W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > November 2003

Re: CSS21

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 2003 18:56:27 +0000 (GMT)
Message-Id: <200311081856.hA8IuRY15051@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: www-style@w3.org

> Font design is a nontrivial task. If font embedding was supported

That's true when designing hinted outline fonts, particularly when
designing for body text use.  However, what you seem to be talking
about are not such fonts.

> by most browsers (not just IE) designers WOULD create fonts for the web.

IE is most browsers by numbers used.  It wouldn't surprise me if you lost
more people through their choice to reject fonts[3] due to poor bandwidth
(or abuse, as is already happening with font sizes - I run with sizes
disabled as a result of excessive use of below user default size fonts).
A significant part of the non-IE browsers, by usage, may also be browsers
that couldn't reasonably use custom fonts[4].

I basically don't buy this argument as using downloadable fonts would
get over 95% of those who would want to receive them, and the pages are
not good HTML if they won't work without the fonts.

I am not aware of any negative impact on non-IE browsers other than
the fallback to a built-in font, which should always be an acceptable
fallback - even fallback to a user override font should be acceptable -
there are some fonts intended for people with poor vision, or reading

If designers accepted the philsophy behind HTML and wanted to use
downloadable fonts, they would already be doing so.  If Embedded Open
Type is not locked up in IPR restrictions, Mozilla would then implement
compatible support, otherwise they would implement their own support.

> How do I=20
> know this? Just search for 'fonts for flash'. These are fonts created

I tried this search.  Whilst Chris Lilley said that Flash fonts are outline,
all I found here was bitmap and pixel fonts, which:

- were more or less abandoned by Windows over a decade ago because:
   - they don't scale to arbitrary sizes;
   - they are not suitable for printing, and required font substitution
     for high quality printing;
- are relatively easy to construct, even though they do require a little
- for bitmaps, should be trivially convertible to Adobe Type 1 or 
  TrueType formats (there are trivial transformations that might produce
  bulky fonts, but I suspect a mechanical transformation can produce 
  rather more compact versions, at least for Type 1) and then embedded
  in IE compatible web pages;
- although this shouldn't be taken as legal advice, even though it is 
  consistent with what was said previously on the thread, are probably
  not copyrightable.

Most platforms that are capable of reasonably high quality visual rendition
of web pages already support both Type 1 and TrueType.  As I understand it,
the Microsoft, .EOT, embedded web font is just a digital rights management
wrapper around Open Type fonts, and Open Type is a wrapper around a choice
of Type 1 or TrueType.  To me, that means that the vast majority of
Flash fonts could be served to IE without any additional creative input
to the design, and that the vast majority of higher quality fonts are
also available for use, subject only to IPR constraints.

However, whilst bitmap fonts may have advantages for transient animations
on slow machines, with fixed image sizes in pixels, they are not a good
choice for the sort of document at which HTML is aimed, which may be viewed
at any size, contains large amounts of text, and will often be printed.

> for the sole purpose
> of embedding in a web page; the difference is that these designers know
> that if flash
> is installed their page will be render consistently across
> browsers/platforms. It would

Such designers do not understand the purpose of HTML; HTML is about the
text, not about how it is presented.  Both Flash and PDF are designed
for an environment where the content producer is a business and the
content producer has very strong control of the way the document is seen
(including that it is primarily only literally seen[1]) by the consumer.
HTML is based on a more peer to peer concept and on the idea that any
device capable of transferring the information content to the user may
be used to access it.

> be nice to be able to use fonts without having to resort to pluggins.
> =20

Plugins will become a particular problem, if the EOLAS ruling isn't
overturned.  However, even without plugins, I will not run Flash content,
except if there is strong indication that it has valuable content,
and then I'll probably run it from NS4, for which I have the viewer.
I generally use the presence of Flash as indicator that the site has no
useful content; when I've sampled the Flash, it has only once been the
case that there was any value in the Flash: a German street map system,
that didn't do any fancy typography; the negative implications of Flash
extend to sites where it is purely cosmetic - it indicates that a lack
of content is being obscured by gimmickry.

> Another thing that could be done theoretically is to embed special
> characters in the font

I hope you mean by covering the appropriate Unicode characters and not
by redefining codes in an 8 bit font (called Latin gibberish elsewhere
in this thread).  Remember that, increasingly, already installed fonts
will cover these Unicode ranges, so embedded fonts will represent
stylised faces for standard characters, not missing characters.

If people do start using embedded fonts, I will almost certainly permit
them in the office and forbid them at home (where bandwidth[2] is limited),
so any mis-encoding of characters will break at home.  (If people wrote
pages properly, I would turn off images as well, at home, but whilst
Google, governmental and academic sites work well without them, for typical
commercial sites one just has to wait them out).

> ex: arrows, bullets etc.

I note that the facility to customise bullets with images (not sure if this
wasn't also dropped in CSS2.1) is also a very underused CSS feature.  Most
people fail to use lists entirely.

From my point of view, good graphic design is subtle and not obviously
present.  I think experienced designers do this, but most web desigers
are not. 

[1] Both have had to allow non-visual access to comply with recent 

[2] Best practice would probably be to minimise font downloading on the
home page (even though this is were "identity" may be most important) 
and use font (sub)sets that are shared across all of the other pages on
the site.  If the home page content is good, people will be able to decide
whether they want to look at the site on the basis of a fast download, then
only get hit once for the custom fonts after they had made some commitment
to viewing the site.  Note minimising font downloading also means
minimising images.

[3] I wonder if this is the real problem with embedded fonts.  There is
a benefit to the user in page download time in disabling downloadable
fonts, whereas physical embedding in Flash and PDF means that there
is no such benefit to the user and, especially if you don't use alt
attributes properly, but even if you do, it can be quite difficult for
people to get by with images turned off.   (Incrementally loaded PDF
could be used without embedded fonts, but I don't remember an obvious
option to disable them.)  I hope it's not; that would be very

[4] Also, non-IE users are less likely to use out of the box configurations.
Received on Saturday, 8 November 2003 13:56:31 UTC

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