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Adobe and SVG:
April 21, 2001 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Adobe and SVG: Adobe leverages their Acrobat reader along with Real Player to include their SVG browser plugin. Of note are the SVG with sound, filter effects, and JavaScript animation. Is Adobe gearing up to position this as a Flash competitor?
posted by mutagen (16 comments total)

Check out this 5k entry, and I think the answer is clear (and it's only 5kb!!!).

This could kill flash completely (and you only have to hack xml text files to tweak things!), or deprecate it to use in games and movie site animations.
posted by mathowie at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2001

SVG and Flash have always been positioned to go head to head. The differences so far have been that (1) SVG is taking forever to get through the standards process, and (2) Flash has had a series of high-quality authoring tools, while SVG has had only a motley bunch of beta-quality Xtras and plugins until recently. I hope that will change soon. Go SVG!
posted by rodii at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2001

SVG still has a long way to go to get to a point where it's not just a technology demo. How many years did it take flash to gain the browsershare necessary for people to start using it everywhere and selling it to clients? SVG adoption is also hampered by the fact that people who are best set up to evangelize it, are most likely quite happy using flash. The people who tend to despise Flash, and are all for SVG tend to not be the animators and designers, but the programmers and the interface crowd. I expect that if SVG starts being used in any major way, you'll see the breakdown fall along those lines.

I don't expect to see may SVG animations and games. Using javascript to move things has to be one of the slowest ways of doing things. How quick and easy was it to do animations with DHTML? SVG has the same performance problems.

I do like SVG, and think that it'll have a bright future in our toolbox. Just not replacing flash. I think that SVG will be a great way to describe interface widgets. I think that SVG will achieve the same fame/infamy as flash did in allowing designers and illustrators to ignore HTML and do visual design. Exporting an illustrator document directly to the web will be a powerful tool for visual designers, and cause the same sequels from the people that hate flash today. But we'll get some real pretty sites.
posted by captaincursor at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2001

I first played with SVG over on BattleBots site and was amused and impressed, but I haven't seen anything yet that's floored me. Anyone seen a use of SVG that inspired awe yet? There's some quality flash animations out there that just floor me.
posted by tankboy at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2001

SVG has an incredible advantage over Flash in the sense that it's an XML-based language. It's also completely open, so people who want to build custom SVG players and applications can do so without having to pay a large corporation (ahem, Macromedia) a boatload of cash for a license and for access to the player code.

SVG also plays the standards game far better than Flash, and is poised to be a much better technology to support accessibility and extensibility. It will also be easier to combine other technologies with SVG than it will be with Flash.
posted by camworld at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2001

[replying to camworld and captaincursor]

I disagree that XML is a huge advantage unless you need to exchange data between two non-cooperating entities. Given that all the flash plugins in the world cooperate just fine with all the .swf files, XML doesn't get you anything immediate. The win of XML would be if both flash players and svg players agree to read the same XML. Why would Macromedia agree to that? (The question isn't rhetorical -- there may be a reason -- I just don't yet know what it would be.)

I disagree that you need to pay Macromedia any money at all to make a new Flash player. At my last company we licensed the Flash source for free and created a new Flash player with it for free. Macromedia owns and controls the process, but we didn't have to pay for it. They like having many Flash players since that creates a greater incentive for people to buy their authoring software.

I disagree that standards process success guarantees usage. Flash, as a "standard," is already very widely supported and used, despite it not being an openly developed or documented standard. C.f. Windows. The market shares are about the same.

I agree that it would be easier to combine SVG with other technologies, and that Adobe, and anyone else promoting SVG, should look at this to find a wedge strategy.

I agree with taylor that SVG performance sucks ass and seems to have been designed with that goal in mind. I wonder if there are less-performance-sensitive applications that would benefit from its other features; the history of java applets seems to suggest not.
posted by precipice at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2001

SVG will probably make a great way to exchange vector data between applications. If macromedia comes up with a way to "render" the SVG and javascript into flash, that would benifit them greatly, both interoperability wise, and PR wise. I could see Flash evolving to be a binary form of SVG.

Interpreted versions will always be slower than their binary counterparts. Flash is never fast enough anyway. SVG pokes along.
posted by captaincursor at 5:56 PM on April 21, 2001

xml is important and will make things like svg eventually beat out stuff like flash because the xml allows for an easy API to svg.

So say I've got weather data in xml format being generated on site. With some XSL, I can send that to a web page as html, to a phone was WAP, to an email as plain text, or to some wacky vector app via svg.

Thanks to xml, making a svg frontend to your already existing data will be very easy.
posted by mathowie at 12:31 AM on April 22, 2001

In flash it's really easy to use xml data.(link to article). And the swf format is also open. (link to openswf).

And, as a sidenote, not to say that either flash or svg is better than the other, but i really hope one of them withers away and dies _fast_, because i'm really not looking forward to making sites that work wel in html, flash, svg, IE, ns, opera and whatnot, all at the same time. *shiver*
posted by Mijnkopthee at 2:03 AM on April 22, 2001

I just wanted to mention that the 5k entry mathowie mentioned runs like a dog in IE5/Mac/266Mhz G3. I think it's literally a second for the cursor to turn into a hand on rolling over a clickable object. This to me does not bode well. The thing about FutureSplash/Flash is that even with a slim sized plugin/activex control you could get cool interactivity and fast performing stuff.

The problem for anything to be a "Flash Killer" is that Futurewave, then Macromedia has played the game in a genius manner. Eventually both major browsers included Flash in their base installs, and the major OS's as well. That is no small feat. They also opened up the flash file format to encourage developers to write their own files. They were super helpful and vocal in newsgroups and mailing lists. They highlighted the work of talented folks using their tools on shocked site of the day. Want a Java component as an alternative - you got it. You want it on WebTV, you got it. You want it for Linux - here it is. You want transparency? Here it comes. You want better programmability? You got it. You want accessibility, we're working on it. You want it on small devices, we're working on that too.

Macromedia *gets* that when people are using Flash, Macromedia wins. So they evangelize the hell out of it, and it sticks even though some pundits say it's 99% crap. (And even the pundits admit it can be a good thing under the right circumstances).

All this talk about SVG being programmer-friendly and much easier to interact with xml because it *is* xml is all very nice. But only to geeks. Heck, geeks already love Flash - proof is this perl project.

There are alternative players out there (BeOS??!?). People calling themselves "Flash Designers." When was the last time you heard someone say they were a "Dreamweaver Designer" or "PhotoShop Designer" or even "3DSMax Designer?"

And as far putting raw data into a flash file, there's more than just generator.

XML is the bomb. Vectors are the bomb. Standard specs and open source is the bomb. SVG *might* just be the bomb.

But Flash is now 4 years old. SVG is 2 years old. As a Flash Killer, SVG has *tons* of ground to make up. And crazy-ass Macromedia is still moving - trying to make Flash better, stronger, faster.

I'd like to point out another wonderful file format that's intellectually pure and programmer-friendly. Little old PNG turns 5 years old this year. But the browser support stinks, and to date the most popular use of PNG to date is as the default file format for Fireworks. And who makes Fireworks? Crazy-ass Macromedia.

((Cue Damn it feels good to be a gangsta as used in Office Space.))
posted by artlung at 2:38 AM on April 22, 2001

PNG sucks on Netscape 4.7 (I think) but looks okay under IE5. My site Complete Toss uses them substantially. "But why not use gifs?", I hear you ask. Burn all gifs.
posted by davidgentle at 3:16 PM on April 22, 2001

Joe, here's how SVG wins:

Go make a 400px wide red circle in vectors.

- with flash you open up your proprietary app, grab the selection tool, switch it to circles, draw a circle on the stage, then save out the file. Fire up aftershock to generate a page you can put the flash file on, which should work most of the time.

- with svg you create a text file with a single line, describing a shape that is circular, its width, its color, and its thickness.

Which one is easier?
posted by mathowie at 8:45 AM on April 23, 2001

So on small, sample collections of geometric shapes, SVG wins. But on stuff you can't do by hand/in head, or for animation, Flash still has a better authoring environment. Of course, when Illustrator/Freehand/Fireworks become SVG authoring environments, that will change. (I think Illustrator can export SVG now, right?)
posted by rodii at 8:59 AM on April 23, 2001

Matt that's great for defining a circle. But most people don't want to make circles. They want to make animated cartoons, or complex, hard to figure out interfaces. The authoring tool that Flash has is a huge reason why Flash is so successful. Both Flash and DHTML are capable of making bitmaps move around the screen, which do you see more of?

Defining animation and graphic elements by hand is rarely seen as a benefit to visual designers, animators, or illustrators. They tend to prefer direct manipulation tools.

Do you like SVG because it solves problems, or because you hate Flash with a passion, and SVG follows the party line?
posted by captaincursor at 10:00 AM on April 23, 2001

I'm with you Matt, SVG is the right tool under the right circumstances. I'm entirely in favor of SVG by the way, the original post, and several subsequent described it as flash competitors and flash killers.

A generous comparison might be that one is a ferrari and one is a bmw motorcycle. Both can do marvelous things, but neither one will supplant the either.

And the motorbike is hindered by lame support at the moment.

Heck, The MetaFilter Logo in the upper right of this page would be best as a big vector, with blue and yellow on a field of white oval, positioned absolutely. You could define it in a way that would be scalable, and it might even be slimmer than the current GIF version.

But will you do that? Will you entrust mission critical elements to SVG *now*. No

Would you like to be able to in the future? Yes. (Well, I would). We all would, I think. For diagrams, for simple shapes, SVG rocks.

Also, the comments Captain Cursor made are germane -- doing the kind of dynamic interactivity which is done in Flash with JavaScript + SVG would be a downloading nightmare. I can envision creating the vectors for the recent "Stick Figure Kung Fu" movie in SVG+JavaScript - but when will be have the tools to do that? And how well will it run? And then you have the problems of how scripting and SVG will interact considering the layers of issues. I remember doing the FSCommand nonsense in FutureSplash and making it work in IE and Nestcape, and don't want to return to that.
posted by artlung at 6:28 PM on April 23, 2001

For diagrams, for simple shapes, SVG rocks.

The obvious killer app for SVG is charts and graphs. It's way easier (and quicker) for a script to spit out a bunch of XML text, and let the client rasterize it, than it is to generate and serve a GIF or JPEG on the fly. Moving to SVG will take a whale of a load off of servers and pipes, meaning less server hardware and bandwidth will be required to support more users. That has direct implications for the imminent power crunch in California. I would imagine stock quoting services will be one of the first to take advantage of the format.
posted by kindall at 8:43 PM on April 23, 2001

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