What Is Scalable Vector Graphics?

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is a file format, based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), that enables web application developers to design powerful, interactive graphical images.

SVG was introduced, and continues to be developed, by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a non-profit group of corporations that work together to create new, open standard products for the web. Open standard products are not proprietary—they do not belong to any company or individual. Other open standard products created by the W3C are HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and XML.

The following table compares vector graphs with bitmapped graphs, which have been used traditionally in web applications until now.

Vector Graphs

Bitmapped Graphs



Describe shapes and paths

Provide information about every pixel

Are compact and generate high quality images on any media

Are bulky and sometimes generate poor quality images

Are scalable and produce high quality images regardless of resolution

Show progressive, jagged edges, known as the staircase effect, when displayed at lower resolutions or stretched

SVG has several other advantages over bitmapped graphs:

An SVG graph is created with underlying XML code, which also has benefits for development on the web. SVG: