Scalable vector graphics (SVG) are a type of graphic format commonly found on websites and the Internet. Scalable vector graphics are particularly well suited to use on the Internet because of their small storage size and ability to be scaled up or down in display size. Scalable vector graphics are also beneficial in web design because of their cross-platform nature.
One of the most unique features of SVG files is their scalability. Scalable vector graphics are unlike typical raster bitmap formats such as JPEG or BMP files. Vector graphics use a set of mathematical points to define the outlines and colors of an image; this is unlike bitmaps, which use pixels to define the image. This method means a vector file can be made smaller or much larger in display without the image degradation that bitmaps suffer.
Scalable vector graphics are also XML based. Their text-based nature makes SVG files indexable and searchable, and their XML base means they are easily compressed. SVG files can easily be compressed by 20 percent, which is a great benefit to preserving bandwidth in a Web setting. SVG files can handle two different types of information, presenting either text or vector graphics. This means other file formats are often used to display more detailed images, such as jpegs or gifs.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the scalable vector graphics format in the late 1990s. They were developed as an open system and, as such, they are royalty free. Another result of the SVG format being developed as an open system is that it is a cross-platform format. SVG files are supported across a variety of computer systems and web browsers.
The SVG format is compatible with the Microsoft® Windows® operating system, Apple® Macintosh® systems, Linux® systems, and Unix® systems. SVG files are natively supported by most modern Web browsers with one notable exception. Microsoft's Internet Explorer®, the browser included with Windows® operating systems, does not natively support SVG files. Instead, users of Internet Explorer® must have an external plug-in installed to view SVG files.
Scalable vector graphics are one example of how computer formats and software are being shaped by the importance of the Internet. Their small size, scalability, and XML base all lend themselves well to the SVG format's widespread adoption on websites and elsewhere on the Internet. Scalable vector graphics are but one of the many web-ready file systems and one of many to come.