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The Future of SVG and GeoMedia WebMap

Posted by jeffhobbs on March 20, 2008

As many of you are aware, SVG (scalable vector graphics) is currently Intergraph’s preferred way to render vector graphics in a GeoMedia WebMap (GWM) site. There has been a lot of discussion as of late in the comments section reference this post as an example discussing what Intergraph will do now that Adobe (the largest maker of a SVG plug-in) has announced that they will no longer support the SVG Viewer plug-in as of January 1, 2009. Additionally, as far as I know, Adobe is no longer developing the plug-in. I believe this decision was made soon after Adobe completed their purchase of Macromedia and Macromedia’s web technologies (namely Flash, Dreamweaver, and ColdFusion). Well, with Adobe’s decision left Intergraph in a bit of a bind…what to do now that the SVG Viewer has been discontinued??

After talking with a few folks at the GITA booth, I can say that Intergraph looks very close to adopting Microsoft Silverlight as their next vector engine. With the pending release of Silverlight 2.0, Microsoft has come a long way in expanding the flexibility and functionality of Silverlight. In fact, version 1 was very much designed for delivering movies over the web (think Youtube’s use of Flash to serve all of the movies on www.youtube.com). Version 2 is being designed with the idea of building rich internet applications using XAML, .NET, and other technologies. You can take a look at roadmap I found on Silverlight 2.0 here if your curious to see just what Microsoft is planning for this eventual “Flash killer”.

So…what does this means for GMWM users? Well…initially (hopefully before January 1, 2009) it means that we should see Silverlight as a replacement (or addition) to the choices we have for rendering the actual map object window. This probably won’t be a giant enhancement by itself EXCEPT for the cross-browser (think Firefox and Safari) and cross platform support (think Mac and Linux). However down the road, I’m hoping we’ll begin to see a much better overall user experience. This will include more intuitive tools, better user feedback, and an overall much better “web 2.0” interface. With time, we might even have the flexibility to more easily develop those “web 2.0” dashboards (the Oakland Explorer demo is very cool) that more and more of us our seeing at conferences and other demonstrations.

Personally, I was hoping Intergraph would adopt Adobe’s Flex technology. In large part because it’s a much more mature technology. Not to mention Flash is  really at this point almost ubiquitous with any modern computer and browser. But, Silverlight does look very promising and Microsoft is really coming on strong. In other words…life could be much worse.

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26 Responses to “The Future of SVG and GeoMedia WebMap”

  1. […] Intergraph news: http://jeffhobbs.net/2008/03/20/the-future-of-svg-and-geomedia-webmap/ […]

  2. stelt said

    Strange decision.
    Something cross-platform from Microsoft?
    It’s not about making promises, it’s about delivering. Has Microsoft ever?
    Expect vendor lock-in.
    SVG is so much more than the Adobe Viewer, see http://steltenpower.com/livreSVGeng.html

  3. Reannonit said

    thanks much, brother

  4. Jeff Hobbs said

    SVG just hasn’t received the wide spread adoption that Intergraph had hoped for. It was really time for the move. If nothing else, for the immediate cross browser support. I doubt SVG will go away as an option. Silverlight will probably just be another option like CGM Java, Active CGM plug-in, PNG, etc.

    Aren’t we already with vendor lock-in with ACGM? SVG does offer the standards-based openness. It’s just not being adopted by the masses. The biggest player in the game…Adobe has stopped development on their plug-in. Intergraph really had no option. If Adobe isn’t developing the plug-in, and that level of plug-in is needed to support GMWM, what other options are out there? Don’t forget, there are many ways to support SVG, however Adobe was the one supporting an entire scripting language behind the plug-in.

  5. joesonic said

    This is a very interesting decision of Intergraph. Choosing Silverlight a promising technology but with a current market share near 0 compared with flash which has a very high market share.
    SVG is a standard and Browsers try to support SVG natively. Is there a need for Adobe’s plug-in in future?

  6. Jeff Hobbs said

    Have you tried to run a GMWM site in Firefox or IE 6/7 without the plug-in? The last I checked (and it’s been a while), things fell apart horribly. I believe in large part this is due to the javascript requirements Intergraph puts on the SVG engine. It’s uses JS to interact with the SVG object. So, it’s much more than standard SVG support. With standard SVG support, you might see the map, but you won’t be able to interact with it e.g. pan, zoom, etc.

    BTW – I’m not a WebMap developer. So, I could most definitely be mistaking when I state that it’s a javascript issue. However that is my understanding.

  7. […] SVG (scalable vector graphics) is a recommendation of the W3C and used for rendering vector graphics. It was predicted that SVG is the future in the visualisation of geospatial vector data over the internet. Adobe announced that with Jannuary 2009 they will discontinue the support of their SVG Viewer plug-in (see here the official announcement). According to this Intergraph will not use SVG for their Geomedia WebMap solution (see reference entry). […]

  8. Armin Müller said

    It is possible to make maps with interactions in SVG. Only IE needs a plugin. All other main browsers such as Firefox, Opera and Safari have native SVG. See http://www.mapviewsvg.com/examples/index.html for some examples what can be done with SVG and javascript

  9. Jeff Hobbs said

    Armin,

    Very cool. Wouldn’t call the interface all that great – the tools are still harder to use than they should be. However it’s definitely working in Firefox. OK – then why doesn’t WebPub work in Firefox? I know WebPub does a check and won’t even allow Firefox to access a WebPub site. Is this over-engineering? If not, what is the limiting factor?

  10. Marc said

    After living through WebMap’s growing pains building site using ActiveCGM viewer (Corel), JavaViewer (Intergraph), and now SVG Viewer (Adobe) I welcome Silverlight as a solution. Silverlight is slowing being adopted. One example is Netflix uses Silverlight to stream its movies. What is the user based of Netflix ? A lot more then 0. Silverlight 2.0 will bring all the .Net developers to the table since it will be fully intergraded into >Net and the Visual Studio IDE. Microsoft is working with Novell to make sure the Silverlight tool kit will work in their MONO project (runs .Net applications on LINUX). Intergraph has built all their projects on Microsoft technology ever since they moved off of Unix and have been very successful. It only makes sense that Intergraph would move to Silverlight and with 2.0 The whole Web 2.0 and AJAX experience will come with it.

  11. Jeff Hobbs said

    Marc,

    Great points! Not to mention that Microsoft is beginning to shift its site over to Silverlight as well. And, since 9x% of the world’s computers are running Windows, there’s sure to be a lot of penetration just from visiting the Microsoft web site. I can only imagine with time, you will see it delivered as both a embedded part of IE and maybe even Windows (of course this may depend on the EU’s view of “monopoly”).

    Additionally, talking to Vince Smith yesterday, he made it very clear that Intergraph is highly dependent on what Microsoft does. Since Microsoft is going this direction, from a business stand point, Intergraph would logically follow.

  12. Bill said

    Im wondering why the plugin at all. Mapguide Open Source uses an Ajax viewer, which gives it a very nice user experience. Should future webmap sites not be moving away from plugins?

  13. Jeff Hobbs said

    Bill,

    Good point. In order to get the vector interaction like you see with GMWM, you need to have vectors rendered on the web page. I belive The MGOS ajax renderings are all raster based. This is much more like the png output you can do today with GMWM. Again, I’m the first to say that MGOS does it nicer, but as far as I know, it’s raster nonetheless.

    Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here….

  14. Armin Müller said

    Jeff,

    I think the problem with SVG is, that they are designed for running on IE with Adobe SVGViewer. Nowadays we have native support of SVG in each browser except for IE. All functionality of ASV which was not defined in tthe SVG standard is gone. The result most interactive SVG projects are broken.

    Silverlight is an interesting thing, but it has the same problem as Flex/Flash it is a properitary thing and there is a company behind this which want to make money with this technology. We had seen the result with Adobe in the past. Before buying the Flash technology SVG was the key technology for Adobe today they do not know SVG.

  15. Marc said

    I think if SVG was more widely adopted it would have been a great thing. Just because the browsers expect EI have native support, it has been adopted. Displaying the SVG XML format is one thing, creating the SVG XML is another. SVG was design for graphics with geometry in mind. Most of your major players in GIS still use raster (bitmap) file formats.
    I agree that Microsoft has an agenda involving money but I do not think it is to make money with Silverlight. Silverlight uses XAML which it the same graphic format for Vista’s user interface including Vista Media Center. If you get graphic artist and developers working with Silverlight then you have a better adoption rate of Vista which seems to a problem right now.
    Note that XAML format is very close to the SVG format which should help with Intergraph’s migration to Silverlight.

  16. Rick said

    Silverlight is a freighting future for Webmap. When has Microsoft *EVER* delivered a good cross platform product? It wasn’t IE, and it’s certainly not Office.

    This really would seem like a step backwards. I would really like to see Flash output, or adapt the SVG capabilities so it is compatible with the remaining engines.

    The days of proprietary odd ball viewers needs to come to an end. Our users get mad whenever they find they can’t use their favorite browser, because of acgm or adobe svg.

    I would really like to see something in the style of openlayers, googlemaps, etc…

  17. Jeff Hobbs said

    Rick (and anyone else),

    Besides the “prettiness” of Google Maps, how is it different than using PNG output from GMWM? In fact, the PNG output from GMWM is almost exactly like Open Layers. Again, I do understand that the usability is different, but functionally, PNG is the same output as both that you mentioned in your reply. We can’t mix usability with output format.

    In the end, you’ve NEVER needed a plug-in to use GeoMedia WebMap. You’ve only needed a plug-in if you’ve wanted to work with VECTOR graphics inside of your browser.

  18. Perry said

    I recently came across some client side javascript that converts svg to xaml for display in SilverLight. In effect, SilverLight was being used as the svg viewer. However, converting the javascript included with the WebMap rendered svgs would be a whole different ball game.

    Xaml and svg are so similar that it makes perfect sense to me for Intergraph to provide a xaml option soon.

    And, I believe there may be some efficiencies with xaml. For example, the svg javascript for hotspots and tooltips are indicated inline on each feature. Whereas, with xaml you can create a generic handler that can determine the sender. If that approach was take with the svg, the file sizes could be reduced substantially.

    However, I think it would be naive to expect that Microsoft will keep its promise of cross platform, cross browser functionality.

    Perry

  19. Jeff Hobbs said

    Perry,

    Very interesting. I’m hoping that with xaml with get a much better “Web 2.0” user experience.

    I agree, don’t be naive about cross browser support. However MS is getting better than they used to be. Just look at applications like Virtual Earth, it support Firefox just as well as IE. I really think MS is making efforts to be more open…especially after a few billion dollar lawsuits 🙂

  20. Marc said

    Jeff,
    I have version 6.1 of WebMap and there is nothing about sivlerlight. Do you know when Intergraph plans to move to SilverLight?

    Thanks,

  21. Jeff Hobbs said

    Marc,

    I’m GUESSING you’ll begin to see Silverlight support with 6.2. I’m hoping they push something out in a minor release, but, even if they did. Don’t think I’d see it in GeoMedia WebMap Publisher until 6.2. I’m hoping they discuss it more at Intergraph 2008.

  22. Andy said

    Jeff, for GMWM you’d need Silverlight 2, (v1 was really just for movies etc.). As silverlight is not yet released (beta 2 was just released on 6th June) I doubt you’ll see it being used in anger yet.

    MS is getting better at reaching users – so Firefox plugin will be available, but don’t expect to be happy if you use Opera or anything else, including FF on a Linux platform. I imagine the latter will be more of an issue for mobile/MID devices which are becoming rather fashionable. What Intergraph will do then remains to be seen.

  23. Jeff Hobbs said

    Andy good points. I’m hearing from the Intergraph 2008 user’s conference that we might be seeing BOTH Silverlight AND Flash support. That to me would be fantastic!

  24. Steven said

    There is already an Adobe Flash based web GIS solution out there: http://www.flashnavigator.net/

  25. Oyvind Eid said

    If you want to see how a GeoMedia WebMap based site performs in Opera or Firefox, check http://kart.nois.no/hadeland. It uses the native SVG support of those browses. To me it looks like ASV still is the fastest SVG renderer. Firefox is almost hopeless, while Opera is coming along.

  26. Oyvind said

    It’s official! Native SVG-support in IE9. http://gizmodo.com/5494574/internet-explorer-9-a-fresh-start-with-html5

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