W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > June 2009

Re: New work on fonts at W3C

From: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2009 17:00:05 -0500
Message-ID: <dd0fbad0906181500x8f8b4ebj5a31836ee2526b44@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Levantovsky, Vladimir" <Vladimir.Levantovsky@monotypeimaging.com>
Cc: Patrick Garies <pgaries@fastmail.us>, Adam Twardoch <list.adam@twardoch.com>, www-style@w3.org
On Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 2:58 PM, Levantovsky,
Vladimir<Vladimir.Levantovsky@monotypeimaging.com> wrote:
> On Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:56 AM Patrick Garies wrote:
>>
>> 1. There are free fonts out there and they will likely become more
>> prevalent with support for TrueType and OpenType fonts on the Web.
>
> Yes, it's likely that there will be more free fonts available.
> However, the technology like EOT does not preclude the use of free fonts - it will facilitate their use in exactly the same way that it will enable the use of commercial fonts.
> The bottom line is that "EOT-like" web font solution:
> - empowers web designers to make their own choices of fonts, regardless whether it's free or commercial;
> - enables high-quality typography on the web;
> - puts the freedom of choice in the hand of the web designer with many different options (both free and for pay) available for them to choose.

None of the things that you claim EOT enables have anything to do with
technical issues, but rather revolve completely around licensing
issues.  In other words, the font format has nothing to do with any of
this - if anyone is being limited or restricted it is because the
content owners aren't playing ball.

> To the contrary, the raw TrueType / OpenType solution is very limited and deprives the web designers of this freedom.

This is exactly analogous to the arguments offered by the music and
movie industries in the US and elsewhere that mp3/divx/etc movies are
somehow 'limited' and that accepting intrusive DRM measures would
enable a variety of freedoms.  As noted, though, the freedoms are
never removed by any technical issue, but rather only because the
content owners don't want to cooperate.

>> 2. These "high-quality fonts" will only be available to "billions of
>> [W]eb users" that pay for them.
>
> The high-quality fonts will be available to millions of web designers who'd choose to pay for them. The billions of web users will benefit as a result from the rich typography that the Web will have to offer. They [web users] will get a new, friendly and readable web, at no cost to them.

This argument is correct.  Assuming a final solution only involves
extra work by web authors, which is correct for all the seriously
proposed solutions, then web users get to benefit from typography on
the web without having to pay anything, at least directly (since the
author will be facing higher costs to develop the site, there may be
some degree of costs passed onto the users of the site, if such a
thing is possible, but it will likely be minor if it is possible at
all).

>> 3. In gaining this "freedom" to purchase licenses, you are sacrificing
>> freedom with formats like EOT which, apparently, are patent-encumbered.
>
> The use of patented technology does not require sacrificing any freedom, especially if the patent holder makes a commitment to make the IP available for worldwide use, freely and without any discrimination. In fact, the use of patented technology brings you more freedom even if one needs to pay for it. Digital video and audio are heavily patented technologies, yet in just a few years they transformed the world. Patent protection is the driving force behind many technological breakthrough - it makes it worthwhile for companies to invest in R&D and be able to recover their investments and to profit from them. Everybody benefits as a result - the world wouldn't have HDTV, iPod and iPhone (and many other gadgets that we *love* paying for) without patents. EOT doesn't make you pay for fonts, it enables web designers who would love to do it do exactly what they love. Everybody else will benefit from their work free of charge.

There are many arguments against the validity of patents for promoting
technological process, and a number of valid studies which show fields
of technology being retarded by patents due to innovations being
squashed by overly-broad existing patents.  This line of argument is
at best neutral, and should likely be left out of the discussion.

>> 4. Much of the problem with being unable to render certain languages on
>> the Web reliably will be mitigated by being able to download fonts—any
>> font—with the glyphs necessary to display the characters. This doesn't
>> require a particularly high-quality font.
>
> Web users who rely on downloadable fonts to render certain languages are likely to have slow and unreliable internet connections - they would definitely benefit from downloadable fonts being as small as possible. This is where efficient compression becomes most valuable, and it does not discriminate - it will compress equally well a font that you've got for free, or the one that you chose to pay for.

Yup, good compression/subsetting is a valuable feature in any web-font
format, because many of the world's non-European descended languages
have very large character sets that overlap little to not at all with
English characters.

> As far as quality is concerned - you are free to choose to use a free font of poor quality or pay a few bucks for a font that is high-quality. It's your website and nobody shall deny you this freedom of choice.

There's no need to continue asserting that all free fonts are
low-quality.  It's an insult to the work of all libre font designers,
and is demonstrably untrue.  While Sturgeon's Law applies as well to
fonts as anything else, there is nevertheless quality work among libre
fonts.  Especially for headline fonts, which do not require the skill
necessary to produce a good body font, the libre font community has
produced a number of wonderful specimens.

(It is my experience that basically all of the requests for fancy
fonts among designers I have coded pages for are for headlines.  Body
text is virtually always acceptable in the standard serif or
sans-serif fonts packaged with browsers.)

~TJ
Received on Thursday, 18 June 2009 22:01:02 GMT

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