Tim Berners-Lee, the British-born inventor of the World Wide Web, says he doesn't like to express preferences among Web browsers. But he does have an issue with one of them: Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.
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Berners-Lee, director of the standard-setting World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, said in an interview this week that Internet Explorer is falling behind other browsers in the way it handles an important graphics feature for Web pages.
A Web image that is encoded as a scalable vector graphic, or SVG, can be resized to fit the computer screen or zoomed into without becoming blocky and losing sharpness, as happens with images encoded as the more traditional "bitmaps." Maps are one popular use of SVG.
"If you look around at browsers, you'll find that most of them support scalable vector graphics," Berners-Lee said. "I'll let you figure out which one has been slow in supporting SVG."
That would be Internet Explorer. While Firefox, Safari and other browsers have built-in support for SVG, Microsoft relies on a plug-in from Adobe Systems Inc. that must be downloaded before Internet Explorer can show SVG objects. This applies even to the recently released "beta" version of Internet Explorer 8.
"SVG support is something that we have been evaluating for some time," Microsoft said in a statement. "We recognize the demand for vector graphics from Web developers, and realize this is a high-priority demand."
The matter is more urgent for Microsoft because on Jan. 1, Adobe will be ending its support of the SVG plug-in, and it's unclear if it will be available for download after that.
Microsoft supported another format for vector graphics, called Vector Markup Language, or VML. However, the World Wide Web Consortium recommended SVG in 2001.