The Year in SVG

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.

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  1. I too have mused over the thought, actually before ASV was discontinued. For all its strengths, ASV is the most capable SVG implementation around (when you count pure SVG and not integrated HTML/CSS/JS/SVG pages), but there is something quietly obscene by a plug-in much larger than the host organism (by our standards ASV is huge).We could (probably, our Windows specialists would have to confirm) do it, there shouldn’t be that much of a difference when we are a viewer for other products like e.g. Dreamweaver or even Photoshop and potentially IE. But it doesn’t fit in well with our general strategy which is fundamentally cross-platform, and it is hard to see a return on investment on it either, “Cool this Opera SVG plug-in works really well, let’s download the browser”.

  2. Jonny,I agree with your statements regarding sugar daddies. But to be fair, Adobe recently agreed to let people “indefinitely” download ASV (i.e. they will not take it down by 2009). This is good news for those who have developed specific applications for ASV, but I’m looking ahead now to any new method of getting SVG within IE.Some Mozilla folks are discussing using the Mozilla engine to act as a “plugin” for SVG content (a la XulRunner). I’ve been thinking along similar lines, but Moz’s SVG implementation is still quite lacking. I just had a thought: what about Opera?I know the end goal of Opera Software is to convert new users to the Opera browser, so maybe the following suggestion is somewhat counter-intuitive, but what about making an ActiveX control that embeds Opera within IE and automatically renders XHTML and SVG content? Of course, you could also put a couple hooks in there to try and make converts:- maybe a right-click menu option to Download the latest Opera browser- maybe a reminder dialog to download and make Opera their default browser every time they view XHTML/SVG content (of course, this can be turned off) I’m not suggesting anything too annoying, but heck – right now, Opera has the best SVG renderer out there, and any little bit helps. Developers could start pointing IE users to this plugin…Just another idle thought.Jeff

  3. tomh writes:Re>But it doesn’t fit in well with our general strategy which is fundamentally cross-platform, and it is hard to see a return on investment on it either, “Cool this Opera SVG plug-in works really well, let’s download the browser”.Well, suppose it was just an add on to the full opera install, eg when installing opera, install an activeX control to add SVG support to IE.Then again if people are going to download Opera for its SVG support, they might as well use it as their browser anyway 😉


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