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Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is the description of an image as an application of the Extensible Markup Language (XML). Any program such as a Web browser that recognizes XML can display the image using the information provided in the SVG format. Different from a raster graphicsscalable part of the term emphasizes that vector graphic images can easily be made scalable (whereas an image specified in raster graphics is a fixed-size bitmap). Thus, the SVG format enables the viewing of an image on a computer display of any size and resolution, whether a tiny LCD screen in a cell phone or a large CRT display in a workstation. In addition to ease of size reduction and enlargement, SVG allows text within images to be recognized as such, so that the text can be located by a search engine and easily translated into other languages.

Vector graphics images also have the potential advantage over the standard Web image formats, the GIF and the JPEG, of size. Compared with a bitmap image, an SVG image may be much smaller and arrive more quickly.

GIF and JPG images (and a newer format, the PNG) are expected to continue to predominate. While the bitmaps of these image formats can be resized, dimensional reduction does not necessarily save memory, storage, or bandwidth, and significant enlargement produces irregular edges ("the jaggies"). It is expected, however, that bitmaps are, and will likely continue to be, favored for digital transmission of photographs, especially scenes containing complex objects not readily translatable into the formulas used by vector graphics programs.

This was last updated in September 2005

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