SVG is Scalable Vector Graphics, a W3C standard for XML graphics.  

Years ago, as part of the ODA, I worked on a project to try and start an OpenSVG consortium, to develop a set of full-function SVG libraries.  Ultimately, the effort wasn’t successful. 

LIkely the biggest impediment ot the adoption of SVG has been the lack of good support for it in Internet Explorer.  Adobe provided a basic SVG plugin for IE, but dropped support for it in favor of SWF/Flash.  Microsoft never provided any support for SVG, opting instead to go their own way with XAML.

Google has recently announced SVG Web – an open source JavaScript library which provides SVG support on many browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.  They’re also hosting an SVG conference, in early October.

This is a big deal, or at least should be a big deal, for the CAD industry. Here’s why:

As of today, the only meaningful standard (or, rather, de-facto standard)  for 2D CAD interoperability is DWG.  Unfortunately, DWG is a dull tool, unless you’re only talking about sharing files with people using AutoCAD.  Autodesk’s implementation(s) of DWG are undocumented, and were never designed for open extensibility.  The ODA lost the ability to provide full DWG interoperability as a result of Autodesk’s 2006 lawsuit.

If there is to be a future for  2D CAD and/or BIM interoperability, there needs to be a new standard — one that is reasonably compatible with DWG, but which isn’t intimately tied into the object structures used by AutoCAD.  Whatever that standard may ultimately look like, it should be built on an open foundation, with a truly open specification, supported by a commercial software-friendly open source rendering library.

Google’s embrace of SVG gives me at least a little hope that this is possible. Of course, to really make it happen would require the support of at least a handful of major CAD vendors.  Getting that support may not be all that easy.  The politics of standards support can be really brutal, because major vendors are so focused on competitive advantage.

Dilbert.com

  • http://autodesk.blogs.com/between_the_lines/ Shaan

    Evan,

    Personally, from my perspective from inside and outside the graphics and CAD industry. Many tried SVG even the large CAD vendors but the support was less than lukewarm from an end user perspective as there was no interest or adoption. The public and documented Autodesk Design XML format DesignXML (http://www.designxml.org/schema/DesignXML_V_100.xdr) could be parsed out as a SVG schema but any XML format is large even larger than DXF.

    Now the origin of SVG as I understand it was a hijacked VML Vector Markup Language format which was a submitted open standard with W3 and Autodesk participated in this standard as well as the old IGES format. VML is used by Google Earth today for vector overlays. Now SVG is essentially back as XAML. 5-8 years ago there was some cool stuff being created in SVG but it has long died out in support and popularity in favor of other more compact and supported formats including DWF, PDF, and XPS.

    That’s my 9 cents worth (two cents adjusted for inflation)

    Shaan

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Evan: "The ODA lost the ability to provide full DWG interoperability as a result of Autodesk’s 2006 lawsuit."

    I am not quite sure I understood this. I thought the 2006 lawsuit was mainly about the TrustedDWG watermark. AFAIK, the lawsuit did not stop the ODA from reverse engineering the geometry and related data in the DWG file format. Or was there something more to the lawsuit?

  • DF

    <i>Now SVG is essentially back as XAML.</i>

    It’s hard to see how this is true, unless you mean in the same sense as folks sometimes say that Microsoft’s C-Sharp is essentially Java – they did their best to kill the original (as with Java in the ’90s), then implemented the best of it as their own proprietary technology.

    And SVG (as a text-based format like DXF) may be comparatively large, but SVGZ (the zipped implementation, just like KMZ is to KML) isn’t.

    <i>5-8 years ago there was some cool stuff being created in SVG but it has long died out in support and popularity in favor of other more compact and supported formats including DWF, PDF, and XPS.</i>

    I disagree. DWF and XPS are proprietary formats that intentionally lock you in to the vendor’s own software – which I would hope that people in this day and age can see are dead-ends for any organisation serious about continuing in business beyond a couple of decades. PDF is good, but just as an archival format. And I happen to have experience of a deployment of SVG to implement a corporate GIS (using the Adobe plugin, but interesting to see what becomes of Google’s).

    SVG has, incidentally, become the major format for exchanging vector graphics between Open Source applications such as Inkscape and Scribus. Which does make it of increasing importance outside of the fiefdoms of the big software companies such as Adobe, Quark and Microsoft, no matter what happens to it otherwise.

    A final comment for Evan’s post – SVG is interesting for 2D CAD and GIS, but COLLADA (also incorporated in KML) is where the action is now, especially for 3D, I think.

  • Shaan

    DF,
    My point was the re-invention of the wheel over and over. There is already an open documented standard for 2D vector exchange and that is DXF but prior complaints were that it was too large and slow due to it being an ASCII file but perhaps a zipped DXF would work. In any case industry standard and supported formats are good for everyone as long as there are not too many. SVG went the way of VML or Flash for vector documents and jumped the shark IMHO.There are many other formats that are open or have libraries to read/write them such as PDF and DWF and are industry standards and adopted by large bases of users and best for the intended purposes.

  • DF

    <i>There is already an open documented standard for 2D vector exchange and that is DXF but prior complaints were that it was too large and slow due to it being an ASCII file but perhaps a zipped DXF would work. </i>

    (OK, I’m coming back to see this after some months, for which I can only apologise to all concerned.)

    Shaan, DXF isn’t open (it’s an Autodesk format) and is no longer genuinely documented (Autodesk having disappeared the specs of at least some versions off their website). What then, does this tell us?

    <i>SVG went the way of VML or Flash for vector documents and jumped the shark IMHO.</i>

    I don’t see this. SVG (which Adobe pushed until you acquired Flash) is and remains an excellent candidate for areal standard vector format (unlike the ‘standard’ of a monopoly closed format, which is no real standard at all).

    `,i`.There are many other formats that are open or have libraries to read/write them such as PDF and DWF and are industry standards and adopted by large bases of users and best for the intended purposes.</i>

    Yes, Adobe have opened up PDF but they still appear to ultimately control it (and there’s no guarantee that something like the current DWG mess won’t occur). DWF is a closed, proprietary standard which may or may not just die out and be abandoned by its owner in the near future.