A Bad rant on a bad rant on OpenGL ES


A long time ago some idiot wrote a rant about OpenGL ES. I'm saying some idiot in particular because that article called people idiots.

The rant is basically the person wrote a demo in many many years ago in OpenGL. He then decided he wanted to see it run on iPhone which used OpenGL ES. He thought it would be trivial but instead it was a ton of work so he vomited out a rant.

He rants that you should never remove features from an API just deprecate them. First off it's not the same API which is why the name actually changed so this argument comes down to basically he's ranting they didn't change the name enough.

OpenGL vs OpenGL ES

Note: ES = Embedded Systems

If they had called it WaterGraphicsAPI he'd have no reason to complain. If they had called it OpenGL Mini maybe again he'd not have complained because the 'mini' would make it clear it's going to be missing things. So the entire rant basically comes down to his confusion at the name. It's a valid rant that they should have chosen a less confusing name. The rest of the rant is completely without merit though.

OpenGL was invented by SGI in 1991 for specialized and very fast, at the time, machines that cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

OpenGL ES was introduced in 2003 and was designed for feature phones that had 32k of memory running extremely slow. They could draw 100s of polygons a frame vs the 100s of thousands or millions available on machines running OpenGL.

He rants they should have kept these deprecated features anyway but never considers the repercussions of such a decision. So what would have been the results of keeping the old features?

One benefit is some shitty old demos would run on new hardware. Unfortunately they'd run extremely slowly making the hardware look bad causing less sales. Other devs would rant "my 10 year old demo that runs on $40k hardware runs like shit on this 32k ram phone" leading other devs not to even consider that maybe it issue is they guy's shitty techniques and not actually adapting to the new constraints. In other words it would scare devs away from the target platform. How is that a plus?

Note if his demo ran well on an iPhone that's go nothing to do this. OpenGL ES wasn't written for iPhones, it precedes them by 4 years.

Another issue is work time. He claims it took 3 days to re-write his code implying it would have taken just a few days to keep to the old API. No, as someone that's implemented the old API it's actually a shit ton of work, especially if you want to pass the conformance tests so that your implementation of the old API works as the spec says it does. He only had to support the parts of the API that his demo needed, not the entire API.

So, what do we get, probably 6+ man months of work, maybe $100k of time and for what? So people can port shitty old demos that run too slow and make the phones look bad. Not a good trade off. I'd much rather those 6 man months of work get spent making the next version of the hardware, or fixing bugs in other places, or adding new features. Anywhere but wasting it for nonsense goals. Worse there would be pressure to waste more and more time trying to get the old API as performant as possible to try to stop lazy devs from making the platform look bad with their poor API usage. Again wasting time and money that could be spent elsewhere.

Another issue is rom space. Keeping the old API requires space in the phone itself. So you need a larger rom making the phone cost more. Your phone ends up selling less because of the higher cost all so some jerk can run his 10 year old demo on your phone that runs too slow and further effects sales in the negative.

Yet another issue is ram space. The old APIs require 2x to 3x the ram because of the way they need to be emulated. So now devs try to port their old stuff, maybe they they are lucky and they run but then they try to add some features and run out of space. Some percentage of devs will now ship this shitty software rather than optimize. Pretty much "I'm out of memory so I'm done. Let's ship!". Effectively users get worse apps giving them a bad experience a causing unhappy users and less sales.

On the other hand OpenGL (not ES) has followed his advice. You can use OpenGL 4.x today and use the OpenGL 1.x API on it. The result is, every week I see new devs asking questions on Stack Overflow and they're using the 10-15yr old deprecated API. They are effectively having their time wasted. They're learning the wrong thing for progression in their careers and learning out of date trivia. The world would arguably be better off if those deprecated APIs just stopped working. Apple, many tech people's favorite company, does this all the time. Some API is deprecated, they give you warnings for 1-2 yrs and if you haven't updated your app it ceases to function.

The short of it is, with even just a little though it was exactly the correct decision to remove those features from the API. It was right because they wasted memory. It was right because they waste memory space. It was right because it makes the phone cheaper. It was right because it saves personnel time that can be used better elsewhere. It was right because it would be a waste of money to pay to have it done. It was right because it prevents new devs from learning obsolete APIs wasting their time. It was right because it discourages old boring ports. It was right because it discourages lazy devs to make the new hardware look bad with their ugly 10yr old slow running demos.

The only issue is the name. They should have chosen a different name for the API. On that I agree and if they had that idiot's entire rant would have never appeared.

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