Earlier in December, Meitar Moscovitz at Sitepoint wrote an article on SVG optimistically titled SVG is the Future of Application Development. In it he references not only the future capability of SVG, but XHTML and RDFa, too. The writing was a breath of fresh air after so many technical pundits have declared all three to be passé, or dead ahead of their time.
Not all of the commenters agree with Moscovitz. Several mentioned the lack of support for SVG in IE, and how this would continue to adversely impact on the adoption of this vector graphics technology. A few years ago, I might have agreed. Now, though? I don’t think lack of built-in support for SVG is the killer it once was. It is a time of change, and not just politically.
When I was exploring the web, looking for new technologies that utilize SVG, I was pleasantly surprised to see an increased interest in this vector graphics markup. Not only has support for SVG increased in browsers, but in other tools and technologies, too. This, on top of the fact that the primary plugin used to enable SVG in IE has been finally been consigned to the tech boneyard.
Good-bye Adobe Plugin
On the first of January, the venerable SVG plug-in put out by Adobe was no more. It leaves, not with a bang, nor with a whimper. It just leaves. As the company has pointed out, most browsers now natively support SVG and have no need of a plugin. Even Google’s new entry to the browser marketplace, Chrome, comes with SVG baked in. However, for those wanting to use the plugin, regardless of support, you can still download it from the Adobe site.
That’s not to say there isn’t active plugin support for SVG. The company examotion provides a player and a plugin, the Renesis Player, which supports SVG in browsers that don’t have built-in SVG capability (plugin download). According to the SVG Support page, maintained by Jeff Schiller, the Renesis plugin supports a significant percentage of SVG functionality—not as much as the Adobe plug-in, but development efforts on the plugin are ongoing.
Returning to Jeff’s SVG support page again, we can see that Opera has the best overall support for SVG, with the newest Webkit a close second. This later is particularly important, as both Safari and Chrome are based on Webkit. However, don’t assume that Chrome will render graphics the same as Safari. Originally, I had a resizing diagonally stripped SVG graphic as part of the background of this site. I discovered that it not only did it not render well in Chrome, it caused the browser to spike the PC’s CPU. I yanked the SVG background quickly, concerned that it would actually cause harm to Chrome users’ machines.
Though Chrome and Safari share the same infrastructure via WebKit, they incorporate different graphics rendering engine. At this time, the Chrome graphics rendering engine needs improvement, not only with its SVG support, but also its support of JPEGs, and CSS. I now carefully test all uses of SVG and CSS3 in Chrome, first, before rolling out for public consumption.
In other news, support for SMIL, or Synchronized Multimedia Integration Media, has just appeared as a patch for a future version of Firefox. Don’t expect to see SMIL with Firefox 3.1, but we can hope to see it before Firefox 4.0.
What about IE?
Unfortunately, as has been an issue in the past, Microsoft still has no implementation of SVG and the company has never made any indication it will support the specification in the future. A year ago, the lack of support would be the death sentence for SVG, but this state may no longer be the case.
The number of IE users is decreasing, as the growing popularity for Firefox, Safari, Opera, and now Chrome, demonstrate. Recent problems with IE security have only helped to hasten the numbers of people making a different browser choice.
Another, sadder reason that the number of IE users may be decreasing is the fact that many IE users have lost their jobs, as corporations close or downsize. One of the major reasons why IE use remained at the top of the game for so long was the fact that many corporate applications were specifically designed for use with IE, especially IE6. Fewer corporate users, fewer IE6 users, and fewer IE users, period.
Of course, our preferences would be that IE support SVG natively. There is a remote chance of this happening, when SVG is incorporated into HTML5, which Microsoft has promised to support. Frankly, though, I wouldn’t hold your break waiting on this one.
Support for SVG
Regardless of the uncertainty about SVG in IE, there has been increased support in SVG. I created a new SVG Feed that pulls together feeds from several SVG resources, including links to SVG resources I post to delicious. Over the last couple of month, we’ve seen not only the increased support for SVG in browsers, as I mentioned earlier, but also in tools, and other resources.
SVG and HTML5
A few months back, Mark Pilgrim wrote a post for the WhatWG weblog stating
It has been suggested (…) that HTML 5 is trying to bite off more than it can metaphorically chew. It is true that it is a large specification, and it might benefit from being split into several pieces. But it is not true that it includes everything but the kitchen sink.
We won’t go into the other stuff that is not in HTML5, but I can give you the kitchen sink.