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Re: [Public WebGL] Proposal of OES_texture_npot extension
IIRC the main concern originally was that while support is pretty much ubiquitous on desktop (and has been for some time), it's not widely supported on mobile, and the intent was to prevent authors accidentally writing WebGL apps on desktop that won't port to mobile. I think an extension that you must request before the feature is enabled solves this problem (since it obligates a not-supported code path), but I think at the time the priority was to have everything universally supported, especially while WebGL was new.
NPOT support comes as core in OpenGL ES 3 as I understand it, and I'd be happy to wait for the next WebGL based on ES 3 instead of specifying an NPOT extension now.