Virtual Reality Modeling Language

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Virtual Reality Modeling Language or VRML is a file format for interactive 3D vector graphics that is maintained by the Web3D Consortium. It was originally introduced in 1994 as Virtual Reality Markup Language and between 1995 and 1998 was very popular as a technology demonstrator with a number of companies building tools and content and even web accessible 3D worlds, but the general belief was that the concept would do for 3D graphics what the WWW had done for hypertext.

VRML however never really took off, both it appears due to the relative coarseness of both the graphics and user experience, and because most people were still using analogue modems at the time and the lag created by the lack of download bandwidth made the whole experience time consuming and jagged. The format has been mostly superseded by an XML based format called X3D that is mostly backwards compatible and is maintained by the same Web3D Consortium as WRML.

IBM VRML tools

IBM used to have a number of VRML creation and playback tools available, both as native OS/2 programs and a Java app and applets that utilised the IBM software OpenGL renderer that was available for OS/2 Warp Version 4. These included for instance a VRML browser plugin for Netscape Navigator, however they have all been taken off the net and do not seem to have been archived anywhere.

File format

WRML file are plain text files that have .WRL or .WMRL extensions and are basically copies of the "Open Inventor" file format from SGI with a few minor alterations.

Text & programmers editors with VRML support
  • Elvis - VRML syntax support included by default in both the DOS and OS/2 version of the program - Open source - Current
  • MED
  • jEdit - Java based editor - VRML2 syntax highlighting built in - Current


  • Andrea L. Ames, David R. Nadeau, John L. Moreland: VRML Sourcebook 1.0 - Wiley 1996, ISBN 0-471-14159-3
  • Jed Hartman, Josie Wernecke: VRML 2.0 Handbook - Addison-Wesley 1996, ISBN 0-201-47944-3