Critics of VRML who say the 3D Web language has no practical application will today be able to take a look at BigBook 3D, an online version of the yellow pages that will let users zoom around a map of a city to locate businesses.
BigBook provides free access to a searchable database of 16 million U.S. companies. BigBook 3D is now linking that database to three-dimensional navigable city maps, debuting today with San Francisco.
Users of the frames-based site will select a section of the city for greater detail. Within a VRML viewer, users can then click on individual buildings to get listings of the businesses inside.
The free service will be advertising-driven, with billboards, blimps, storefronts, and other visible objects providing space for ads. As more cities go online, BigBook will encourage developers and users to add their own content to the maps in the form of stores, signs, and entire buildings.
The city maps can be used only with a browser and VRML viewer plug-in.