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RE: New work on fonts at W3C

From: Levantovsky, Vladimir <Vladimir.Levantovsky@MonotypeImaging.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 2009 11:12:54 -0400
Message-ID: <E955AA200CF46842B46F49B0BBB83FF2924C38@wil-email-01.agfamonotype.org>
To: "Tab Atkins Jr." <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Cc: "Adam Twardoch" <list.adam@twardoch.com>, <www-style@w3.org>
On Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:54 PM Tab Atkins Jr. wrote;
> On Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 6:05 PM, Levantovsky,
> Vladimir<Vladimir.Levantovsky@monotypeimaging.com> wrote:
> > On Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:00 PM Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
> >>
> >> 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.
> >>
> >
> > You are right, it is about licensing and I didn’t say that the issues
> are technical. It has also nothing to do with content owners not
> playing ball, and we do want to cooperate, very much so - this is why
> we offer the compression technology we developed - to be used for free
> and with no strings attached. But as much as I want you and other web
> designers be our customers - we are in the business of developing fonts
> for living. So, the final decision depends on many factors such as
> risks / reward / costs of doing business, which in the end translates
> into the cost of a font license for you. A solution that is perceived
> to reduce the risks will reduce the cost of doing business (e.g. font
> vendors may agree to assume the risks without policing the web) - You
> will benefit as a results because font licenses will be offered by many
> different vendors, and at a lower cost.
> You are asserting that the issues are technical, however, when you
> insist that a technical solution is necessary.  There is no technical
> solution to the 'problem' of piracy - it requires a fundamental
> rethinking of how you treat content that can be digitized.  This is a
> licensing issue, pure and simple, and several of us are saying that it
> should *stay* a licensing issue, rather than saddling us with
> technical solutions to short-sighted fear of change.

I agree that no technical solution would deter or completely prevent piracy, but it is perfectly capable to prevent a casual misuse. From a very pragmatic point of view, I realize that simple things can be very effective: 
- a tiny lock on the glass door to my house will not stop a burglar but it gets the message across - do not enter;
- a small garden fence delivers a clear message "private property, no trespassing";
- security camera in the mall will not stop thieves but its presence significantly reduces shoplifting.

The primary purpose of developing a dedicated web font format is to allow an efficient use of fonts on the web by addressing real needs such as compression and CORS. However, by virtue of developing such a web font wrapper we will simultaneously address other issues when web font cannot be directly installed and used on a desktop. Yes, it will be easy to convert it back to desktop format, and for someone who is determined to do so - it would be as easy as jumping a garden fence. But 99% of web users will not do it and this fact by itself may be a significant factor in font vendors making decisions whether to license their complete font libraries to web designers. Again, you and everyone else will benefit as a result from the abundance of font choices and low license fees.

> (Amusingly, had talk of obfuscation never entered the conversation -
> that is, had the proposal been nothing more than "Hey guys, I've got a
> great new way to compress fonts that'd be perfect for web delivery,
> and I release patent claims! Wee!" - much of the furor would likely
> never have erupted.  The actual merits and costs of the solution would
> likely have been discussed much more, without this constant sidelining
> into libre vs encumbered formats.)

I'd say that "the furor" was (to say it politely) a bit of over-reaction to EOT proposal, and for well-known and well-documented reasons [1]. Again, from a pragmatic point of view - there are things in the EOT proposal that are redundant (e.g. encryption serves no purpose when it's documented in a public specification). However, things like compression are clearly useful, and even the idea behind controversial root strings isn't that much different from CORS or what's been standard practice with Flash and Flash-based tools such as sIFR [2]. May be we shouldn't dismiss EOT out of hands and take a critical but constructive view - the final web font solution may look different than the original EOT submission but would be a very useful tools for web designers and users.

> >> (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.)
> >>
> >
> > This is exactly where I see the opportunity for the web to excel -
> the fonts packaged with the browsers are not likely to support certain
> (many?) languages. Efficient web font solution would enable any web
> page be displayed in any of the world's languages - and this requires
> embedding high-quality body fonts, not just fancy fonts for headlines.
> Imagine the web where you can access any website in the world and
> always get to see the content as it was designed, in any language -
> regardless of the browser or the device you use, and whether fonts you
> have installed happen to have the glyphs you need to display the text.
> As a non-native English speaker I can assure you that world-wide web
> that always "speaks" your native language is a wonderful thing.
> In an informal survey of the various computers I own, with a varying
> supply of fonts, I can display Thai on a web page with the default
> fonts with no problem.  I'm not completely sure if this is drawing
> from existing fonts on my system that Firefox is automatically doing
> fallback to, or if Thai is simply supported as part of the default
> fonts, but I figured an Indic font would be reasonably niche to test
> with.
> Chinese, obviously, is a bit more of an issue - I know that most
> people can't view Chinese on their machines without installing a
> Language Pack or otherwise ensuring an appropriate font is installed
> on their system.

I think computers may not be the best device category for surveying fonts and text rendering capabilities when it comes to the web. The fonts you have installed come from many different sources - you get Arial Unicode with MS Office, a number of fonts are bundled with various Adobe applications, etc (I just realized I have 338 fonts installed on my PC). And the rest of the world accesses the web in many different ways using devices such as mobile phones, TV set-top boxes, netbooks, dedicated mobile internet devices, etc. The choice of fonts and the character sets they support are usually very limited - universally supported web font format and browser ability to display text in any language on any device will truly "lead the web to its full potential".

[1] http://www.w3.org/Fonts/Misc/minutes-2008-10#summary

[2] http://wiki.novemberborn.net/sifr/Protecting+Commercial+Fonts

Received on Friday, 19 June 2009 15:13:33 UTC

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