Getting to SVG 2.0: A report from the SVG Working Group Face-to-Face (May 24th – June 1st 2010)

June 8th, 2010

After months of conference calls, the most recent face to face meeting of the SVG Working Group helped us make progress on this web standard.  The biggest ‘news’ from this meeting was the group’s decision to take the next step to finish the current SVG proposal – “SVG 1.1 2nd Edition” – and send it as a Proposed Recommendation to the W3C Advisory Committee for final endorsement. We also started more serious conversations about SVG 2.0. As the Web has advanced in a lot of areas in and around SVG, one of the most important things we can do as a group is ensure sure different parts of HTML5 work well together. There are good real life examples of this in SVG Fonts and WOFF that demonstrated the challenge the group discussed and how we move forward to make the web more interoperable in the right way; more on that below.

The Meeting

The SVG Working Group has a quarterly face to face meeting. As this one was my first, I was more than happy to arrange for a place for us to meet at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Brussels:

This photograph is of Bruges, a short trip to the west of Brussels. The actual meeting looked a bit different

Finishing SVG 1.1

During our first few days, the working group decided that we needed to close out SVG 1.1 2nd Edition Specification. The entire group hunkered down and finished all open items and made our last edits to the spec, prepping it for the next publishing stage, Proposed Recommendation.  We are now analyzing the quality and viability of the test suite, which is the final step.

Moving Forward with SVG 2.0

After moving past the SVG 1.1 2nd edition, the working group started to push forward on SVG 2.0.  We all agreed that we needed to approach the design of SVG 2.0 differently in order to achieve our goals.  The main principles involve scenarios and use cases, test driven feature development, and (most importantly) community feedback.

Over the next few weeks, the working group will draft scenarios and supporting features and socialize them with the community. We want to scope the work in SVG 2.0 appropriately to what will help developers the most.

Hot Topics: Modularity and SVG Fonts

There were a handful of hot topics, many of which we violently agreed on. For example, we agreed strongly about creating “optional” modules in SVG 2.0 in order to make it easier for everyone involved in web graphics to focus on the core important parts.

Modules in SVG 2.0 are more consistent with the CSS working group’s approach. They should make faster progress easier.

As Doug Schepers, the W3C Team Contact for the SVG Working Group, put it plainly we need to : “Help progress the Web Platform.”  Optional modules will replace “profiles.” (Not many people understood the relationship between tiny, basic, and full within SVG 1.1.)

SVG Fonts came up as a candidate for optional status. Chris Lilley, the technical expert on the SVG Working Group officially made the proposal. The WOFF Working Group just standardized fonts, and site developers need more consistency across different web technologies. I agreed with the Firefox representative here. No one saw high demand for the scenarios. We agreed that if there’s a strong demand, we can revisit this decision.

The working group has not reached a conclusion about SVG Fonts. This discussion still goes on today. Another Mozilla person, Robert O’Callahan, recently posted a similar position about SVG fonts.

Consistency Breeds Interoperability

SVG Fonts are one of several technologies that are inconsistent between SVG and other parts of HTML5. We have a CSS/SVG Task Force to normalize features that had previously been isolated to SVG, and to expand them consistently for both HTML and SVG.

This is of course key to our primary mission of progress on the web. It’s important to have a single consistent development model for the web, one that reflects the well understood patterns, frameworks and tools used today, and provides capabilities for emerging needs of developers.

There is even more inconsistency between SVG and CSS around animations.  We all agreed that developers benefit from one consistent model here.  CSS Styling has made a lot of great progress down one path; SMIL is quite different. Reconciling these differences and commonalities between SVG and CSS features (transitions, animations, and transforms) is also part of our responsibility as a standards body working group.

Prior to going to Brussels, Doug Schepers and I exchanged an informal interview around these subjects and Internet Explorer working with the SVG Working Group.  Doug’s reaction to Internet Explorer 9’s support for SVG and his perspective on the status of SVG implementations across browsers is clear.

New Ideas for Graphics

The group also saw some new ideas for graphics; one which caught everyone’s interest was diffusion curves. I was quite surprised by the quality of graphic achieved through a diffusion algorithm.  As an example, a manually rendered set of paths below demonstrates the small amount of data required to render a lifelike image.

Or the reverse where a picture was taken, and a tool reengineered the image into diffusion curves.

Graphics on the web will continue to be exciting for some time to come!

Thanks –

Patrick Dengler
Senior Program Manager