SVG. Being prepared

For the past few weeks I have been discussing the proposed
W3C standard for displaying vector graphics over the
Internet. The format is called SVG for "Scalar Vector
Graphics" and the first two articles in the series are
available at:

SVG is text based so that it can be written with a standard
text editor. This is both an advantage and one of its few
limitations. Like HTML it can by created, edited and easily
exchanged between developers that understand the format. Text
based graphics however, require more bandwidth than binary
formats than can be well over 10 times more compact than
their text equivalents. Even so, SVG format files that make
extensive use of vector based graphics, will be very compact
compared the DHTML files that rely on bitmap images.

The ability to edit an SVG file may also be problematic. This
is not because there is any reason why anyone that is capable
of understanding HTML tags should not be able to create an
SVG equivalent but because of the far more advanced
capabilities that SVG provides. The real issue is what is SVG
expected to do in comparison to HTML or DHTML?

Once you start to explore SVG you will realize that it is a
very powerful graphics format. It provides many features and
capabilities that HTML or even Dynamic HTML just cannot.
Dynamic HTML however, has proven to be far too complex for
the vast majority of web developers to master by coding
directly. SVG's capabilities and consequently its
complexities are far more extensive than Dynamic HTML.

This begs the question: "What is a web developer expected to
code in SVG that they cannot already do in HTML?"

This is a very valid question not because SVG does not
provide substantially more features than HTML but because
accessing these advanced features effectively may simply be
beyond the vast majority of people's capabilities.

Another important question is where does SVG fit in relation
to HTML and existing vector based products such as Flash?

I talked a bit about Flash two weeks ago in the marketing
article at: www.imswebtips.com/issue57top2.htm . There
is no doubt that SVG and Flash are at many levels competing
technologies. There is consequently a significant battle
developing between the two camps with Macromedia promoting
Flash and Adobe, IBM and many others championing SVG. It has
many similarities to the fight between Beta and VHS. Beta was
developed and controlled by Sony that hoped to dominate and
control the video market. Everyone else consequently adopted
the open VHS standard that eventually became the primary

I am in no position to foresee the outcome of this battle.
There are too many major companies with their own agendas
involved. I personally would pick SVG because it has been
carefully developed as a standardized open format that works
in conjunction with many other standard formats such as XML,
SMIL and HTML. But as an Internet graphics animation
developer, my opinion is probably biased. I obviously would
prefer access to a format I can work with and use.

How SVG relates to HTML is a little less clear. If all else
where equal I would ask why use HTML when SVG offers so many
additional features. If that were the case, I would expect
more and more web sites to adopt SVG until HTML became a
relatively minor format on the WWW.

As I mentioned above, the advanced features in SVG are
probably too advanced to code or use effectively by most
people. Written information, of which this newsletter is a
simple example, does not need advanced interactive
capabilities. If it had them, then it would no longer be a
newsletter but something else. Like novels and most
magazines, many web sites do not need multimedia. If they do
not need multi-media capabilities then SVG is not necessary.

I suspect that HTML will be around for a long time as a
simple and effective means to create a major portion of the
content for the WWW. SVG or its equivalent will grow quite
significantly over the next few years as the format of choice
for most business, entertainment and professional sites.

I had intended to discuss some of the specific code in SVG
this week. I am working with it quite extensively at this
point but I felt it was important for developers to get an
idea of what its likely impact will be. Whether it is SVG or
a competing technology, I suspect that over the next year or
two we are going to experience a dramatic shift in the
delivery format of content over the WWW.

Next week I will post some SVG examples and explain how they
are done.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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