Re: Next step?

Sylvain Galineau wrote:

>> Sylvain, can you -- or anyone else -- please explain to me what the
>> actual or perceived benefit of an 'any-2-of-4' conformance requirement
>> is? I can understand that if it were impossible to come to consensus on
>> any one format then such a conformance statement would make sense as a
>> compromise to move things forward, but we don't appear to be in that
>> situation.

> I don't see what the downside is. 

I'm asking what the upside is.

I agree that with the situation as it is with the current browser 
deployment, the most likely outcome -- although not guaranteed -- of an 
'any-2-of-4' conformance requirement is WOFF+1. But I still don't 
understand what is the actual attraction to WOFF+1 *as a conformance 
requirement* instead of just WOFF.

Perhaps I am missing some factor because I am not in the browser 
business. From the font vendor perspective, anything more than one web 
font format just creates unnecessary workflow and delivery headaches. We 
only recently got rid of multiple formats for desktop fonts. But 
requiring more than one format for conformance seems to me to also put 
an unnecessary burden on new entrants in the browser market. Let's say a 
company comes along with a new browser, in a situation in which WOFF is 
the uncontested favoured format for web fonts, is supported in all 
existing browsers and is the chosen format for both web authors and font 
vendors. What good reason would there be for requiring that company to 
code support for some other format in order to be able to claim conformance?

> To be clear, what I am stating is that two is better than requiring 3 or 4

Is anyone suggesting requiring 3 or 4? It seems to me that 1 is better 
than 2 for exactly the same reasons that 2 is better than 3 or 4.

, given that every
> browser vendor has strong feelings about at least one of the formats on the list. Sure, 
> it would be great if we could bypass this and agree on one but I very much doubt 
> this will happen over email; and as browser vendors will still support their current
> features and browsers upgrade at a different pace, authors still need to deal with 
> what's out there.

That's fine. We're talking about the formal conformance requirement, not 
about what formats are actually supported now or what multiple formats 
browsers end up choosing to support. At the moment, no one supports WOFF 
in a shipping product; it is as close as we'll come to a level playing 
field given the different upgrade cycles of the various browsers. If the 
goal of the conformance statement is simply to make it easy for browser 
makers to check a box, then 'any-1-of-4' is an automatic pass for all 
the major browsers. But if the goal is to provide robust 
interoperability and to foster a new era of web content design with 
support from the makers of fonts, then 'a-particular-1-of-4' is the best 
option, and WOFF is the obvious candidate to be that 1.

> Well, here we go again :) What I would like to register is that I do not like the
> idea of the charter keeping open the possibility of arguing about the utility
> or desirability or appropriateness of this format vs. that other one unless that argument is 
> purely technical in nature. As no one is required to implement a format they have problems 
> with, this is not a productive door to leave open. We've been there. Many times. There are four 
> formats on the table, each of which is either currently supported or landed in the public build 
> of at least one major browser. Two of these formats ought to be formally defined to ensure future 
> implementations can interoperate successfully. We then should agree on a simple conformance criteria 
> that will get us the rest of the way.

Again, we are not talking about what formats are actually supported, but 
about the formal conformance requirement.

I believe the concept of 'purely technical' argument is a chimera and 
one that is regularly used to avoid dealing with the inconvenient 
impacts of technology. My ancestors were Luddites, and knew a thing or 
two about the social impact of technology. I believe it sends the wrong 
message that a web font format that is rejected by the vast majority of 
the people who actually make fonts and who earn their living making 
fonts might be counted toward conformance. Again, I am not talking about 
what formats are supported, only what formats are given real or 
perceived official sanction by being allowed to count toward formal 

It was not, and is not, my intention to belabour this. I only wanted to 
register the opinion, which I suspect will be shared by other font 
developers. We can, of course, avoid the repetition of such opinions by 
limiting the conformance requirement to WOFF. :)

John Hudson

Received on Thursday, 22 October 2009 01:11:10 UTC