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SVG Please?

May 08, 2007

I recently stumbled over a little piece of information that, while quite stale, still seems widely underreported in the places I hang out. Adobe announced some time last fall that its SVG Viewer is dead and gone as of January 1, 2008.

Is anyone really surprised? Given that SVG was Adobe’s meagre foothold in the web-based vector market, easily dwarfed by Flash, and given that Adobe now owns Flash, continuing to produce a competitor seems a little self-defeating from a business perspective. It’s been more or less inevitable since the completed merger that this day would come.

But it comes at an interesting time. Or, more like an inconvenient time. Recent versions of Firefox have natively supported SVG since version 1.5. Opera 8 added support as well. Safari nightly builds support it, though it hasn’t yet filtered out to a major release. (This uptake of browsers supporting SVG natively is likely another reason/excuse why the business case wasn’t there for Adobe’s continued development.)

What about Internet Explorer though? If you guessed IE lacks any form of native SVG support, you win the bonus round. The only way to experience SVG within IE has always been via the Adobe plugin, and that house of cards just came crashing down.

But it seems like some alternatives are sprouting up. A bit of Googling produces some interesting results. If you remember Dean Edwards’ IE7, a Javascript library that fixed many of IE6’s CSS deficiencies, you’ve got the gist of this set of scripts by Mark Finkle that exploits VML. And the other day Sam Ruby posted a proof of concept that would allow Microsoft’s new Silverlight engine to render SVG source.

As for official support within IE, so far we’re still batting zero. Chris Wilson of the IE team popped into a comment thread last year to dispel the rumour that we can definitely expect official support in the next version of IE. (He did however state that as the SVG momentum is picking up elsewhere, he expects they’ll add it at some point in the future. Nice, but nothing we can count on yet.)

Overall, it seems there’s some decent momentum happening right now. I’m cautiously optimistic that some day in the next few years, we’ll actually see a usable subset of SVG across the board. I just wonder what we’ll use for authoring tools…

May 08, 11h

Have you looked at ?

Since every other major browser (Mozilla/Firefox, Opera and the forthcoming version of Safari) support SVG (both inline and included via the element), I’ve started to dabble in using SVG inline and allowing SVG in comments on my blog.

I don’t support the whole SVG 1.1 spec. But, then, neither do any of the browser vendors.

“I just wonder what we’ll use for authoring tools…”

I woulda thought you were an Adobe Illustrator user.

May 08, 12h

What a shame to hear of Adobe letting SVG slip like this. Isn’t SVG the first sole ASCII-source graphics format? Surely that alone will win it momentum for the long-run?

Surely Adobe are missing a trick by stepping down as the de-facto plugin supplier? I’d guess that the adverting exposure alone that Adobe could glean from the plugin download page would pay for the SVG development.

Dave S. says:
May 08, 12h

@ Jacques: “I woulda thought you were an Adobe Illustrator user.”

I may have been a little vague with that comment. Illustrator does support SVG, sure. And I can’t see them dropping it any time soon either.

There are two questions nagging at me that caused me to say that: 1) will they continue actively developing SVG support in the future? 2) what about motion graphics? Illustrator doesn’t do motion.

May 08, 12h

This is probably the wrong place to ask, but has anyone got a sentence or two that explains the point of SVG?

May 08, 13h

“1) will they continue actively developing SVG support in the future?”

Perhaps we won’t see an SVG 1.2 implementation from them. But browsers are just creeping up on SVG 1.1 support. So I don’t think you’ll see SVG 1.2 support from them anytime soon, either (if ever).

“2) What about motion graphics? Illustrator doesn’t do motion.”

As far as I can tell, neither do Mozilla/Firefox or WebKit. Which kinda limits the appeal of animated SVG at the moment.

Perhaps by the time there’s browser support for SVG animation, we’ll see some corresponding authoring tools.

Maybe more important than animation is SVG DOM support. Which is where inline SVG is a big win.

Unfortunately, inline SVG is XHTML-only … with all that that implies.

Doesn’t faze me, but that could be a big stumbling block for most Web designers.

Julien W says:
May 08, 13h

“Isn’t SVG the first sole ASCII-source graphics format?”
Mmm not really; it’s the only vector format. For bitmap, we have pnm formats


Dave S. says:
May 08, 13h

@pauldwaite: “has anyone got a sentence or two that explains the point of SVG?”

Depends if you’re looking for a comparison of vector vs. bitmapped graphics, or if you’re looking for a justification of vector in the browser. How far down the spectrum is your starting point for this one?

@ Jacques: “But browsers are just creeping up on SVG 1.1 support.”

Ah, fair enough.

“inline SVG is XHTML-only… with all that that implies […] that could be a big stumbling block for most Web designers.”

Just when I thought it was safe to switch DOCTYPES.

Scott N. says:
May 08, 13h

It would be great if Adobe could somehow roll the SVG plugin right into flash, so that all IE users would get svg support the next time they update flash on their machine. Adobe could then build an SVG authoring tool to sell for too much money. Everyone wins. : )

May 08, 13h

Aha! Vector graphics. That’ll be what the V stands for then…

Sorry, I only got to the SVG Wikipedia page after asking the question. Many thanks.

Sam Ruby says:
May 08, 14h

“Just when I thought it was safe to switch DOCTYPES.”

It is worse than that. It is Content-Type: application/xhtml+xml only.

Unless you want to fixup the DOM after loading:

May 08, 14h

“It is worse than that. It is Content-Type: application/xhtml+xml only.”

That’s what I meant when I said “XHTML-only.” Perhaps I should have been clearer. :-)

“Unless you want to fixup the DOM after loading”

Doesn’t work in WebKit. (Gives the following Javascript Error:
   Can’t find variable: HTMLUnknownElement
) I haven’t tried Opera.

May 08, 16h

More and more I have bad feeling that it is not Adobe bought Macromedia, but Macromedia bought Adobe. I am big fan of SVG and really was hoping that Adobe will inject it in Flash plug-in. Bastards. Why big companies so often make our life harder, not easier?

May 08, 19h

I never really saw a point of SVG, why learn an extra language to draw a line? It seemed kind of pointless to me from the beginning. But Flash will rule the web forever.

J. King says:
May 08, 20h

Maybe I’m naïve, but can’t it simply be that Adobe sees no need to pump resources into an SVG viewer because SVG is now firmly established? Maybe they just don’t see any profit in continuing to do Microsoft’s job, as it were.

Anyway, there is apparently another[1] suitable viewer. I haven’t tried it myself (I use Opera), but it’s not like Adobe are the only ones who can provide a plug-in; it’s not the end of the world. :)

As for suggestions of Flash gobbling up SVG now that they are both ostensibly under the control of the same entity, I would posit that the use cases of SVG and Flash are foundamentally different: Though Flash can be used for static vector graphics, its main use case is animation and video; conversely, though SVG has facilities for animation into which much effort has gone, its most compelling use case is for scallable, static graphics. Its initial adoption on mobile phones in the form of SVG Tiny is a strong indicator of this.

Doubtless Adobe sees the two technologies as things that can be both exploited side-by-side, and in different ways.

[1] mentioned by Jacques above

Anselm says:
May 09, 02h

” I just wonder what we’ll use for authoring tools… “

SVG has become the standard vectorial format in the open source world - so pretty much any open source vectorial application will let you load and save SVG.

Probably the best open source vectorial tool is inkscape
( which runs on Linux, Win32 and MacOSX

May 09, 04h

Here’s an interesting possibility - use XULRunner as an ActiveX control in IE to render SVG, and get XUL as a bonus:

I haven’t tried it yet though.

May 09, 06h

I second Anselm’s recommendation of Inkscape for SVG authoring - it so happens that SVG is the app’s default file format. Whilst I’m not a graphic designer, I use Inkscape in Linux (Ubuntu) for knocking together logos and diagrams which wouldn’t be suitable for bitmap formats.

“Real” designers would probably find features missing that they’re used to from Illustrator and its ilk, and I’m not sure how mature Inkscape is on Windows or Mac OS X, but I like it on Linux… and it has the advantage of being free :-)

Jake L says:
May 10, 09h

SVGs would definitely be more widely used if not for convention and lack of support.

A vector format that can be displayed online and supports animation and scripting - all with (ideally) no special plugins? Count me in!

May 11, 09h

Some insider information, if you want it…Adobe stopped working on the SVG viewer long before they merged with Macromedia; a lot of people that were formerly with Adobe are now scattered in other places. Point being that ASVG was dead before Flash was part of Adobe.

Firefox, Opera 9+, and the latest Webkit nightlies all implement inline SVG (meaning it will be there with Safari 3).

If you are looking for a cross-browser solution that doesn’t require a plug-in, you might want to take a look at dojo.gfx (part of the Dojo Toolkit,, which implements an OpenGL-type syntax to render vector-graphics cross-browser (including IE). For another example in the same toolkit, you can take a look at the Dojo Charting engine.

The fact of the matter is that native browser vector graphics is picking up steam despite Microsoft’s lack of participation.

Ante says:
May 11, 13h

SVG, from my mathematician/web&graphic designer point of view, is the most beautiful thing that has happened in the world of (yes, ALL) graphic formats. It is warmly embraced from OS community (Inkscape, GIMP, Blender etc.) which naturally extends to academia, developing nicely, and presents potential options for web interactivity previously unimagined (oh yeah, animated fractal vector website art on-the-fly!).

Why would Adobe cut the support for it (in a way) is, of course, the matter of their corporative agenda, and it eludes me. And it actually makes me happy they did so, because of the non-standard SVG definitions they would probably use.

SVG will continue to grow in support elsewhere, if not housed by Adobe, for one simple reason — it’s great!

May 14, 15h

Tom, you said: “The fact of the matter is that native browser vector graphics is picking up steam despite Microsoft’s lack of participation.”

Microsoft is doing an impressive job with the Silverlight (formerly WPF/E - Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere).

Right now, there are plug-ins only for IE and FireFox, but soon there will be also for Opera.

Anyway, you should take a look. In my opinion, it will “blast” Flash in the near future. It’s just XAML, yes, yet another XML :D

May 14, 19h

@Carl: “Microsoft is doing an impressive job with the Silverlight (formerly WPF/E - Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere).

Right now, there are plug-ins only for IE and FireFox, but soon there will be also for Opera.”

Note that I said “native”. I’ve been a developer of MS technologies for a long time, and like and appreciate what they are doing with WPF/E, but once again its a proprietary format–whereas every other browser is either implementing or implements SVG natively.

Samir says:
May 15, 03h

I “third” Anselm’s and Tim Walker’s recommendation of Inkscape as an SVG production tool.

Tim, Inkscape is in fact completely mature on Windows. I use it exclusively on that platform and it is currently my main and only vector graphics software. In fact I do consider myself a “Real” designer and find it to be perfectly suitable for my needs. I use it to create all my web layouts and even for my illustrations that need to go into print production.

You are absolutely right in saying that most “Real” designers would find it lacking, but I would attribute at least 70-80% of that opinion to “religious” differences. People are used to a certain way of doing things (in this case the Adobe way), and now feel entitled that every other piece of software in existence should cater to “the right way”, which — face it — is nothing but a personal habit followed by thousands, at the end of the day. But that’s a whole other issue.

It is true that Inkscape isn’t into the realm of motion graphics yet, but since SVG is very much a growing phenomenon, I would think it is simply a matter of time. Thus far Inkscape development has been an extremely swift and focused process that has lead to some great features already. The last version laid the foundation for SVG filter effects with a gaussian blur effect implemented as a first example. Remember these are mathematical effects rather than permanently applied, so the opportunities are endless as more of these are implemented. Similarly animation is bound to eventually rear its head since it is part of the SVG specification.

In the meanwhile there are some candidates for vector motion graphic authoring tools which might easily be moved into the SVG realm considering they are open source. Two that I can think of are:
Synfig (
K-Toon (

With projects like this which might eventually reach maturity with the right interest and support, the open source world will need a universal format for vector animation and at the moment SVG looks like the prime candidate. Once it has enough activity and user support behind it, I’m sure implementations in browsers and other commercial tools will follow by default.

ken says:
May 15, 17h

I’ve been keeping an eye on svg for years, and I was under the impression that the whole xhtml1.1-MathML2.0-svg1.1 was still in the earlier phases of the w3’s tendrils of bureaucracy (see and for that matter, who knows of a broswer with a proper xhtml modular implementation?).
Also, yes, Illustrator does export to svg and has since at least v.10 (although I’m not entirely clear on how to get it straight with layers).

I’ve been using Inkscape for a while now (on Windows and openSUSE), and it really is one of the stronger offerings of the open source world. That being said, I couldn’t imagine being limited to only Inkscape - I’m far more comfortable in Illustrator. I gotta hand it to ya, after checking out your site, I can honestly say that I don’t have the time, patience, or memory to pull that kind of thing off in Inkscape. Good show.

Samir says:
May 17, 00h

Thanks, glad you liked what you saw on my site. As far as Inkscape being the one true vector application, that is obviously not true, and that can never be true for any piece of software ever, no matter how mature it gets. This is why there are still people using versions of Freehand, or Corel Draw, or XaraX, or something more obscure like Canvas in their workflow. Different people are simply comfortable with different working methodologies which leaves the field open to a variety of implimentations of the same basic software concepts.

And that will continue in the future. But it just so happens that at this point of time Inkscape seems to be taking on the mantle of ‘the’ SVG application because they are one of the only ones pushing the envelope on the implementation of SVG specification in a stable end-user application.

Needless to say if and when SVG picks up enough steam to be considered a commercially viable selling point by the number crunchers at the big software companies, someone like Adobe will have enough resources to throw at the problem to get up to speed in a matter of months. So in the end everyone wins.

May 17, 06h

@ Deaf Musician: I never really saw a point of SVG, why learn an extra language to draw a line? It seemed kind of pointless to me from the beginning.

How about the practical implications of getting PHP (or another server-side script) to output simple XML which can then be directly interpreted as a graphic - e.g. a continually changing graph in a stats package?

Also there are bandwidth and re-use issues. Site logos and graphics that were generated as vectors, have to be encoded as raster images for use on the web (outside of all-Flash sites). This increases the files size, and limits them to one resolution/scale.

In theory, a site with all measurements based on ems, and containing wholly SVG graphics, would be entirely scaleable - and perfectly future-proofed against the ultra hi-res monitors that are on the way over the coming years.

May 22, 08h

SVG never really seemed to take off. I have not run across many sites that use it. Do you have any examples? I can see the benefit of a script based vector language. It make files sizes much smaller. Motion can be introduced. It is not dependent a proprietary technology (Flash). And it makes great graphs and charts for dashboards.

There is a lot of talk about this that and the other tool. All talk. Where is there a strong place to apply SVG?

May 24, 05h

“I have not run across many sites that use it.”

I responded earlier to this but it was swallowed by the URL detection system in the comments.

- Google Maps uses SVG for driving directions
- MSN Live Maps uses SVG for driving directions
- Google Apps uses SVG in their Spreadsheets for graphing/plotting

tablet says:
May 24, 13h

Microsoft might say they will support it in the next version of IE, but I doubt IE8 will come out before their next OS. They only updated IE7 because Vista was coming out and maybe due to Firefox gaining some numbers. Opera and Safari support SVG also. It comes down to the fact Microsoft doesn’t care about standards, to them Flash is good enough, they see no benefit in pushing it, they got other products and things that make them money or will make money, especially now that they have Silverlight.

I’d also like to know what happened to MNG? It was supposed to be like Animated GIFs but JPG quality for photos,transparency and alpha channels.

kb says:
May 25, 00h

I’d be very suprised if we see an IE SVG viewer. They are all about XAML for this type of thing. Supporting a standard that has never really made it after all these years just won’t happen any time soon.

May 25, 20h

“Isn’t SVG the first sole ASCII-source graphics format?”

PostScript has been around for decades and is not only text-based, it’s a full blown Forth-like programming language.

balu says:
May 30, 00h

maybe it is worth to note, that Drupal, one of the leading open source CMS’s has an SVG project going, funded by Google Summer of Code. As I see it support is one thing, but usage is lacking too.

May 30, 04h

Hi Dave,

Try validating your RSS feed - it seems something like a closing CDATA section has snuck its way into the body text of this post? My RssBandit is failing to retrieve your entire feed… Which makes me sad ;-)

June 01, 01h

(Second post –my first attempt seems to have tripped the spam filters…)

A major Dutch site using SVG is the Central Statistics Office (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS StatLine).

As for editors, there is one by Chris Peto –written in SVG :-)

Paul D. says:
June 02, 06h

Just a note on Illustrator’s SVG support: it is there, of course, but it’s not really usable for the Web quite yet. I was dabbling a few months ago with page layouts that specified everything — including image dimensions — in ems. I found that in order for an SVG image to display and scale properly in Gecko browsers and Safari Webkit, I had to mess around with the Illustrator SVG settings a lot, and afterwards, do some editing of the file in a text editor.

June 06, 03h

@Paul D.
I think that says more about the shortcomings of Illustrator’s SVG exporter than about the format or browser support. FWIW I clean up SVG from Wikipedia by hand in a text editor and Illustrator-generated content is usually the worst. Inkscape is pretty bad at bloating files too.

Common problems include leaving inkscape: and sodipod: namespaced elements and empty RDF metadata tags in the final output (massive file bloat for simple images), ridiculous precision (e.g. “L 1.00000000 3.00000000” - more file bloat, worst on complex images) and gradients that are either unused or just reference other gradients, when a direct reference would be simpler (slower to render).

June 08, 13h

For my point of view. I’d really liked to see a standardized lightweight vector image into web browser without plugins. For lightweight-ness and accessibility sake!

When we build designs… pixelization can come to hassle in some details of our layout. PNG is fair awesome for design graphics (gif is dead, aint’ it?)… So, Using flash into design is, to my point of view, an “accessibility”-failure.

Logically the web NEEDS vector graphics in a minimal way as we rely on JPG for photos or PNG for high-contrast pixel graphics or SWF for animations. Don’t you think?

So, anyone had ever heard of a vector-graphic-web-possible format, except of flash :)?

June 11, 08h

Expect that eventually there will be some sort of merger between CSS and SVG. At least in terms of functionality.

I say eventually, because both standards are managed by slow organizations with no teeth, and implementation has largely been pushed by the Linux/OS/FS geeks.

Noah Slater says:
June 13, 04h

John Joyce, you are incorrect in your assumption. CSS and SVG serve VERY different roles - there is no way they will ever “merge” as you put it.

June 13, 11h

CSS and SVG already “merged” in some way… Upcoming Opera 9.5 (Kestrel) will support SVG as background image, and Opera for Wii already supports it, I think.

Richard says:
June 15, 09h

I wouldn’t worry too much about Adobe - their reasons for wanting to kill SVG are pretty obvious.

Having said that, their plugin is a good one, and installers will always be available in download archives. Besides, there are other plugins from Corel and other respected publishers.

But aside from all that, Firefox/Netscape/Seamonkey/Konq/Safari/Opera all have reasonable support (which is improving all the time), and this is one of the contributing factors for IE’s market share plumetting on a daily basis. As more and more people adopt standards-based browsers, IE users will be come less of an issue. Not to mention that fact that the longer MS hold out from implementing new features, the more people will switch anyway.

My advice to fellow developers: if SVG is the best format for your work, go ahead and use it. I’m all for backwards compatibility, but we can’t refuse to adopt excellent new technologies just because some people like software from 2001. Did anybody notice that Wikipedia have SVG as their recommended graphics format for new uploads? The momentum IS growing.

July 25, 03h

I hope that Adobe reconsiders its move to disband the format. I have noticed that the formats momentum has been growing over the past year quite quickly.

stelt says:
July 25, 16h

Why not just forget about IE(-native SVG)?
IE numbers are not great for the famous M$-strategy “embrace-extend-exterminate” or variations thereof, but i rather be even more certain.
There are plenty of tricks for gettings SVG in IE actually. openLaszlo, Renesis, MozInIE, etc.

January 16, 01h

Today, I check Adobe website. Adobe customer support for Adobe SVG Viewer will be discontinued on January 1, 2009.

I think they extend their support one year more. This is a good news. There is extra time to create another third party until Adobe not support their SVG viewer :-).

Jelle says:
May 07, 20h

Just starting to use SVG as I finally think it’s support is mature enough to create some dazzling websites, I’ll say this about it.

In Europe at least, governmental orginasations have finally come to understand a need for using open standards for the content rather than the next good proprietary format that can be declared dead by it’s owner any time. SVG is the only open vector format for web content.

Not only can you use SVG for content, one can design the entire webdesign in SVG nowadays, making development time a lot lower.

SVG will allow external linking to object libraries, something that Flash can’t. This also goes for fonts and any content really. So this allows one to change site content very easily, by just updating an SVG file externally.

It can be used by search engines to obtain information.

For IE there will shortly be the Renesis SVG plugin, which shows great promise.

XAML is dead from the start as it’s proprietary and thus will never be accepted as a standard by governments. They’ve finally become a bit sadder and wiser.

Mobile phones use SVG for it’s scalability. And it allows one to design a website that’s usable on both high res and low res platforms.

The only thing lacking now is a good editor for animated SVG. Jasc Webdraw has been bought by Corel whom have then taken it off the market. Probably this has to do still with MS 40 Mil$ investment into the company that also made it stop it’s Linux development efforts. MS ethics aren’t all that developed as was proven by the late OOXML bribe conest, so I wouldn’t be surprised by that.

Flash in my opinion is a rather useless replacement of bitmaps. It’s closed, a struggle to create anything intelligeble with and a hell to edit once created. Try correcting spelling mistakes or making something big with it and changing the content. It’s make once content and never look back at it. It’s a dinosaur.

XAML runs only on MS platforms. Only a moron keeps using that bloatware that efficively destroyed any performavnce improvement of machines over the past few decades. Only business men are still convinced of it’s merits for creating such a load of crap to solve. It’s unreliability has already made orginasations our-source their services.

Saas is a misconception going back to the mainframe. I foresee a great increase in mobile devices picking up where the PC was left on the desktop, as full fledged PC’s raher than some dumb telephone and PIM. There’s a great demand for good UMPC’s, try get an OQO Q2 for instance. People want control over their data, especially their private data.

A diversity of screenformats will require a scalable solution for the content. SVG fits very well into that area. Many Chipmakers are creating hardware SVG support for mobile devices. AMD not being the only one.

Just as the screwdriver and crosshead screw are nowadays open formats, so will open formats come to dominate the maturing computer world. It takes some time, but at some point the price tag will dictate the standards, rather than the best technology. Especially when the best technology is the cheapest one there’s little chance for closed formats to survive.