IE9 and SVG (and what about Canvas?)

The SVG working group met at the beginning of June and decided to send the SVG 1.1 Second Edition proposal to the W3C, turning its attention to SVG 2.

The SVG working group met at the beginning of June and decided to send the SVG 1.1 Second Edition proposal to the W3C, turning its attention to SVG 2.0. Microsoft's influence on the group might be discernable (in a good way) from the emphasis on scenarios, uses cases and tests in Patrick Dengler's report (he's the senior program manager putting SVG into IE).

Interestingly, the working group's approach to SVG isn't a million miles away from the way Microsoft is implementing SVG in IE9. Like other browser vendors, Microsoft won't do the whole of SVG first time around - it will support 20 of the 23 areas in SVG 1.1, but not SMIL declarative animation, SVG fonts or filters (Firefox doesn’t and won't have SVG fonts and is close to providing SMIL support).

In SVG 2, the Basic, Full and Tiny profiles may get replaced by optional modules - and SVG Fonts might well become optional. The complication here is that while Microsoft and Mozilla don’t want to support rendering fonts character by character as vectors when there are so many other ways to do fonts including the newly agreed WOFF font standard, Opera and Webkit support the subset of SVG Fonts in SVG 1.2 Tiny - and that's the only Web font option on the iPhone. Expect the debate to continue, but don’t expect Microsoft to change its view (although Dengler does say Microsoft has a "wait and see model" for all three features, so developers explaining how they plan to use the features in their sites and why they want it - rather than random commenters simply insisting Microsoft isn't serious about SVG unless it does everything right now, and gives them a pony - have the opportunity to have a discussion with the IE team).

Microsoft doesn't want to support SMIL because the HTML+Time declarative animation it already has never gets used - and the CSS/SVG Task Force at the W3C is looking at the way CSS 3 supports animations, which is different from SMIL. Similarly, CSS Filters like drop shadows are easier to use than SVG Filters and work in a completely different way - and the task force is looking at whether it can unify those options into a single standard.

As Doug Schepers, the head of the SVG Working Group, notes "since the SVG WG intends to coordinate with the CSS WG to make some changes to animation and to extend filters, it's probably best that IE9 doesn't lock those into their current states".

The big missing piece in the IE9 Platform Preview as far as graphics is concerned is the Canvas tag - and my suspicion is that we're more likely to see Canvas in IE 9 than SVG Fonts. Every time it comes up, the answers are more subtle than just no. At MIX, when Dengler was asked about Canvas he said "we're not done with IE9; you don’t see all the feature sets today." And when I asked IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch about it, his reply was downright tantalising.

"We're not talking at this point about whether we’re supporting canvas or not, but I'm smiling broadly. All your graphics needs will be taken care of, and I'm smiling broadly. " It's only another week or two until the third Platform Preview is due, which will add the Video tag. I would be smiling a bit more broadly if I had some idea when IE9 itself might emerge. -Mary


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