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Re: WOFF FAQ (action 29)

From: John Hudson <tiro@tiro.com>
Date: Thu, 03 Feb 2011 20:04:36 -0800
Message-ID: <4D4B7AD4.6090006@tiro.com>
To: 3668 FONT <public-webfonts-wg@w3.org>
Prompted by David Berlow's pointed reminder about WOFF benefits, I have 
finished revisions to the replacement FAQ text. Please take a look at 
let me know if you think anything needs to be clarified or changed. I 
have added a preamble to the effect that some of the information is 
bound to date fairly rapidly. I'd like to get this live fairly soon, 
before that happens, so please respond promptly with any suggestions. 



This document replaces a temporary FAQ published in July 2010 in support 
of the W3C press release regarding initial submission of the WOFF draft 
specification. Given the speed with which WOFF has been embraced by both 
font vendors and browser makers, some of the information in this FAQ 
will doubtless become dated very quickly. The core text describing WOFF 
is not expected to change much, but obviously this document can only 
point to some of the early implementers and examples.

1. What is WOFF?

Web Open Font Format (WOFF) is an open delivery format for Web 
typography, or ‘Web fonts’. Using WOFF files, a Web author can reference 
a font in CSS, using the @font-face syntax, and have it downloaded with 
the HTML or other Web content and used to display text in a reader’s 
browser; WOFF is also relevant to locally stored document types using 
Web standards, such as EPUB. The content of the WOFF file may be a font 
that the author has licensed as a WOFF or converted from an 
appropriately licensed desktop format font, or even a font that the 
author has created.

Until now, served typography has not been common on the Web due to the 
lack of an interoperable font format; most text on the Web has relied on 
a limited number of fonts locally installed on the reader’s device, or 
has been represented by images or other approaches that inhibit 
searchability, accessibility and other text operations such as cutting 
and pasting. WOFF provides a compact, open solution to these issues.

2. What isn’t WOFF?

WOFF is not a new font format. It is a delivery format, like a package 
containing a font. A WOFF package, or wrapper, contains a compressed 
TrueType or OpenType font, and some metadata. It is helpful to think of 
the metadata as labels on the package, indicating where the WOFF comes 
from and where it is meant to go.

WOFF is not a desktop installable font format. It is specifically 
intended for Web delivery of fonts associated with particular sites and 
content, and will not be available to the user to install or use with 
other documents.

3. What are the general benefits of Web typography?

• An enhanced typographic palette on the Web
• Preservation of brand identity through cross-media typographic design
• More sophisticated typography using advanced layout features such as 
smallcap variants, ‘oldstyle’ numerals, etc. available in some fonts 
(accessible using CSS3 typographic features)
• Better internationalisation and more options for typography of 
non-European text
• Better accessibility (text can be recognised and read by 
text-to-speech software; images of text cannot)
• Better searchability and search engine optimisation (text can be 
searched and indexed; images of text cannot)

4. What are the specific benefits of WOFF?

• A single, open and interoperable format for Web served fonts
• A formally defined and documented W3C Web file format
• A suite of conformance test tools for WOFF fonts, creators and user agents
• In-format compression for smaller font deliveries and shorter download 
• Improved user experience (smaller file sizes means faster page loading)
• Improved security for users (fonts are loaded only from the same 
source as the other page content)
• Protection of author’s font asset investment (fonts cannot be 
‘hotlinked’ by other sites)
• Web font information easily accessible to web authors and users from 
WOFF metadata

5. Do you have demos or examples that show WOFF?

The text of page you are reading is formatted using WOFF (if your 
browser supports it).

There are several pages by Jonathan Kew and John Daggett of Mozilla, and 
by Sylvain Galineau and others of Microsoft, which demonstrate WOFF 
fonts. Although they are designed to showcase that company’s browser 
(Firefox 3.6+ and IE9 preview 3, respectively), the demos work the same 
with other browsers that support WOFF.

6. I’m a web author. When can I start using WOFF? How do I use it?

Today! A few lines in your CSS stylesheet link to a WOFF font and 
indicates where on your page to use it. Browsers that don’t yet support 
WOFF will use the next installed font on your font list, so there is 
graceful fallback. Over time, as new browser versions support WOFF, your 
stylesheets will continue to work without any need for you to update or 
edit the CSS code. [Link: Learn more about WOFF implementations.]

7. Are there WOFF fonts I can use?

WOFF fonts are already available from some commercial foundries and Web 
font services, including Ascender, Bitstream, FontShop, Monotype, 
Typekit, Webtype, WebInk, etc.. Free and open source fonts that can be 
served as WOFF files are available from the Open Font Library, SIL Web 
font collection, or FontSquirrel.

Some commercial foundries will license fonts for Web serving directly in 
WOFF format; others may permit or expect authors to create their own 
WOFF files from licensed desktop fonts. Authors should check font 
licenses before creating and serving WOFF files.

8. I’m a font creator. How do I make my own WOFF files?

You can use a font editor that already supports WOFF generation 
directly, like Fontforge. Or, you can use another tool that generates 
TrueType and OpenType fonts, then convert these to WOFF files with a 
utility such as sfnt2woff. If you know how to design a font, you can 
start adding WOFF to your repertoire immediately.

9. How long has WOFF been around?

Nine months elapsed between the first appearance of WOFF and its 
publication as a public Working Draft at W3C in July 2010. However, 
efforts to deploy served fonts on the Web are much older. Half of the 
solution, the CSS @font-face syntax, has been a standard for a decade, 
but was hampered by the lack of an interoperable font format. Until 
2010, it has been difficult for multiple stakeholders (browser 
implementers, font designers, foundries, web designers) to reach a 
consensus, but W3C has been able to bring them to the table. The 
WebFonts Working Group has made swift progress in refining the WOFF 
specification and developing the conformance test suite.

10. How close is WOFF to becoming a W3C standard?

As of 1 February 2011… WOFF has been published on the W3C Standards 
Track; this means that it is on its way to becoming a Royalty-Free 
standard. In November 2011, the WOFF specification was submitted for 
‘last call’ comments, and responses to this are now being addressed by 
the Working Group. The conformance test suite, mostly developed by WOFF 
co-inventor Tal Lemming, is in an advanced state. Once there are 
implementations that pass the test suite, WOFF will move to being a W3C 
Recommendation (Web Standard).

11. How does WOFF relate to other Web formats (HTML, CSS, SVG, …)?

CSS and SVG already have ways to point to downloadable fonts, so those 
specifications don’t have to change to use WOFF. As implementations pick 
up, content will start to refer to WOFF for served fonts.

12. Will website visitors have to pay to use fonts?

No. Website visitors do not pay to read text displayed with WOFF. If the 
fonts used are commercial, a license or service fee is paid by the 
content provider.

13. Will downloading fonts slow page loads?

A combination of font subsetting and WOFF compression means that the 
impact on page load is minimal. Users may expect reasonable speeds.

Initial testing of WOFF compression on a random selection of some few 
hundred fonts indicated an average compression of about 50%. This 
in-format compression is standard in all WOFF fonts, so content 
providers do not need to go through extra steps (server-side 
compression) to ensure the fastest possible downloads.

14. Will WOFF replace other formats?

WOFF is not expected to replace other, desktop font formats such as 
TrueType, OpenType, Open Font Format, or the Web SVG font format 
(although it may render the latter unnecessary). WOFF provides a 
Web-specific compressed delivery formant. A font vendor may offer the 
same font in OpenType for desktop/print use, and in WOFF for Web use; 
each with the appropriate license.

15. Will WOFF work on mobile devices?

Mobile devices use the same technology stack (HTML, CSS, SVG, 
JavaScript) as desktop devices so the benefits will apply to mobile as 
well. Many mobile devices ships with very few fonts, perhaps making WOFF 
even more interesting for those platforms.

16. Where can I learn more about WOFF?

See W3C’s page about fonts on the Web as well as the home page of the 
WebFonts Working Group for more information. The current status of 
specifications related to fonts is also available.

Received on Friday, 4 February 2011 04:05:15 UTC

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