Monday, October 05, 2009

Social SVG?

A few years ago I was pondering whether SVG could allow more than text-oriented approaches to blogging.

I'm thinking about it again because:

  • more mobiles have touch screen devices encourage doodling
  • updated standard - SVG Tiny 1.2
  • better browser support for displaying and more recently editing SVG
  • Google Wave (and similar initatives) are presenting a more flexible messaging paradigm

SVG has been around a long time now, but in day-to-day online content-creation it remains rather hidden: whether sending an e-mail or contributing to social networking sites, it's generally text, photos and videos that are created and circulated, with other activities bolted on via apps.

And yet there's already software that makes it easy to draw, to doodle, and not consume lots of computing resources (disk space, processing power etc). Berners-Lee conceived a read/write Web, with his Amaya Web editor/browser having a toggle button between browse and edit. Now the latest version has a very nice SVG editor built-in. And gradually momentum has been building for mobile initiatives built on SVG, generally based on open standards, leading to solutions such as Ikivo.

It seems to me that the time is ripe for all kinds of SVG-based communications. With its graphical nature the replies could be more about editing the images you've been sent - so when you receive an SVG message, you can edit it and send it back. A simple example would be a game of Os and Xs, but it can apply to any scenario where people are sketching a design. It becomes even more attractive with multi-touch. For implementation purposes I guess you could have some form of version control both to make it more efficient and to support animations.

So basically this is aiming at a drawing equivalent/extension of SMS, blogs, twitter etc.

Google Wave is obviously developing messaging a great deal and no doubt can demonstrate its potential; already there are efforts to incorporate SVG as a gadget, such as Vidor Hokstad's Google Wave Gadget API Emulator. It reminds me of some promising CSCW research into shared authoring widgets/X Windows toolkits that I saw being carried out at Kingston University in the early to mid 90s by Maria Winnett, a former research colleague (can I say 'colleague'? We were actually we were a diverse group of PhD students sharing a research lab in the Sopwith Building). And it looks like there's been renewed interest that involves the mobile scenario.

However, SVG editing could be as ubiquitous as e-mail so should not be dependent on Google or any other single provider for a transport.

There must be a simpler more universal solution (perhaps there already is ...)

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