OpenGL 3.1 specification have been released at GDC 2009 a few days ago. I think this is the first time in ARB history a new version of OpenGL is released so quickly, less than one year after OpenGL 3.0 was released (at siggraph last year).

This new revision promote to the core some remaining G80 features that where not promoted into OpenGL 3.0: Texture Buffer Objects (GL_ARB_texture_buffer_object, one-dimensional array of texels used as texture without filtering, equivalent to CUDA linear textures), Uniform Buffer Objects (GL_ARB_uniform_buffer_object, enables rapid swapping of blocks of uniforms, rapid update and
sharing across program objects), Primitive Restart (GL_NV_primitive_restart, restart an executing primitive, exist as a extensin since Geforce 6 I think), Instancing (GL_ARB_draw_instanced), Texture Rectangle (GL_ARB_texture_rectangle). Uniform Buffer Objects has been enhanced quite a lot compared to the original GL_EXT_bindable_uniform, among other things, several buffer can be combined to populate a shader uniform block and a standard cross-platform data storage layout is proposed.

There is also two new “features” that were not available as extensions before. A CopyBuffer API that allows fast copied between buffer objects (VBO/PBO/UBO) that will also useful for sharing buffers with OpenCL. The other feature is a Signed Normalized Textures format that is a new integer texture formats that represent a value in the range [-1.0,1.0].

Geometry shaders (GL_ARB_geometry_shader4) where not promoted and maybe they will never be. The extension is not implemented by ATI and is not used a lot since this feature is usefull only in a few cases (due to implementation performances). Direct state access (GL_EXT_direct_state_access) was neither promoted, it’s a very usefull extension that allows to reduce states changes cost, but it’s a really new (released with GL3.0) and I did’nt expected it tobe promoted yet.

The deprecation model is a design mechanism introduced in GL 3.0 to allow to remove outdated features and commands. (the reverse of the extension mechanism). Core features are first marked as deprecated, then moved to an ARB extension, then eventually to an EXT or vendor extension, or removed entirely. The OpenGL 3.0 specification marks several features as deprecated, including the venerable glBegin/glEnd mechanism, display lists, matrix and attribute stacks, and the portion of the fixed function pipe subsumed by shaders (lighting, fog, texture mapping, and texture coordinate generation).

About deprecation, the specification is available in two formats, one with deprecated features ( and one with only “pure” GL 3.1 features ( An extension called ARB_compatibility has been introduce. If supported by an implementation, this extensien ensure that all deprecated features are available. This mechnism allows not to break the compatibility for old GL applications, keeping every features in the driver, while cleaning the API and providing new high performance paths. It seems to be a good mechanism, more convinient than the initial idea of creating specific contexts. NVIDIA for instance ensure that they will keep all deprecated features in their drivers to answer customers needs (I think mainly CAD customers).

Once again, like for OpenGL 3.0, while ATI declared that they will support GL 3.1, NVIDIA announced a BETA support of GL 3.1 and released drivers:

To conclude, it’s good to the the Khronos/ARB remaining so active since the release of OpenGL 3.0, and it’s good to see OpenGL evolving in the right direction :-)


- The announcement:

- The specifications:

- More informations:,