The End of Flash?
February 10, 2004 9:14 AM   Subscribe

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is an non-proprietary, XML driven alternative to flash that can be easily modified using a text editor. People are starting to make games, maps, and other interactive stuff. Is this the future of the web? (You need an SVG plug-in to view this content.)
posted by joeadk (24 comments total)
It's a bit hard to say. SVG has been around for a couple of years now but hasn't really taken off. The idea behind it is an open source, standards compliant alternative to flash. However unlike flash SVG integration into browser packages has been slow.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2004

Macromedia sweats.
posted by troutfishing at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2004

You can get a Mozilla with native support included, I don't know how well it supports it in comparison to the Adobe plug-in.

Meanwhile, in Microsoft land, there is no hope in hell of supporting this natively in the browser - they were selling their own format to the W3C, which lost - VML.

I've been championing this for years - it would be excellent to have support for this right in the browser, mixed into your XHTML, DOM and styles...
posted by jkaczor at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2004

SVG was supposed to be Adobe's Flash killer when they released LiveMotion a few years ago. LiveMotion came at a time when Flash was still taking over the space that Shockwave filled -- before it was at super-saturation. There's no surer sign of who already won the battle than Adobe's own LiveMotion page.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:39 AM on February 10, 2004

Why isn't it available as a plugin for Mozilla or Firefox instead of having to download a completeley separate version of Mozilla?

Also, w.r.t. Macromedia - would they really lose out at all if they offered an option to export Flash to SVG? Where they make their money is their authoring tools, and I can't imagine them ever feeling threatened by anyone else's authoring tools.
posted by badstone at 9:45 AM on February 10, 2004

We use SVG to display real-time data from drilling rigs. From my experience it seems to be a lot more stable than flash (an important consideration for us, when clients judge us essentially on whether they can log on at 1 am in Houston and see what is happening on a rig in the Caspian).
We like it.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:56 AM on February 10, 2004

LiveMotion was released mid-2000.

badstone: At the time, Macromedia Flash was basically the only way to create Flash files. SVG offered an open alternative around which a limitless array of tools could be produced and sold.

If LiveMotion had picked up any momentum whatsoever at that time, Macromedia would have had incentive to support SVG to compete. Flash continued to spread, however, as if LiveMotion and SVG didn't exist. Now, in 2004, there are dozens of third party products available using Flash including XML->FLASH tools that basically replicate SVG's functionality.

Macromedia only has market share to lose if they support SVG at this point, since they control the format and there is no real demand for SVG support.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:56 AM on February 10, 2004

(XML->FLASH tool)
posted by VulcanMike at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2004

Macromedia sweats.

Perhaps, but not because of SVG.

As an addendum to VulcanMike's comment on the LiveMotion webpage, Adobe has quietly dropped support for SVG from the newest version of Illustrator. While still a closed format, the newest versions of Flash, with fairly robust scripting and XML support, are minimizing the improvements SVG offers, were any but a handful adapting it to begin with.
posted by jalexei at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2004

As flash-style design increases throughout the web, I can't see the community relying solely on Macromedia to drive that development. Other specialized alternatives are going to develop to compete. I mean, look what happened to Microsoft. Oh wait, it's not the future yet.
posted by joeadk at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2004

The separate build of Mozilla/Firefox is because Mozilla has its own implementation, which is still heavily under development.
The reason the adobe plugin doesn't work well with Mozilla is long and complicated and mostly about the APIs involved. I've heard that the most recent version of the adobe plugin (v3) may work with Mozilla, but I haven't tried it.
posted by tingley at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2004

i remember hearing about svg way back when, on ALA. i always wondered what happened with it... looks like not much.
posted by lotsofno at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2004

yea, it's not just a replacement for flash though, but hopefully a replacement for a lot of small stupid things in web pages that now require images. that circle around metafilter at the top of this page, that bullet that looks a little more stylish than usual... it could really do a lot.
posted by rhyax at 11:13 AM on February 10, 2004

the most recent version of the adobe plugin (v3) may work with Mozilla

nope. just tried.
posted by badstone at 11:29 AM on February 10, 2004

Here's a bit of propaganda comparing the .svg and .swf formats.
posted by joeadk at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2004

"Is this the future of the web?"

Maybe. Open standards are good.

"(You need an SVG plug-in to view this content.)"

I take that "maybe" back. No, it's not. Flash is ubiquitous because Microsoft helpfully installs the ActiveX version into IE by default, and it knows how to keep itself updated. Until SVG gets similar preferential treatment, it won't be wise or safe for content authors to assume support for it.
posted by majick at 12:15 PM on February 10, 2004

looks like it's inherently more accessible, or am I reading this propaganda wrong?
posted by whatnot at 12:20 PM on February 10, 2004

Ah, finally an SVG fpp, I was wondering about this some time ago at ask.Mefi. Didn't post here because of selflink restrictions (I keep an SVG sidebar on my blog)

plugin woes: Forget about native SVG in browsers, at least yet. The really neat stuff requires heavy scripting and the SVG spec is huge, neither the W3C browser (Amaya) nor the SVG enabled Mozilla can run the good examples. And while the former is only meant experimental the latter is progressing very slowly.

Currently the Adobe SVG plugin 3 (ASV3) offers the widest possibilities, and yes, because of API changes since Mozilla 1.0 it will not run on the Windows Versions of Mozilla (and Netscape 7). The next incarnation of the Adobe SVG plugin will be version 6 (ASV6, which is available as developer preview for Windows) and works with Mozilla under Windows. ASV6 will support the new SVG 1.2 specification, that is not yet finalised (SVG 1.2 roadmap), but will bring a rich new feature set, such as better text handling (text reflow) and reusability of GUI elements among others. To make things even worse, a lot of people have Version 2 of the Adobe SVG plugin installed because it came with Acrobat Reader 5. Those will partly see SVG content but think it is crap because some interactivity won't work.

Now to the main question, will SVG be the flash killer?. Probably not (for a lack of authoring tools, for a lack of sexyness, for being non-designer stuff, for the plugin issues ... ), but that doesn't disqualify SVG at all. SVG is the perfect choice when it comes to data driven graphics, when XML workflows are needed, in mapping and in statistics.

Have a look at an Area Classification of the UK, a comparisson of the age structure between UK and Germany using animated population pyramids (use the "overlap" button, further animated population pyramids), see the examples of excellent thematic mapping with Social patterns of Vienna, or a topographic map of the Tuerlersee (check out the profile creation feature) or the visualisation of Glacier Movements.

Maybe some more later in the evening according to demand.
posted by meikel at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2004

SVG might get a boost as XAML, which will play a major role of the Avalon display technology in Microsoft's next version of Windows, Longhorn, comes into widespread use. Some say that XAML is a rip off of SVG and XUL, but Microsoft believes differently.
posted by cmicali at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2004

arg .. major role in ...
posted by cmicali at 12:51 PM on February 10, 2004

I would dance in the streets if SVG were widely adopted - SVG, PNG, CSS, DOM, XHTML ... web standards for all, for ever. But, the thing with open standards is that they don't give any one company an inherent competitive advantage. Therefore, it's only the open source junky altruists like me that really drool for this stuff.

If someone, obviously not Adobe at this point, were to find a way to profit from SVG, then it would take off. If not, it won't. It's competing for market share with Flash (which as we all now, is inherently evil) so like others have said here, it will need some "preferential treatment" on the part of our Browser Overlords.

::disgruntled standards advocate::
posted by billpena at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2004

Since rhyax mentioned "that circle around Metafilter" as a use for SVG: Some time ago I did an SVG Version of the Metafilter Political Compass, where you see the Metatalk Logo ripoff as vectors.

on preview: billpena is absolutely right, Adobe's marketing focuses everything on PDF right now and Illustrator CS got only minor SVG improvements (although SVG primitives are very positive). Dave Hyatt of safari fame was once wondering if he should implemet SVG next ... but left wondering (and getting 300+ comments).
posted by meikel at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2004

To the penguins among us: Anybody using the SVG implementation of KDE?
posted by meikel at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2004

Hints that Flash is the winner thus far:
1) Friday Flash Fun just about anywhere and everywhere.
2) SVG only gets mentionned in "SVG: the Flash killer ?"-kind of posts, every 6 months. Nerds rejoice, then rush to view the latest Flash-meme one more time.
posted by XiBe at 1:14 AM on February 17, 2004

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