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W3C finalizes graphics standard

The Web's leading standards group puts its seal of approval on a new specification for graphics technology tailored for use by cell phones and other small networked devices.

The Web's leading standards group put its seal of approval on a new specification for graphics technology tailored for use by cell phones and other small networked devices.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday recommended Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 and two subsets of the recommendation for cell phones and handheld computers.

Vector graphics are more flexible than the common bitmaps that form many of the graphics on the Web. In contrast to bitmaps, which travel over the Internet fully rendered and defined pixel by pixel, vector graphics are merely mathematical descriptions of curves and forms. That results in a smaller and more flexible file.

SVG, which is intended to supplant Macromedia's dominant and proprietary Flash animation technology, has been wending its way through the W3C for years in one form or another. The original specification grew out of a quartet of early contenders, including Microsoft's Vector Markup Language (VML), and won its recommendation in September 2001.

Microsoft has increasingly accepted SVG, and the recent release of Office 11 included some support for the recommendation.

Once it approved the original specification, the W3C immediately set about the task of revising it so that it could be separated into modules that would work better with Web access devices smaller than the traditional PCs and laptops for which SVG was originally designed.

The result was SVG 1.1, which became a candidate recommendation in November along with two "profiles": SVG Tiny and SVG Basic.

SVG Tiny is designed for cell phones, including those using 3G technology. SVG Basic is for handheld computers.

While Macromedia competitor Adobe Systems stands to gain from any wide-scale adoption of SVG, some of the most enthusiastic endorsement of SVG 1.1 came from cell phone manufacturers.

In a statement posted to the W3C Web site, Ericsson called Mobile SVG "a new cornerstone for enriching the graphical appearance of mobile multimedia applications."

Ericsson competitor Nokia, whose W3C representative Tolga Capin edited the Mobile Profiles, said SVG 1.1 would be a key ingredient in new application development for Web-enabled cell phones.

"We believe that Mobile SVG will play a significant role in future mobile multimedia applications," Nokia said in a statement on the W3C site. "Nokia believes that the availability of an open and mobile-friendly standard for the creation of vector graphics content will play a central role in creating a dynamic and rich market for applications that fully exploit the capabilities of these exciting technologies."

The W3C published an informational page with demonstrations of the new recommendation.