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Although GIS technology isn’t really new, its increasing use in Web tools such as maps for interactivity certainly is. In short, GIS on the Web has morphed into something new altogether with the introduction of programmable vector graphics in web browsers. Now, web browser interactivity can occur at the source, with only occasional refreshing from the server. Now, you can pan, zoom, and perform other functions seamlessly and very quickly. As this continues, online maps and other GIS-enhanced technology on the web will only become richer. This new, almost seamless interactivity without having to wait for the server to “”update”" the map impacts GIS job openings, as well.

Although vector capability has been around via Java applets for many years, it’s not been used in GIS until recently. SVG and Macromedia Flash are more recent developments. Scalable vector graphics, or SVG, were more recently developed. Flash/SWF (Flash’s file format) has both advantages and disadvantages as compared to SVG as utilized in GIS.

What are the similarities and differences with SVG and Flash/SWF when used in GIS functions?

While SVG and Flash/SWF are similar technologies, and both can support GIS quite richly on the web, SVG has advantages such as the fact that it is an XML language developed by W3C, and as such can use XML related technologies; this allows it to integrate with other Web technologies that utilize XML capability, which means that it can be adopted more easily and can be more stable. However, Flash/SWF has advantages, too, in that full SVG aggravation in terms of technology and standards is so complex as to be nearly impossible to completely integrate.

Macromedia designed Flash/SWF to be a technology that was “”lightweight,”" in that the priority was widespread adoption. It’s plug-in is small so they can be downloaded quickly, and there’s extensive support for developers and authors to create content quickly and easily. There’s vast support for those who want to create interaction and animation without programming, integrating video and sound, and utilizing the development tools and server-side applications of not just Macromedia, but other “”authors,”" too.

Because of this, Flash/SWF is more widely adopted and therefore more ubiquitous in GIS applications, and this is going to affect those who look for GIS job openings. In other words, if you’re looking for GIS job openings, you should have a strong foundation in Flash/SWF, but should have familiarity with SVG, as well. Although some doubt that SVG will ever be as widely adopted as Flash/SWF in GIS technology simply because Flash/SWF has become so ubiquitous (as Macromedia certainly intended), the best thing to do is to be versed in both and to continue to become expert in both as you continue in your career.

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