The OpenGL API (Application Programming Interface) began as an initiative by SGI to create a single, vendor-independent API for the development of 2D and 3D graphics applications. Prior to the introduction of OpenGL, many hardware vendors had different graphics libraries. This situation made it expensive for software developers to support versions of their applications on multiple hardware platforms, and it made porting of applications from one hardware platform to another very time-consuming and difficult. SGI saw the lack of a standard graphics API as an inhibitor to the growth of the 3D marketplace and decided to lead an industry group in creating such a standard.
The result of this work was the OpenGL API, which was largely based on earlier work on the SGI® IRIS GL library. The OpenGL API began as a specification, then SGI produced a sample implementation that hardware vendors could use to develop OpenGL drivers for their hardware. The sample implementation has been released under an open source license.
Modifications to the OpenGL API are made through the OpenGL Architecture Review Board, an industry group that contains founding, permanent, and auxiliary members.
Software developers do not need to license OpenGL to use it in their applications. They can simply link to a library provided by a hardware vendor. Hardware vendors do need to have a license to create an OpenGL implementation for their hardware. Details on licensing are available from the Technical Info page.
For more information, please visit the opengl.org website.>