Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Version 1.1

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1
Description SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics in XML. The XML DTD for SVG (version 1.x) allows for three types of graphic objects: vector graphic shapes (e.g., paths consisting of straight lines and curves), raster graphics (raster images), and text. Graphical objects can be grouped, styled, transformed and composited into previously rendered objects. The feature set includes nested transformations, clipping paths, alpha masks, filter effects and template objects. SVG may also be used for animations; see Notes below.
Production phase Generally a final-state (end-user delivery) format.
Relationship to other formats
    Subtype of XML, XML (EXtensible Markup Language)
    Has earlier version Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Version 1.0 (2001), not described at this Web site.
    Has later version Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Version 2.0. As of September 2015, a working draft is available at Not described at this Web site at this time. Work on a Version 1.2 of the full standard has been abandoned.
    Has modified version SVG_Tiny_1_2, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) Tiny, Version 1.2. SVG Profile intended for implementation on a range of devices, including cellphones and PDAs as well as laptops and personal computers.
    Has subtype Two reduced profiles of SVG 1.1 for mobile devices: SVG Basic 1.1 and SVG Tiny 1.1, not described at this Web site at this time.
    Used by EPUB_2, EPUB, Electronic Publication, Version 2. EPUB_2 readers are required to recognize and display embedded SVG images.
    Used by EPUB_3, Electronic Publication, Version 3. EPUB_3 uses a restricted subset of SVG 1.1 to represent inline vector graphics in documents based on XHTML and in standalone SVG-based EPUBs.
    Used by ODF_family, OpenDocument Format (ODF) Family, OASIS and ISO/IEC 26300. ODF uses the svg: prefix for elements and attributes compatible with SVG 1.1.

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings None
LC preference The Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement (RFS) includes SVG as a preferred format for other graphic images in digital form. The RFS does not specify a version of SVG.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Open standard from W3C.
    Documentation Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 (Second Edition). SVG_1_1 was originally published in 2003. The Second Edition includes all the errata and clarifications but no new features, released on August 16, 2011.

Many enthusiastic users and groups; see Useful references below. SVG is supported in Adobe tools, Visio (Microsoft), Corel Draw 11, and as an export format by ESRI ArcGIS. There are several open source applications and software libraries that can read and write SVG images. SVG is a preferred format for the FCLA Digital Archive. Browser support has varied with many complaints about lack of support by Internet Explorer. An infographic from late 2014 indicates that support is full in Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera; support in IE started with IE 9 and support in Android with version 4. A more detailed presentation of SVG feature support is available from A feature support comparison is also available at Comparison of layout engines (Scalable Vector Graphics) on Wikipedia. However the Wikipedia table may not have been kept up to date. Testing SVG support across browser engines explores support by the engines used in various browsers on a test SVG file. What these tables and tests suggest is that some features are less widely supported than others. Support for ICC profiles and some font-related capabilities may be examples of less widely supported features. In some contexts, animations and audio are not rendered.

The October 2011 EPUB_3 specification for Electronic Publications uses a restricted subset of SVG_1_1 as a content document format for graphics, including use as a top-level format for comics and graphic novels. Not supported in EPUB_3 are animations and embedding of "foreign objects" in forms other than XHTML.

    Licensing and patents No special issues. As of January 2004, the SVG Working Group was not aware of any royalty-bearing patents they believe to be essential to SVG.
Transparency Based on XML, hence inherently transparent.
Self-documentation Includes <metadata> element designed to hold elements from other XML namespaces. Hence an SVG file can contain rich descriptive or administrative metadata using any other DTD.
External dependencies None
Technical protection considerations None

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Still Image
Normal rendering Good support.
Clarity (high image resolution) Scalable. Optional settings for rendering hints: crispEdges and geometricPrecision.
Color maintenance SVG colors are specified in the sRGB color space. SVG content can specify an alternate color specification using an ICC profile (see the ICC Profile Format Specification). If ICC-based colors are provided and the SVG user agent supports ICC color, then the ICC-based color takes precedence over the sRGB color specification.
Support for vector graphics, including graphic effects and typography Rich support.
Support for multispectral bands Not applicable.
Functionality beyond normal rendering Support for animations. Text in alternate languages for labels, etc.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension svg
Internet Media Type image/svg+xml
Proposed in standards documentation.
Internet Media Type image/svg-xml
Found in practice.
Pronom PUID fmt/92
Wikidata Title ID Q2078
No version declared. See

Notes Explanation of format description terms


SVG files can be used for animations but in 2013 there appeared to be little or no practice of doing this. Most web sites present simple animations as GIF_89a files and more complex animations and interactives as Flash SWF_7 or SWF_8 files (or later versions). Commentators with an interest in animation, including advocates for SVG as a publicly disclosed format, have compared SVG and SWF but they note that the powerful authoring software available for Flash gives SWF the edge.


SVG was originally developed through a process that began in 1996, with a call for responses to W3C Scalable Graphics Requirements. According to Secret Origin of SVG, there were six proposals submitted by 1998, and SVG was particularly influenced by VML (Vector Markup Language), already deployed in Microsoft products, and PGML, a proposal from a partnership led by Adobe and using the same imaging model as in Postscript and PDF.

Version 2 of SVG has been under development for several years. See SVG2 Planning Page at W3C.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 07/27/2017