Note: This documentation is for the development version of X3DOM. Released versions: 1.5, 1.4, 1.3, 1.2.

Loading resources from external servers

Sometimes it is desirable to load resources, like textures, from other locations than your web server. The most common use case being serving textures from a CDN. While technically not a problem, there are security mechanisms in place to prevent injection of malicious code into your application. Browser vendors started to block loading of resources originating from domains unless these resources marked safe by the foreign web server.

The corresponding W3C specification is called Cross-Origin Resource Sharing [CORS2010] and adhered to by most browsers. And in essence, you need to configure the foreign web server to add a HTTP header that marks the resource safe for your domain. Say, your application is served from http://yoursite.org and needs to load resources from http://othersite.org, the webserver of othersite.org needs to set a HTTP header that marks yoursite.org safe for cross site requests. For example:

Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://yoursite.org

If you don’t care and want to allow access to all users, you can add e.g. the following to your httpd.conf (given you are using Apache2):

<Directory />
    Header set Access-Control-Allow-Origin "*"
    Header set Access-Control-Allow-Headers "Content-Type"
    Header set Access-Control-Allow-Methods "GET, PUT, OPTIONS, DELETE, POST"
</Directory>

An alternative to adhering to the CORS protocol, is to setting up a proxy server forwarding requests to the foreign server in the background. If you can do away with the benefits CDN provides this technique may be a viable alternative.

More information on CORS and setting HTTP headers:

More information on proxy configuration:

Developing locally

While the HTTP headers method presented above is the best practice in production environments, it is unpractical for local development of your application. Fortunately there are a couple of workarounds making you develop with pleasure.

  • Use a real web server (e.g. Apache) to deliver your site locally
  • Use a web server with proxy module to fetch external resources form a live website
  • Use browser flags to disable security measures

The latter one being the most flaky. It is not guaranteed that the browser will support disabling security in the long run. Also strange behaviour in case of magically enabled security after updates in combination with browser caches.

Using a web server

Installing a web server locally and serving your files under the localhost domain is the best way of developing web applications. We also recommend you use this technique when developing with X3DOM. Using a full web stack locally ensures that your browser behaves the same way it would when loading a website over the internet. Requests are sent and received by the browser just like they would in a production environment. It is also the only way to properly test Ajax functionality and HTTP features, like expiry headers.

There are various ways to install a web server on your machine. In case of Mac OS X, Apache is already installed and you can just put your documents in your Site folder.

On Linux there are various ways to install Apache depending on your distribution. Most likely two or three commands should suffice.

Windows users are best served with a package called XAMPP, which also caters various Unix based systems.

Using a web server with proxy pass

What about external resources in local development, I want to develop locally and load textures from textureheaven.net. You could install as system wide proxy server, which processes the request and response to textureheaven.net and adds the correspoding CORS header to the response. Another straight forward way is to leverage the power of what you already have: your local web server.

The setup is more elaborate and out of the scope of this document. Here are some pointer of how to get started.

First you need to confiture your web server to answer requests to textureheaven.net instead of sending those requests to the real textureheaven.net web server. To do so you need to make an entry in your /etc/hosts file so the address does not resolve to the real site but to localhost. Within your web server configuration you now create a virtual host that answers requests to textureheaven.net and proxies them request to the real textureheaven.net site. In order to make this all work, you finally need to add a CORS header to the response (e.g. Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://localhost)

Sounds too complicated? There’s a shortcut way. But as with all shortcuts, use it with caution.

Disable browser security

If you have all resources locally, there is a shortcut for circumventing the CORS mechanisms. Please use with care.

Chrome

The Chrome browser allows you to disable a security precaution that prevents you loading resources from disk. Use the following startup parameters:

--allow-file-access-from-files
--allow-file-access
--disable-web-security

Firefox

Enter the following in your location bar:

about:config

Acknowledge the secuirty warning and enter the following in the filter bar:

fileuri

Look for the option called security.fileuri.strict_origin_policy and set it to false.

[CORS2010]Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, W3C, 2010. Available online at http://www.w3.org/TR/cors/