Microsoft joins SVG working group

Company, which has not backed the graphics spec in its Internet Explorer browser, now will participate in deliberations on the future of the technology

Microsoft, which has been criticized for its lack of support of the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) specification in its Internet Explorer (IE) browser, this week joined the industry working group that oversees SVG.

But the company, in response to an inquiry, stopped short of saying it would actually begin to support SVG in IE. SVG provides for interactive Web-based graphics and is supported in other major browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera, and Google Chrome.

[ Last year, InfoWorld examined what impact the HTML 5 standard might have on Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe's Flash technologies. ]

In joining the SVG Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium, Microsoft is demonstrating "commitment to interoperability and standards support," said Patrick Dengler, senior program manager for the Microsoft Internet Explorer Team, in a blog entry.

"We're excited to take part in ensuring future versions of the SVG spec will meet the needs of developers and end-users," he said.

"We recognize that vector graphics are an important component of the next generation Web platform," Dengler added.

Asked if Microsoft would support SVG, a company representative released this statement, which sidesteps the question:

"We're investing in what the Web will look like in the future and we are committed to providing a browser that accurately supports Web standards.  Making the Web easier for developers continues to be important and we will continue to contribute to development of HTML 5 along with other popular Web standards."

Last fall, at the SVG Open 2009 conference at Google offices in Mountain View, Calif., dignitaries stressed that Microsoft's lack of SVG support in IE was a hindrance. Microsoft did have two representatives at the session, but the company did not announce any support for SVG. Microsoft has supported vector graphics via the Microsoft-driven Vector Markup Language.

In a Microsoft blog on the planned IE9 browser, some persons commenting on the technology were eager for SVG support.

"If IE9 doesn't support SVG, which has been a solidified W3C recommendation/standard since 2003, I won't support IE9," said one commenter.

Microsoft's failure to support SVG in IE thus far has had somewhat of a chilling effect on adoption of the technology, with some people not wanting to use it because it is not supported across all browsers, said Doug Schepers,  team contact for the W3C SVG and WebApps working groups. But the company's lack of support may be attributable to priorities rather than clinging to its own VML technology, he said.

"When I've talked to them about it it's always been a matter of priority. There's a lot of stuff they need to do, and they haven't gotten around to SVG," Schepers said.

"I've been talking with the IE team about SVG for a while and recent discussions have been very productive," said Schepers. All browsers, it seems, have been slow to support SVG, he added.

Microsoft's participation on the W3C working group is a "good sign," said Brad Neuberg, a developer advocate at Google who has been critical of the lack of native SVG support in IE.

"Most companies don't like to mention future product plans, so Microsoft hasn't necessarily been terribly straightforward about what's going on in IE9. But I would not be surprised to see SVG and HTML 5 Canvas tags show up," along with hardware acceleration, Neuberg said.

SVG, Neuberg said, offers the ability to produce graphics that look good in systems ranging from Apple's iPhone to large screens, he said.

Other companies represented on the SVG working group include vendors such as Apple, Opera, Mozilla, and Boeing. Google is not part of the working group, but that could change now that Microsoft is participating, Schepers said.

SVG has been in existence for about a decade. Version 1.2 has just been finished and work is beginning on SVG 2.0, which is to feature a clarified document object model, simplified scripting and elements for common tasks such as making flow charts and diagrams, Schepers said.

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