SVG and Related Technologies

Revolutionary as SVG is, it is not alone in its class of web-based vector graphics applications. Microsoft's short-lived VML (Vector Markup Language) is another XML-based solution, and Flash is a very successful proprietary format with capabilities comparable to SVG. Although Flash has enormous support across the Web, SVG is the vector graphics format being touted by the W3C, which means that it stands a good chance of eventually becoming the web standard for vector graphics. Two other developments that assist SVG in becoming a more widely supported standard are SVG Tiny (SVGT) and SVG Basic (SVGB), which are aimed at bringing SVG support to devices with more limited processing, memory, and display capabilities, such as handheld computers and mobile phones.

Microsoft's Answer to Vector Graphics

Ever loyal to its longstanding tradition of "my way or the highway," Microsoft developed its own XML application for creating graphics: VML, or Vector Markup Language. Its main advantageat least, for existing Microsoft customerswas that it is well-integrated with Microsoft Office 2000 products. Hence, you could use the drawing tools in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint without having to leave your current workspace. Unfortunately for VML, it was never latched onto by users and ultimately gave way to SVG as the desire to have a standardized, open vector graphics format proved to be more appealing than a solution tied to Microsoft.

Macromedia Flash

Macromedia Flash provides a WYSIWYG environment for the creation and editing of vector graphics in the proprietary SWF format, with a sophisticated specialty in motion graphics. Web sites featuring Flash graphicsstunning but at times bandwidth hungryhave become quite popular and in many ways put the Web on par with television as a venue for complex and compelling animations. If nothing else, Flash has served as an excellent vehicle for delivering slick, interactive banner ads; like them or not, banner ads owe a great deal to Flash for their pizzazz. Although Flash covers the full range of SVG capabilities, its main focus is animation, and it might be considered overkill for simpler purposes. The other big distinction between Flash and SVG is that Flash relies on a proprietary binary file format, which means you can't just open up a Flash movie as a text file and view or modify it. It also means you can't generate Flash movies dynamically with script code as you can with SVG. Of course, SVG doesn't ship as a sophisticated development tool that allows you to put together complex animations with relative ease, which is Flash's forte.

It is technically possible, albeit not entirely straightforward, to convert a Flash animation in the SWF format to an SVG document. Check out Steve Probets' Flash to SVG Converter at the following web site to learn more about how this is done: http://www.eprg.org/~sgp/swf2svg.html.

SVG for Mobile Devices

Seeing as how mobile devices are increasingly becoming the focus of online development efforts, it really should come as no surprise that SVG has been repurposed for such devices. In fact, there are two different flavors of SVG available for mobile devices: SVGT and SVGB. SVGT (SVG Tiny) is a dramatically scaled down version of SVG that targets extremely constrained mobile devices such as mobile phones. SVGB (SVG Basic) isn't as limited as SVGT, and is designed to support more powerful mobile devices such as handheld computers and PDA (Personal Digital Assistants).

Macromedia offers a mobile version of its Flash technology that is called Flash Lite. Interestingly enough, Flash Lite supports SVGT.