Re: What's wrong with <FONT>? was, Netscape invades!

Scott E. Preece (
Fri, 10 May 1996 11:00:46 -0500

Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 11:00:46 -0500
From: (Scott E. Preece)
Message-Id: <>
In-Reply-To: Warren Steel's message of Fri, 10 May 1996 09:40:09 -0500
Subject: Re: What's wrong with <FONT>? was, Netscape invades!

  From: Warren Steel <>

|    I realize that some authors would like to specify these
| elements in their documents.  Style sheets, as currently
| proposed, offer various levels of substitution, and preserve
| legibility for the viewer.  But there is nothing to be gained
| by using the <FONT> element.  It is entirely counter to one of
| the principal goals of hypertext markup, that is communication. 
| I see no reason to include it in the HTML 3.2 specs, even for
| "backward compatibility."  <BLINK> and <MARQUEE> may be merely
| annoying; <FONT> is an obstacle to communication on the Web.

While I basically agree with Warren and have never used FONT myself
except for relative size changes, I also think he overstates the

First, the danger of FONT lies not in what it does, but in how
it is used.  If you want to use it for fine control *and* you also use
the appropriate structural markup, you have lost nothing (e.g., using a
FONT change in the content of an H1).  Clearly, there is a danger that
some people or tools will use it *instead* of structural markup (e.g.,
use a FONT change instead of H1), which does lose information.  Perhaps
that danger is great enough to warrant dropping FONT, but it's not clear
to me that it's significantly greater than the danger that people will
use EM or B for headings.

Second, the "inability to override for user needs" argument is just as
much a browser shortcoming as a notation problem.  The browser *could*
offer the user the ability to change color mappings or to map an
author's font to one the user chooses.  I'm not entirely comfortable
saying that just because browsers fail to make it possible to control
expression of the author's intentions, that authors should not be
allowed to express their intentions.  Font choice, for instance, is a
*very* significant element in expressing the "tone" of a document.
If you don't provide a way to express that, you have lost important
information.  If you say that a document is just words and that it is
equivalent in any displayed form, thousands of years of human history
say you're wrong.

Needless to sy, I think stylesheets are the right way to express this
information and that FONT is a stopgap measure of limited, short-term
value.  On the other hand, until stylesheets are available, it's all
there is...


scott preece
motorola/mcg urbana design center	1101 e. university, urbana, il   61801
phone:	217-384-8589			  fax:	217-384-8550
internet mail: