SVG and Me. Seven Years On.

Anybody remember the brief love affair I had with SVG? Can you believe it was seven years ago now!?

My  love for SVG withered due to lack of support for it. As I remember it the only browser you could use it with was IE and even then you had to manually download and install a plugin. It just wasn't really a viable technology at that time.

Skip forward 7 years and it's all changed. I realised this when I noticed a couple of things recently. Firstly, that Google was hosting the SVG Open 2009 conference ("SVG coming of age" it says). Secondly, that SVG was a part of the HTML 5 spec, which is getting a lot of press recently.

SVG isn't dead after all!

Last week there was a post on the Google Code Blog called SVG at Google and in Internet Explorer. If you're new to SVG or want a recap then it's well worth a read.

From what I can see SVG now has native support in the later versions of the "better" browsers, such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox, but not yet in Internet Explorer. This, for most of us I'd imagine, is what would make learning SVG a pointless exercise. If it doesn't work in IE then it's of no use. Let's face it.

However, there's a project called SVG Web which provides support for SVG in IE and claims to provide a 95% user coverage for SVG support. It works by using a JavaScript library to detect native support for SVG. If there isn't any then it uses Flash to render the SVG instead. At least that's my understanding of it.

However SVG Web works, what it does mean is that SVG is now becoming a viable tool. Which is great news as you can do some great things with it. One major application that springs to mind is charting. I did some demos on charting with SVG all that time ago, which I'll try and resurrect and bring up-to-date when I get the chance. Assuming there's interest out there?


  1. I beg to differ about the "the only browser you could use it with was IE" part. Opera also had a native viewer. But then I've always been an advocate of Opera right from version 3.

    Of course there are many who deride Opera, prefering Firefox. Horses for courses.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Mon 12 Oct 2009 05:04 AM

    I was once an advocate of Opera too Dragon, but, come on, how seriously can you take a browser that's been around that long yet has such little hold on the market.

    Only 1.73% of this site's users were on Opera in the past month!

    It's just not a browser I think of any more when I make a list of which support things and which don't.

    It's not that I think little of Opera, as it's obviously a powerful and always ahead of its time, but will it ever be worth considering for support of and testing your apps in if the market share remains so low?

  2. "Only 1.73% of this site's users were on Opera in the past month!" Yep. And it's proably all me. :)

    I think the biggest issue is just that. People never consider it. When an alternative to IE is mentioned Firefox always comes up, as does Chrome. But nobody ever mentions Opera. I think the major issue to using Opera is that in it's early days when Firefox was taking off, Opera used an advertising model. This instantly switched off a whole slew of developers and they never recovered from it.

    And as to "supporting" it. Don't bother. If it renders OK in Firefox, then Opera is covered too.

    BTW: I suspect it might be time for you to post up exactly what browsers are used on Codestore. I suspect that Firefox has the lion's share these days (being the Devs browser of choice), IE in second. Enquiring minds would like to know.

    But back to your original statement. SVG. Actually I really like it. Being XML based it is incredably easy to implement in Domino. However I suspect that (like Opera) it is easily overlooked in favour of Flash based charts and graphs. Especially when there are some really good examples out there. http://www.captainoblivious.com/rob_mcdonagh/home.nsf/d6plinks/BLOT-7BR3XB

    • avatar
    • J. King
    • Tue 20 Oct 2009 11:15 AM

    Jake, that Opera is not as popular on the desktop (Opera Mini is -very- popular, apparently) as other options in no way diminishes its staggering worth. If you're a Web nerd like me it's amazing how useful it is, and how much easier it makes Web browsing. Plus, its SVG implementation is head and shoulders above the competition: it is, simply put, the best there is.

    Sure, it might have few desktop users, but when one considers that every Wii user, every Nintendo DS and DSi user and many mobile users have the same rendering engine driving their browser as this purported 1.73% of your visitors, is it not a little worth a tiny bit of extra effort to make sure whole subsets of potential visitors have a decent experience?

    When I implement a Web site, I don't care how many visitors use what. I work in Opera, and I test in everything else I can (Konqueror is the only vaguely notable agent I can't practically test). Usually only older versions of IE give me trouble. Everything else, including IE8, generally just works. When things don't quite work, it's because -I- made a mistake, not because browser X did.

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Written by Jake Howlett on Mon 12 Oct 2009

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