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I18N, fonts and mobile (was Re: After Access – Challenges Facing Mobile-OnlyInternet Users in the Developing World)

From: Stephane Boyera <boyera@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 08:55:29 +0200
Message-ID: <4C5A6061.9070404@w3.org>
To: David Storey <dstorey@opera.com>
CC: public-mw4d@w3.org
(me changing the topic to be closer to what we are discussing)

Let me first start with a big thank to Richard for taking the time to 
write this blog entry. I had the plan to do such a thing, but was 
lacking the expertise. So this is very helpful.

Now some  comments on the point made by David

> * Opera Mini uses what is installed on the phone (I think it has its own
> generic serif/sans-serif too as a fall back but I'm not sure if that is
> still the case). I'd expect phone in India to be shipped with a font
> that can render the local language (or is that assumption too much to
> ask?).

I think this is a very good question. I don't know if it is too much to 
ask, but this is surely something this group could recommend to handset 
manufacturers and operators.
This has an impact on web browsing as well as on other text-based 
technologies (SMS,  USSD).

> The Opera Mini UI is localised into many of the languages used in
> India, so I expect it has to work at some level.

Is there any data collected and publicly available about about many 
users are using the localized UI ?
For instance i'm wondering if the current major issue is on the phone 
side and lack of fonts, or on the content side, and lack of content 
available and/or correctly written in one or the other indian languages .
> Opera Mini has multiple millions of
> users in India (and across the Indian sub-continent) so that gives me
> further suspicion it works out of the box there.

"works out of the box" ? that's all the question imho. Is there users 
that do not speak english, or are the multiple millions of users the 
english speaker ? Here again, if there are public data on the number of 
sites accesses in one of the indian languages this would be helpful.

> As mentioned later in this thread, CSS3 Web Fonts (not HTML5) can also
> be used, as you can link to one of the freely available fonts (which
> give you a licence to use Web Fonts). This works in Opera Mobile, but
> not Opera Mini (which is far bigger in India as it works on lower end
> devices). One reason for that is Web Fonts are quite expensive in terms
> of resources, bandwidth and storage requirements. Having to download
> hundreds of kilobytes (not to mention megabytes for many CJK Asian
> fonts) isn't very kind on the user when they are on a slow network and
> paying by the kb. Font subsetting can help of course. The WOFF format
> handles subsetting well I believe, but is not widely supported on mobile
> browsers, or even desktop browsers yet.

Those are also very interesting information. how web fonts fits with 
mobile are surely another topic of interest and discussion. It might be 
worth developing a note on all these issues ? the blog post from Richard 
would be a great first draft we could enrich with further question 
identifying issues, challenges, resources, recommendation etc.

Is there interest within the group to proceed with such a work ?

> [1] http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_browser-IN-monthly-200907-201008
> [2] http://www.opera.com/developer/tools/
> On 6 Jul 2010, at 16:18, Shwetank Dixit wrote:
>> Hi Prashant,
>> Let me investigate the issue...and I'll get back to you. Many mobile
>> browsers, including Opera Mini/Mobile, support unicode and thus,
>> regional fonts...but this is dependent on font support in the phone
>> which many times limited.
>> I'll get back to you on how to get it working with your sites, and
>> could be something of use to add to this group as well.
>> Cheers,
>> On Tue, 06 Jul 2010 19:37:06 +0530, Prabhas Pokharel
>> <prabhas@mobileactive.org> wrote:
>>> Shwetank,
>>> I got super excited when I heard that, but I just tried browsing
>>> those sites
>>> on Opera Mini 5 beta on my Android phone (Nexus One, running Froyo,
>>> bought
>>> in the US), and the unicode fonts at aajtak.com (or a few other sites I
>>> tried) don't display properly. If it will after configuration, that
>>> could be
>>> huge!
>>> Let me know,
>>> Prabhas
>>> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Shwetank Dixit <shwetankd@opera.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> This has at least *partly* have to do with the way developers
>>>> include fonts
>>>> in web pages. If the page uses Unicode, then at least in Opera Mini and
>>>> Mobile (and most probably, most other major mobile browsers), there
>>>> shouldn't be a problem (for example, aajtak.com uses unicode to display
>>>> hindi fonts, works fine)
>>>> However, many people use .EOT fonts to display regional indian language
>>>> text in web pages. The problem with that is that .EOT fonts only
>>>> work with
>>>> Internet Explorer, and thus can't be displayed properly even by other
>>>> desktop browsers, let alone mobile ones.
>>>> Prashant: I don't know whether the local indian language fonts on
>>>> mobisitegalore use unicode or not. If it does, and it still doesn't
>>>> display
>>>> properly on Opera Mini/mobile, then please let me know off-list, and
>>>> I'll
>>>> investigate the issue further.
>>>> On Tue, 06 Jul 2010 15:20:27 +0530, Stephane Boyera <boyera@w3.org>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> Hi Prashanth,
>>>>> This is a very good point. I believe that there is not much
>>>>> attention from
>>>>> the I18N community on the support of languages in mobile browser.
>>>>> This is
>>>>> something that i've on my agenda. As a first step i discussed
>>>>> recently with
>>>>> a colleague and we will develop a doc around the key elements to
>>>>> deliver
>>>>> content in a specific languages.
>>>>> Steph
>>>>> Le 06/07/2010 04:42, Prashanth a écrit :
>>>>>> Dear Stephane,
>>>>>> As far as India is concerned the biggest issue is rendering of local
>>>>>> language fonts in the mobile browsers. Note that I am not even
>>>>>> pointing
>>>>>> to user having to key in text in local languages, but very
>>>>>> unfortunately
>>>>>> the Indian fonts do not even get displayed in the mobile browser.
>>>>>> Today we have over 80,000 mobile websites created using our tool
>>>>>> www.mobisitegalore.com and over 50% come from India, but there is
>>>>>> no way
>>>>>> that they can created a mobile website in Hindi or Tamil because the
>>>>>> fonts would just not render in the mobile browser.
>>>>>> This is an important missing link as most people in India cannot read
>>>>>> English.
>>>>>> Warm regards
>>>>>> S.Prashanth
>>>>>> CEO
>>>>>> www.akmin.com
>>>>>> On 05-Jul-2010 5:17 PM, Stephane Boyera wrote:
>>>>>>> Dear All,
>>>>>>> i want to share with you a very good paper from S. Gitau, J. Donner
>>>>>>> and G. Marsden.
>>>>>>> The paper is attached
>>>>>>> References are:
>>>>>>> Gitau, Shikoh, Marsden, Gary, & Donner, Jonathan. (2010). After
>>>>>>> access
>>>>>>> - Challenges facing mobile-only internet users in the developing
>>>>>>> world. Proceedings of the 28th international conference on human
>>>>>>> factors in computing systems (CHI 2010) (pp. 2603-2606). New
>>>>>>> York: ACM.
>>>>>>> One of the first papers i see focusing on the barriers of using
>>>>>>> mobile
>>>>>>> web in developing countries by people without PC access and
>>>>>>> experience.
>>>>>>> Some good suggestions for operators and other players.
>>>>>>> Steph
>>>> --
>>>> Shwetank Dixit
>>>> Web Evangelist,
>>>> Site Compatibility / Developer Relations / Consumer Products Group
>>>> Member - W3C Mobile Web for Social Development (MW4D) Group
>>>> Member - Web Standards Project (WaSP) - International Liaison Group
>>>> Opera Software - www.opera.com
>>>> Using Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/mail/
>> --
>> Shwetank Dixit
>> Web Evangelist,
>> Site Compatibility / Developer Relations / Consumer Products Group
>> Member - W3C Mobile Web for Social Development (MW4D) Group
>> Member - Web Standards Project (WaSP) - International Liaison Group
>> Opera Software - www.opera.com
>> Using Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/mail/
> David Storey
> Chief Web Opener / Product Manager, Opera Dragonfly
> W3C WG: Mobile Web Best Practices / SVG Interest Group
> Opera Software ASA, Oslo, Norway
> Mobile: +47 94 22 02 32 / E-Mail/XMPP: dstorey@opera.com / Twitter: dstorey

Stephane Boyera		stephane@w3.org
W3C				+33 (0) 5 61 86 13 08
BP 93				fax: +33 (0) 4 92 38 78 22
F-06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex,		
Received on Thursday, 5 August 2010 06:55:42 UTC

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