HTML5 Rocks

HTML5 Rocks

Interactive Globe with CSS shaders & Google Maps

By Paul Irish at

Recently, I have read news on Webmonkey that Adobe’s CSS Shaders proposal, which will bring high-quality cinematic effects to the web through some new CSS tools, has been accepted by the W3C. If you haven't seen it yet, watch the video below:

Google Chrome's latest Canary added support for CSS shaders, so I decided to experiment with them.

In this experiment, I used custom vertex shader (spherify.vs) and fragment shader (spherify.fs) to create a globe with Google Maps.

.globe {
  width: 550px;
  height: 550px;
  border: 0;
  -webkit-filter: contrast(1.4) custom(url(shaders/spherify.vs) mix(url(shaders/spherify.fs) multiply source-atop),
    50 50 border-box,
    amount 1,
    sphereRadius 0.5,
    sphereAxis -0.41 1 0.19,
    sphereRotation 43.5,
    ambientLight 0.15,
    lightPosition 1 0.87 0.25,
    lightColor 1 1 1 1,
    transform perspective(500));

Here, we're applying a vertex shader (spherify.vs) which will operate on a mesh that has 50 lines and 50 columns (50 50 border-box). Feel free to read the source of the vertex shader: spherify.vs. It's written in GLSL but you can probably follow along.

The mix() function provides basic functionalities for color manipulation like blending and alpha compositing on a fragment shader.

We can change the shere's radius, axis, rotation right in the CSS. In this example we set the value of the sphereRadius: 0.5 and it gives original sphere size.

Enjoy the demo!

Below is a video of the effect. If you've got shaders enabled you can play with the real thing right below!

If you just see a flat google maps above, you can enable it with the instructions below

Browsers support: CSS shaders

This is currently cutting-edge, so it's only available in the latest Google Chrome Canary and WebKit nightly. To enjoy the full experience you'll need to turn a few knobs.

Chrome Canary steps:

  • Type about:flags in the browser's navigation bar
  • Find "Enable CSS Shaders". Enable it
  • Relaunch the browser

WebKit nightly steps

  • Download and install WebKit nightly for Mac OSX
  • Open the browser's preferences panel. Go to Advanced tab and tick to show Develop > Enable WebGL menu in the menu bar.
  • In the browser's menu bar select Develop