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Saving SVG

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  • Samuel Dagan
    For the last few weeks, a debate is going on among the people of this group, about the future of SVG. Some of the people sound pessimistic, and some
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 21, 2005
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      For the last few weeks, a debate is going on among the people of this
      group, about the future of SVG. Some of the people sound pessimistic,
      and some optimistic, but the vast majority of them have a common
      goal, of saving the idea of the open source policy, based on the
      recommendations of the W3C. It seems that after a decade of the W3C
      existence, its cooperation with the proprietary software industry
      does not follow the initial expectations. The general feeling is,
      that different vendors are learning how to use partially the W3C
      recommendation (e.g. XML), without implement the rest. The policy of
      keeping their plans in secret is understandable, but on the other
      hand it is causing a very strong concern among the people of this
      group.

      Everyone knows, that there is only one way for stabilizing the
      situation: To have a free reliable browser, with native support for
      SVG. They are such attempts: Amaya, Opera and Mozilla. The latter
      delivered a good product, but its implementation of SVG is still
      partial, and far behind the ASV plugin. Not only SVG is at stake. If
      SVG goes away, so will go the achievements and the future of the W3C.
      The reason that SVG could be a stumbling block is, that the vector
      graphics has an enormous potential for applications, and therefore
      for tremendous gains of the companies.

      The question is how to achieve such free and reliable browser with
      native support of SVG. I had some thoughts about that, and I want to
      share them with you, the members of this group. I'll be very grateful
      for your honest opinion. No matter, if what I propose is pure
      nonsense, is a naive approach to the problem, or if it looks feasible.

      The appearance of the Web followed the necessity for the transfer of
      big amounts of experimental data between academic institutes, all
      over the word, in order to cooperate in research. Soon it was
      commercialized, and the W3C was founded with the purpose to define
      some rules for the competitors. It is time now that the W3C receives
      help from the academy.

      Why the academy? The academy is doing research and development. There
      are collaborations between different institutions, all over the
      world. People there are skilled and innovative. Any work done, is
      reported openly, and there are no secrets. Of course there is
      competition, but this competition is open and constructive.

      Who from the academy? There are departments of computer sciences
      and/or of computer engineering. Each department has graduate students
      (PhD, MSc, Diploma or whatever). The graduate student's labor is
      cheep. Most of their income is supplied by the institutions, and
      they'll need probably some supplement. The labor of the faculty
      members, that supervise the students, is for free, since they are
      paid by the institutions.

      How this should work? The task of producing the browser should be
      centralized by an organization, which will divide it in few projects.
      The projects will be proposed to the academic community. The same
      project should be given to more than one academic institution. After
      a project is completed, the organization should evaluate it, and
      decide which institution provided the most suitable solution. This
      should not interfere with the academic freedom, of judging the
      academic validity of the project.

      What organization? The staff of W3C consists of highly skilled and
      dedicated people. They did, and continue to do, a very important task
      of issuing the recommendations. However, time came to reconsider the
      priorities. Is it more important to have recommendations for SVG
      version 1.2 without a browser (and practically without SVG), or a
      browser with native support of SVG version 1.1? Without any doubt,
      the second choice is better! I don't imply, that version 1.2 should
      be abandoned, but just postponed for some time. That way the W3C
      staff will be able to channel its efforts on the browser.

      What choice of browser? The W3C should decide what browser should be
      written. What computer language to use (e.g. Java, C). If Java is
      used, there is an advantage of portability and the browser could be
      almost the same for any of the operating systems (Windows, Linux,
      Mac). On the other hand, the organization (W3C) may decide
      differently. The W3C should decide also, if to start from scratch, or
      from an existing browser (e.g. Amaya) and to continue its development.

      Who will pay the bill? As mentioned earlier, the grants necessary for
      carrying a project by the academy should not be big. The software
      companies should not object to this development of a browser. On the
      contrary, they can benefit from a browser, that they do not have to
      develop. They did not object to Amaya. Did they? They should
      contribute for this browser. In addition, the countries,
      participating in W3C, could be asked for a contribution.

      What could be the cost? I am going to present here a calculation of
      the possible cost, on the back of an envelope, just to have an order
      of magnitude. Let's assume that the whole task will start from the
      existing Amaya, which is written in Java. One could divide the task
      in five different projects, and assume that each one of these
      projects will be given to five different institutions. One needs
      therefore 25 grants. The projects could be completed in two years. A
      sum of 20,000 $ (USD) is reasonable for one year, and therefore the
      total cost is 40,000 X 25 = 1 M$ (One million USD), really not so
      expensive for such a big task.

      Cheers, Samy
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