2005 was the year Mobile SVG arrived, and 2006 was the year Mobile SVG got lost. Before 2005 SVG was used in a few niches, “semantic graphics” like map applications with a limited number of users but really nothing to talk about. In 2005 on the other hand the phone world showed interest in SVG, and while other SVG events happened like the first public alpha implementation of SVG in Opera and Firefox, and pre-alpha in Safari, the Canvas spec, and ominously the Merger of Macromedia and Adobe, everything newsworthy was related to phones.
Not so 1996. The phones were set to mute, and SVG hit the Web. Behind the scenes in 1995 and much more publicly in 1996 there were cultural and technical conflicts with other Web formats, particularly CSS and the new Canvas, with Adobe Flash and Microsoft in the background. This year Opera started to matter in the SVG world as the first useful integrated SVG browser with the release of Opera 9, with the promise of Firefox and Safari. The SVG 1.2 specification reached Candidate Recommendation, being both too early and too late.
The bomb, though expected by the people in the know, was Adobe’s discontinuation of its SVG viewer plug-in, the dominant SVG viewer. It was the way to show SVG in any browser (which for most users means the Internet Explorer browser), and though as Adobe had paid good money to buy Flash, the terms struck everyone as stunningly harsh, if not directly hostile to SVG: By the first announcement the plug-in would be gone and unavailable by the end of this year. Later Adobe relented giving the plug-in a longer lease of life, you can download the unsupported plus-in next year too. This was obviously taken as bad news, but personally I think this is advantageous in the long run, much like when AOL Netscape ceased ownership of Mozilla. This was commonly seen as the end of Mozilla, but I thought it was more likely to be the beginning and was proven right. Sugar daddies are only advantageous to a point. Worse than the loss of ASV is that authoring products like Illustrator are unlikely to provide useful SVG support.
Symbolic, but still, the year ended with good news for SVG. By Christmas the first game console, and a hugely popular at that, supporting SVG was released through the Opera beta for Nintendo Wii. I have been sceptical about how useful SVG really is for phones, game consoles seems a better match.
What about this year? I expect 2007 to be a fairly quiet year. Browser support will improve incrementally, the work with finding a replacement for Adobe SVG Viewer will continue. An unknown is whether Microsoft will provide SVG support one way or another, but I don’t expect they will. We have begun adding SVG articles on our developer site, and fundamentally developer support is the make or break for SVG. But that is more a challenge for 2008 than for 2007.