Google urges Web adoption of vector graphics

Some seeds for overhauling Web browser graphics were planted more than a decade ago, and Google believes now is the time for them to bear fruit.

The company is hosting the SVG Open 2009 conference that begins Friday to dig into a standard called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) that can bring the technology to the Web. With growing support from browser makers, an appetite for vector graphics among Web programmers, and new work under way to make SVG a routine part of the Web, the technology has its best chance in years at becoming mainstream.

New Web programming standards are hard to nurture, but they do arrive, said Brad Neuberg, a Google programmer and speaker at the conference.

"First they’re ignored, then they’re hyped, then they’re written off for dead, then they start getting real work done," Neuberg said.

Vector graphics describe imagery mathematically with lines, curves, shapes, and color values rather than the grid of colored pixels used by bitmapped file formats such as JPEG or GIF widely used on the Web today. Where appropriate, such as with corporate logos but not photographs, vector graphics bring smaller file sizes and better resizing flexibility. That’s good for faster downloads and use on varying screen sizes.


My painfully poky week with IE 8 (Webware)

image In the interest of broadening my horizons, I promised Microsoft I’d give Internet Explorer 8 a fair shake by trying the browser as my default for a week.

And, boy, am I glad that week is over.

Microsoft’s browser rules the roost with about two-thirds of the market, according to Net Applications, which collects a broad set of data on which browsers people use. There’s nothing like being built into the dominant operating system for winning a popularity contest. Microsoft takes advantage of that position by building instrumentation into IE that illuminates what a typical Web user is doing.

There’s typical, and then there’s me. As somebody who spends dozens of hours a week in a Web browser, I’m sorry to say IE 8 is not for me. Although my Web-heavy lifestyle isn’t average, I believe the challenges I face on the Web foreshadow what the rest of the world will experience as the Internet inexorably encompasses ever more of our work and personal lives. I prefer browsers that aim toward where the puck is heading, as the tired but useful cliche goes.

IE 8 (download link) catches up to where the puck is today. It’s definitely a big improvement over its predecessors, with some commendable features including default support for Web standards. And I do hope people upgrade.

It’s just that in my personal experience, IE 8 not in the same league as my default browsers, Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox.

There are competitive points from these rivals that one might have thought would weigh in to my antipathy for IE 8. Google makes a big fuss about Chrome’s high-performance JavaScript engine, which lets it run Web-based applications with greater sophistication and alacrity. Firefox fans adore the wealth of extensions that can tailor the browser to innumerable specific needs without cluttering the interface for those who don’t want those features. Microsoft counters with a study that shows its page-loading speed generally beating out rivals.

In reality, it was something more mundane that gave me a Pavlovian feeling of dread when it was time to use the browser: its interface is slow.

When it was time for basic interactions such as launching new tabs, switching tabs, closing tabs, commanding IE to open pages, and scrolling through pages, I found myself all too often waiting for the browser to respond to my mouse and keyboard. I did miss some Firefox extensions, though I’m not a big user of them personally, and I did find Web applications like Gmail and Google Docs a bit slower. But those two gripes paled in comparison to performance…

See the full article at Webware.

Mozilla, graphics group seek to build 3D Web

image Wish you could play Crysis in your Web browser? Two influential organizations are banding together to try to bring accelerated 3D graphics to the Web, a move that eventually could improve online games and other Web applications.

The Web is gradually becoming a better foundation for applications with splashy, sophisticated interfaces, but 3D graphics on the Web remain primitive. Now, though, Mozilla, the group behind the Firefox browser, and Khronos, the consortium that oversees the widely used OpenGL graphics interface technology, are trying to jointly create a standard for accelerated 3D graphics on the Web.

In response to a Mozilla proposal, Khronos established an Accelerated 3D on Web working group to create a royalty-free specification. The goal is to produce a first public version within 12 months, Khronos said in an announcement at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

Underpinning the proposal is a trend toward significant speed improvements in JavaScript, the programming language used to write many Web-based applications. The proposal involves a mechanism to let JavaScript tap into the OpenGL standard to produce the accelerated graphics.

"Accelerated 3D graphics with the super-fast next-generation JavaScript engines from nearly every Web browser vendor means that we’re going to be able to start to see more and more advanced applications written using open Web technologies," said Mozilla evangelist Chris Blizzard in a blog post Tuesday. "3D is a huge part of that story and we’re happy to bring our proposal to the table."

Mozilla plans to release the technology first as an extension to its browser sometime after Firefox 3.5 is released.

See the full article at Webware.

Yahoo’s Fire Eagle Soars Onto Facebook, Firefox

image This morning Yahoo has released a pair of new applications that tap into Fire Eagle, Yahoo’s ambitious geo-location system that allows a wide variety of web services to share your location data (after being granted permission to do so). The new applications include a rich Facebook application called Friends on Fire and a Fire Eagle extension for Firefox that allows users to update their location directly from their browser without having to leave the site they’re viewing.

Of the two, Friends on Fire for Facebook is the more consumer-friendly. The application allows you to pinpoint your current location on a map, as well as view the location of your friends (shared either through the Facebook app or any of the other 70+ supported Fire Eagle services). You can also append notes to any point on the map regardless of your current location (for example, I could tag my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, or point out a park where my friends should meet up later). The bottom of the app offers a listing of your friends’ recent locations and notes, and the app can also optionally syndicate your actions to Facebook’s news feeds.

See the full article at TechCrunch.