back then. These days most people (apart from some die hards still using it in science and academia) think of it as little more than a crusty old legacy 3D file interchange format, but it was indeed capable of much more, making it a full, rich web 3D authoring powerhouse.
Out of nostalgia, I decided to fire up some of my old work today and found most of it was irreparably broken, even when viewed in the latest vender-specific VRML/X3D browser that it was built for. Now some of the stated aims of VRML as an ISO standard were cross-engine compatibility, no vendor lock-in and content longevity, but alas that hasn’t really been the case unless creators completely avoided new “standardised” features and vender-specific extensions, and even then, bleeding edge content of the time no longer runs as intended even on the right flavour of VRML/X3D engine because engine makers, if they still exist at all, haven’t been diligent about maintaining backwards compatibility. I know nothing is truly “forever” but this is disappointing - that’s a lot of great content and a significant chunk of internet history that is largely now lost to the world. This is not me criticising or hating on VRML, far from it - I love what it was, still is for some and most importantly, the lofty goals it represents.
It just makes me appreciate even more that, with Babylon.js, I can bundle up the engine with my own code and it’s a fixed snapshot in time, so theoretically that work should last. Even if I choose to use the Babylon.js CDN or target the latest preview release, the devs focus on maintaining backwards compatibility gives me a great deal of confidence that my work will stand the test of time.
There’s a lot to love about Babylon.js but I just wanted to emphasise these underrated and rarely considered or discussed factors.
Babylon.js devs … I salute you