UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Will The SVG Standard Come Back to Life?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 January 2010

In November 2008 I asked “Why Did SMIL and SVG Fail?”  The post suggested reasons why the W3C’s Scaleable Vector Graphics standard (which became a W3C recommendation in 2003) had failed to be widely deployed in the market place.

In the comments to my post a number of people pointed at the lack of support for SVG in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as a significant factor in SVG’s failure to be adopted.

Despite the economic gloom the new year has seen some good news with the announcement by Patrick Dengler, Senior Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Team that “Microsoft Joins W3C SVG Working Group“.  And as described in an article on “Microsoft joins IE SVG standards party” published in The Register: “Commentors responding to Dengler’s post overwhelmingly welcomed Microsoft’s move, with people hoping it’ll lead to SVG support in IE 9“.

So what are the lessons regarding a standard released in 2003  for which it takes 7 years before a company which appears to be essential for its successful deployment shows interest. And even if IE 9 does have support for the standard how long will it be before the user community discards the legacy browsers such as IE 6, 7 and 8.  Let’s not forget that there is still significant usage of IE 6.

The lesson: we tend to be too over-optimistic of the benefits of open standards and their take-up.

The response: we need to take a risk assessment and risk management approach to standards.

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5 Responses to “Will The SVG Standard Come Back to Life?”

  1. Jelle said

    I fear that a few aspects of SVG elude people. Not only the fact that it is an open standard that doesn’t require royalties to be paid, but rather that SVG can finally empower the web designer to set some decent text and keep it accessible. Now for all itś niceties, Flash is a dead image in most regards and has poor interaction with anything, is a hell of a lot of work to edit and lacks the reusibility that XML languages give with xlink. XAML is a proprietary version of SVG basically and gets you back into compatibility hell. It is only fully supported on MS OS and as we’ve learned that is becoming less relevant as a platform.

    I personally started to use SVG in my curriculum in 2008, after having followed the development of the standard since 2003, because I believe nothing can stop SVG to become widely adopted. Instead of focusing on all the interactive flab that now lards the internet with all the silly bling bling ads, I feel that the web and hence the computer as a graphical display will come to maturity with SVG. Everything the graphics designer lost with HTML can be regained using SVG. Better even,.. we can finally rescale our designs without any fuss and use some braincells to overcome more important problems regarding interface design and how to get the user to act according to our will, rather than some imprinted methods. The flexibility of it allows for quick prototyping and adaptation of that to the live web.

    Using a tool like Inkscape, I can design a basic website in no time and easily add all the thrills using an XML editor later. Okay,.. it still is pretty much coding now,.. but that was how I did HTML as well for quite a while until wysiwyg editors became mature enough. And we still don’t use any fast jquery coding with objects. SVG is a clear threat to all the proprietary giants out there. Adobe dropped SVG only after it bought Macromedia and Flash, MS followed suit by cooking up its own flavored crap and both of them are now loosing out on Open Standards..

    Why? People that have to support all those applications and websites are not thrilled with the prospect of crippled standards, things that run only here or with this software. It’s the reason why graphics designers still can’t create a decent layout on a website and they will very easily understand the benefits of it. There are still quite some hurdles to overcome, but at least it finally gives freedom to the designer.

  2. […] browsers, with the notable exception of Internet Explorer.  In January 2010 I asked “Will The SVG Standard Come Back to Life?” following the announcement that “Microsoft Joins W3C SVG Working Group“ and an […]

  3. Chris said

    You seam to define failure as taking a while to be adopted. Can you give a example of a open standard that was quickly adopted, that was not set as the default or required format, for a set of data in a mainstream program? Do you view XHTML/HTML4 as failures they are a year older? Yet this blog doesn’t even implement them correctly. And they are the 4th version of the default and required format for all websites.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as a failed open standard? I would argue that open standards can fail. However you are correct to raise the issue of what the criteria should be for a successful and for a failed open standard. I would suggest that HTML has been a success as has CSS, although CSS’s route to maturity was hindered by flawed support by, in particular, early versions of the Netscape browser.

      Perhaps the success criteria should be determined by the ROI a standard provides to the users of the standard. Adopting a standard prematurely can provide a negative ROI, due to the lack of support for authoring tools and readers, compared with existing proprietary standards. A standard which eventually provides the ROI may become successful, but early adopters may find that using such standards too early in the standard’s maturity cycle is unproductive.

      • Chris said

        I’m not trying to say there’s no such thing as a failed open standard. Like look at MNG it’s 17 years old and only Mozilla Firefox and Konqueror ever had Native support witch was later dropped by Mozilla Firefox. I it is clearly a failure. APNG however is 4 years old and it’s in every thing but Internet Explorer, Safari, and Google Chrome. It’s not yet mature. so it’s hard to tell if it will be a failure or not. SVG is 10 years old and now that it’s more mature you can clearly see that it’s not a failure it has a small target that caused it to age slowly. It’s not a every image format like jpeg or png that can hold every thing. Even though jpeg is better for photos and png is better at Raster graphics you can store vector images in both. Also in no way am i saying HTML is a failure I’m saying the new versions of it could be viewed as failures. But it is a bad example as it’s the default and required format for the web.

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