Thursday, August 28th, 2008
As part of the Open Web Advocacy work I’ve started with Dion and others at Google, one of my goals right now is to help increase awareness and support around doing 2-D/vector graphics on the open web. This includes tools such as the Canvas tag, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, an XML markup language for vector graphics), and open source cross-browser drawing toolkits such as Dojo GFX, ExplorerCanvas, and Raphael.
One of the big reasons for this is that 2-D drawing/vector graphics is the top requested feature by double the amount of other feature requests in the recent Open Ajax Alliance Browser Feature Wish List vote-off. As part of this effort I’m doing a bootcamp right now to come up to speed on the latest developments in both Canvas and SVG. I’ve been using Shelley Powers excellent Painting the Web book to find out the state of vector graphics on the web in 2008. During this education I’ve run across two interesting things.
SVG 1.1 became a W3C recommendation on January 13, 2003. Five years later, this page records my results of running various SVG implementations (web browsers and browser plugins) through the official SVG Test Suite. Last updated 2008-06-18.
A screenshot with some of the results:
Things are pretty good with Firefox 3, Safari 3, and the winner, Opera. There is a strong subset of SVG that can be used cross-browser with these. Of course, Internet Explorer is the limiting factor here, with a grand score of 0% for all tests:
This means that for open web vector graphics to be realistic we need some kind of shim for Internet Explorer (Adobe used to have a browser plugin for IE that had very high quality, but its quite large and was end of lifed in 2007). Internet Explorer actually has an earlier vector graphics standard named VML (Vector Markup Language) that can be used to ‘trick’ it into having 2-D graphics support that is used by a number of open source toolkits. However, VML can run into some performance issues when you start to get into a large number of nodes and animation with the available open source drawing toolkits.
One natural avenue is to emulate SVG or other 2-D graphics on Internet Explorer using Flash. I had always heard about this possibility but recently found a small company actually doing it to good effect. They have not finished yet, but their demo is impressive:
Here we are viewing the source of the SVG being rendered by this Flash:
I emailed the developers to get some more information on this Flash-based renderer and they responded:
Our SVG viewer and editor is not open source. It will be part of the new InputDraw version and with some more features – like draw recognition – will be part of the new Comics Sketch site, so users can create advanced comics strips.
We are part of a small company in Lisbon, Portugal named inEvo that works with a lot of web development, rich interfaces and other areas like computer graphics and artificial intelligence.
While I respect the hard work it took inEvo to create this and their need to charge for it, it looks like using Flash to emulate SVG is a valid approach for Internet Explorer and it would be great to have something similar available open source. Just the basic viewer being available would make sense as open source and would probably even drive more business to them for their higher level tools; it looks like inEvo has created lots of cool things above this that make sense as being commercial-only, such as an SVG editor, drawing recognition, social comics creation and sharing site, etc.
Posted by Brad Neuberg at 5:45 am