SVG certainly crashed and burned before it rose like a phoenix from the ashes…
Sometime in 1998, a former co-worker who had gone to work at Adobe came by my office at Bertlesmann to inform me of a brand new technology that she knew would excite me: PGML, or “Precision Graphics Markup Language.” This was the Adobe flavor of XML for Vector Graphics. As Jon Warnock put it at the time:
“The PGML proposal solves a growing need for a precise specification that enables members of the Web community to readily and reliably post, control and interact with graphics on the Web.”
I fell for it, hook, line and sinker, and ever since that time, I have followed the standards for XML-based vector graphics closely. PGML (mainly from Adobe) and VML (mainly from Microsoft), as well as a few other similar efforts (Web Schematics, Hyper Graphics Markup Language, WebCGM, and DrawML) soon merged into a “real” W3C standard, called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). This promised to serve as a format for rendering interactive vector graphics in Web browsers, which at that time (the era of Netscape Navigator 4.7 and Internet Explorer 5) was only possible with Macromedia Flash.
Completely obvious in the year 2000
What made SVG so cool? It could almost be considered “PostScript for the Web,” so it certainly made sense for Adobe to sponsor and support it in its infancy: with SVG (as with PostScript), art was primarily described via vectors, a method far more efficient (and more naturally “scalable”) than using raster images.