by anders pearson Fri 08 Dec 2000 12:29:08

i’ve been playing around with SVG lately.

Scalable Vector Graphics are an image format similar to Flash but implemented entirely as XML. Adobe has a browser plugin available and new versions of Illustrator (as well as the new Flash generator supposedly) can save as SVG. now, the Apache project is working on Batik which aims to be a nice core library for dealing with SVGs and mozilla has (currently very limited) native support for SVGs.

i’m very excited.

Flash is nice to look at and all but has serious limitations for web use (it’s pretty much impossible to link to anything in an all flash site from outside, text-browsers and screen readers don’t stand a chance of being able to render anything remotely useful, etc) and it’s fully proprietary (eg, i can view flash on linux but i can’t make flash files on linux because macromedia hasn’t bothered porting generator).

SVG gets around all of these problems. first of all, it’s a W3C standard so there are no licensing issues preventing anyone and everyone from making viewers/generators and incorporating them into other programs (Free or otherwise). since SVGs are just XML (ie, plain text), anyone with a text editor can make them or tweak them by hand (trust me, i’ve been doing this all afternoon. there is something very cool about the idea of making graphics in emacs :) or write programs to generate them dynamically. it also means that you can simply apply different style-sheets to them to do things like just pulling out any textual data for the benefit of text-browsers and screen readers. and since any XML file can be parsed into a DOM, you can script it to your heart’s content. so currently SVG has javascript support that lets you do all the nice interactivity and animation stuff of Flash but i expect to see support for other scripting languages as soon as it starts to catch on.

now we just sit back and wait to see how microsoft is going to come screw it all up (there’s no way they’ll let any decent, open, standards based technology go unmolested for long).

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