For the unwary it may come as a big surprise - HTML5 is here! More and more online mapping applications are implemented in HTML5 standard, taking advantage of <canvas> element to extend the functionality and presentational capabilities in a browser environment. All modern browsers now support the standard.
The canvas element allows for dynamic, scriptable rendering of 2D shapes and bitmap images. Below is an example that illustrates the benefit of using <canvas> element in browser based mapping applications. This map allows users to specify a minimum terrain height parameter at which to display the layer and the layer is redrawn dynamically to display the information on the map.
With the support for SVG just implemented in Internet Explorer 9, there are now two complementary approaches to drawing objects in all modern browsers: <canvas> and SVG. It is best to think about <canvas> as akin to “raster” and SVG as “vectors”. This way it is easier to decide which approach is more suitable for a specific purpose.
First spotted on: Google Maps Mania
Related post: Is SVG ready for comeback?