SVG 2 Status

4th November, 2016

SVG 2 is on life support.


About a month ago the W3C's SVG staff contact person (Doug Schepers) relayed some very alarming news... that the SVG Working Group charter was not going to be renewed when it expired at the end of October, 2016. This was quite shocking as the group had worked quite hard to get the SVG 2 specification to Candidate Recommendation status. If the charter is not renewed, it would mean an immediate end to SVG 2.

While shocking and unexpected, it didn't come out of left field. The active participation in the working group has dropped to just a handful of people, none representing any of the browser vendors. In fact, the last two "face-to-face" meetings had attendance of just three regular participants, one from Canon (which is dropping membership in the W3C as the end of the year) and two invited experts who are working for free. The weekly teleconferences were down to four or five participants (with representatives from KDDI and the W3C).

Recent Developments

The working group appealed to the browser vendors for support in renewing the charter. A teleconference was organized with multiple representatives from each of the major browser vendors as well as a number of other interested parties (Adobe, Canon, KDDI, etc.). The general consensus from the browser vendors is that SVG 2 should be finished but that it should be restricted to fixing the problems with SVG 1.1 2nd edition along with a few choice selected new features (like 'paint-order') which have already been implemented by multiple browsers. New features (meshes, hatches, etc.) should be removed and pushed into a WICG group. (Wrapped text was not discussed.) (See minutes.) A resolution was made to Re-charter SVG WG for one more year with a focus on moving SVG 2 to REC with only the features that have implementer experience. Note that this is a WG resolution and not a W3C agreement to continue the group.

With a focus on a limited SVG 2 specification, the W3C has agreed to extend the current SVG Working Group charter until the end of January in order to give the group a chance to sort out a new charter. Any new charter will focus on completing SVG 2 by developing a test suite and in pushing for implementations.

An additional discussion by the WG was that all joint CSS/SVG specifications will be completely taken over by CSS. This includes Transforms, Filters, Masking and Clipping, Compositing and Blending, etc. This completes the long process of CSS stealing absorbing the most interesting SVG features.


The future is pretty cloudy at the moment. Here are some observations:

What should Inkscape do?

Given the above observations, if we really want mesh, hatches, etc. to remain part of SVG 2 and to be supported by browsers we must generate content that uses those features; content that gets people excited enough to put pressure on the browser vendors to implement them. We've already started to do this in a limited way by enabling the use of 'paint-order' which is supported by three of the four major browsers.

Of course this means that some artwork created using Inkscape won't be viewable directly on the web. We should accept this as a necessary (and hopefully temporary) step. We can provide warnings in Inkscape when artists use features that are not widely supported. We can advise artists of work-arounds, i.e. converting a mesh to an internal image when exporting. And we can provide polyfills that replace internal browser functionality with JavaScript implementations. (I've already started work on a mesh gradient polyfill.)

I've been working on improvements to the mesh gradient GUI. This work has been back-ported to 0.92. We plan on enabling mesh gradients by default in the 0.92 release. This will start generating public content that uses mesh gradients.