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W3C Recommendation Brings New Life to Graphics

The World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) Wednesday served up its latest standard protocol recommendation, a protocol which it says will benefit all industries concerned with rich graphics delivery, from advertising to electronic commerce, process control, mapping, financial services and education.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0 is an effort to make it possible to create Web pages with the same compelling graphics as glossy catalogs and magazines, and that are portable to a range of devices, screen sizes and printer resolutions. The new recommendation represents cross-industry agreement on an XML-based language -- built on the W3C's Document Object Model (DOM) specification -- that describes graphics and color in a device-independent manner, allowing images to look equally good when viewed on a screen or printed.

"With SVG, Web graphics move firmly from mere decoration to true graphical information," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and father of the World Wide Web. "Scalable Vector Graphics are the key to providing rich, reusable visual content for the Web. At last, designers have the open graphics format they need to make professional graphics not only work visually on the Web, but perform as searchable, reusable Web content."

SVG also gives designers the ability to handle graphics in the same way they now handle documents and business data using XML, the universal format for document and data interchange. SVG 1.0 enables the textual content of graphics -- from logos to diagrams -- to be searched, indexed and displayed in multiple languages.

"Designers are reaching larger audiences with an increasing variety of Web-enabled devices from palmtops to desktops to printers," said Chris Lilley, W3C Graphics Activity Lead. "But most of all, they need to be able to handle their graphics the same way as their text and business data, which nowadays are in XML. SVG is specifically designed to let them do that."

And the W3C said SVG 1.0 has even more potent utility when combined with other XML grammars such as CSS and XSL style sheets, RDF metadata, XML Linking and SMIL Animation (another recommendation advanced by the W3C Wednesday). Together with those technologies, SVG 1.0 can be used to deliver multimedia applications or provide rendering capabilities for business data -- from interactive charts to process visualization.

"The declarative facilities of SMIL Animation, combined with scripting through the DOM, opens new possibilities for Web-based interface design," said Dean Jackson, W3C Team Contact for the SVG Working Group and W3C Fellow from CSIRO (Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization).

According to Lilley, an example of the power of the new SVG specification is how it can be used to make Chemical Markup Language, another XML grammar that is used to describe molecules, more robust. SVG can be used to take the notation from Chemical Markup Language and convert it into an image of the molecule on the fly.

SVG also means that ads can be personalized because it eliminates the differences in the way text and images are handled, Lilley explained. A Web site capable of identifying users could add those users' names to ads on the fly.

"It means you can run different ads every day of the week," Lilley said.

The W3C said its SVG Working Group was required prove their specification was sound and implementable through vigorous testing on a wide range of Open Source and commercial SVG implementations already available in the marketplace. The working group has been rechartered and is now working on modularized SVG (1.1) and SVG 2.0, which focuses on profiles for mobile devices and printing. SVG Working Group members include: Adobe Systems, AOL/Netscape, Apple, Autodesk, Bitflash, Canon, Corel, CSIRO, Eastman Kodak, Ericsson, Excosoft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, ILOG, IntraNet Systems, KDDI, Macromedia, Microsoft, Nokia, OASIS, Openwave, Opera, Oxford Brookes University, Quark, Savage Software, Schemasoft, Sun Microsystems, Xerox and ZoomOn.