The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is seeking public comments and contributions to a working draft on scalable vector graphics (SVG). Vector graphics are important to the web, because unlike bitmapped images – and like PostScript fonts – they are easy to resize without getting jagged around the edges. Besides, most web graphics are created as vector images and converted to bitmaps for publication. Publishing vector graphics on the web should simplify things all round. Today, web designers have to pick a width and height in pixels and save their work in some image format like JPEG, explained Chris Lilley, chair of the SVG working group. SVG will let the designer keep that vector flexibility and superior quality for delivery on the web. The SVG draft represents something of a departure for the standards body. Up until now, the W3C’s extensible markup language (XML) has been used primarily in text-based applications. The new draft is presented as the first step in developing a vendor-neutral, cross-platform, web-specific format for vector graphics in XML. SVG should be able to take advantage of all XML’s features, including style sheets and the document object model (DOM). As an added bonus, site management tools that manipulate hyperlinks will work just as well on SVG files as on any other XML document. What really distinguishes SVG, though, is that point about vendor neutrality. Significantly, the working group that came up with SVG includes representatives of both of the rival vector graphics proposals that were put before the W3C last June (CI No 3,421). Adobe, Netscape and Sun came up with PGML, an XML-based vector graphics spec based on Adobe’s PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) expertise. Microsoft hit back with the Vector Markup Language (VML), which essentially described the way vectors were handled in Microsoft Office. At the time, the W3C’s Lilley commented that VML was easier to edit, but PGML images might be more expressive. The hope for SVG is that it can combine the best qualities of both.
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