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RE: Fonts WG Charter feedback

From: Sylvain Galineau <sylvaing@microsoft.com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jun 2009 23:33:46 +0000
To: Håkon Wium Lie <howcome@opera.com>
CC: "www-font@w3.org" <www-font@w3.org>
Message-ID: <045A765940533D4CA4933A4A7E32597E020BCFB4@TK5EX14MBXC111.redmond.corp.microsoft.com>
>This time, we have four implementations, two of which have shipped
>(Safari, Prince) and two that are close to shipping (Mozilla, Opera).
>As such, it's a crucial phase for web fonts, and chartering a new WG
>to do new technical work is disruptive to interoperability.
I would think that shipping implementations that do not interoperate with 3/4 of the browsers out there is
disruptive as well, especially for web users and designers. Assuming, of course, that
users and designers matter, and that they all matter regardless of which implementation they use or target.
(And that all browser vendors are accountable for interoperability...)

Also, most of these implementations have shipped very recently.
EOT has been shipping for 10+ years and was submitted to the W3C nearly 14 months ago.

But is this kind of argument really productive ? Are web standards to be settled through the vote-by-implementation of browser vendors ?
"There is only one of you and four of us so it's our way or nothing" ? Really ? Even if users and designers get less choice as a result ?

Chartering a WG to resolve the kind of fragmentation that prevailed back when Microsoft and Netscape shipped
incompatible web font solutions is a positive development, imho. Nobody can force you to participate but I very much would appreciate Opera's involvement,
especially yours. I also want to stress that I believe font vendor and web designers' participation - or, at a minimum, their feedback - to be critical.

>By making a new format, you increase the risk of format fragmentation.
>If you have n formats and create a new format to replace the other
>ones, you have n + 1 formats.
By releasing an alternative to the only existing format that was widely deployed, browser vendors have already fragmented the market, Hakon. That ship has sailed.
But is having 2,3 or 10 formats the issue ? Browsers support multiple image formats, for instance, but they all support the same set of image formats.

However, when the set of formats supported by any two browsers does not completely overlap or worse, is mutually exclusive, that's bad for the web.
I'd rather risk introducing a standard format we all agree to implement than go through a protracted zero-sum VHS vs. Betamax re-enactment for the dubious benefit
of any browser vendor(s). I'd rather take a relatively smaller chance of wide success than a higher one of another decade of dormant web typography.

Yes, we browser vendors may have to support legacy formats for an interim period. But isn't it a worthwhile price to pay in order to achieve universal interoperability ?
Isn't the latter supposed to be our goal ? Isn't back-compat something we all already deal with today across our public specifications and code bases ?

> > "If Microsoft does not make that interoperability commitment, they
> > should not be rewarded with a new Font WG."
> > Please. This is not and should not be about Microsoft or any
> > individual browser vendor's own narrow interests. Interoperability
> > is yours to uphold too. Hundreds of millions of users run an
> > EOT-compatible browser. Why should they get screwed ?
>Are you saying that the new format must be backwards compatible
>with deployed versions of IE?
I am not. I'd prefer if EOT was not so easily dismissed on rhetorically catchy but conveniently ill-defined grounds of 'unfair advantage'; that I do find unfair indeed, to the web users
and designers who may deal with the consequences of this fragmentation for years to come. There may be many reasons to not preserve EOT or backward-compatibility with it.
That Microsoft invented it should be the least relevant one.

> > We accept it's not up to us to pick the outcome; and if that means
> > dumping EOT, so be it.
> And replacing it with a backwards-compatible format, I presume?
> Otherwise, users would be equally "screwed", no?
Your presumption is both predictable and unfounded. It's sad that EOT can't get a fair hearing and gets instead tarred with needlessly inflammatory language e.g. same-origin checks turn into 'DRM'. Microsoft can support EOT for as long as our users need it. But if EOT is not going to be interoperably implemented then we need another solution. One that allows all web users to enjoy rich typography on the web; not just Opera's or Mozilla's or Microsoft's. One that enables all web designers to use any font licensed for web use, whether free or commercial, regardless of the alternative implementation preferences of one, two or five browser vendors. One that ensures font creators are comfortable licensing their work for use in all browsers.

As the full set of browser implementations available today clearly fails to address these goals, and as we are effectively back to the dual-format situation that prevailed in the 90s maybe it is time we put away our megaphones, tune down the volume and get to work.

I understand the W3C is the forum for such work. I also understand we may have a hard time agreeing on history, motives, competitive interests (perceived and real) et al. but that is not what we need to agree on. If we share the same goals - rich typography on the web for all users, using any font licensed for web use - then we should be able to agree that the status quo is unhealthy in the short-term and irresponsible in the long term. If browser and font vendors do not fix it together, every web designer will have to for the next decade.

Received on Monday, 29 June 2009 23:34:34 UTC

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