W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > March 2010

Re: [css3-fonts] font-specific feature handling

From: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 2010 11:08:53 -0700
Message-ID: <dd0fbad1003201108m64f793b4ub9d3272e739560fa@mail.gmail.com>
To: rfink@readableweb.com
Cc: Christopher Slye <cslye@adobe.com>, www-style <www-style@w3.org>
On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 8:34 AM, Richard Fink <rfink@readableweb.com> wrote:
> I'm surprised by your reaction. It seems like you're objecting to authors having too much freedom.
> Say it ain't so, bro'!

It is so.  There is such a thing as too much freedom.  Your freedom to
swing your fist ends at my face, etc.

> I see fonts as something more fundamental than "styling". And judging by the amount of Flash you see on the web sites of Fortune 500 companies, they do, too. Ask a company that's commissioned a custom font to maintain a consistent brand identity if they would rather the UA display their stuff in Times New Roman or just skip it. I'm betting it will be skip it.

Occasionally there are decision where what is in the business's best
interests is *not* the same as what is in the public's best interest.
I believe that part of our mission as an open standards organization
is to make technology better for *everyone* in general, which means
that in this sort of case, where something is a *pure negative* for
the public and a *marginal positive* for the business, that we should
choose not to pursue it.

> Look, if I go to the trouble of setting up @font-face declarations, ornery cuss that I am, if those fonts don't load, maybe I would prefer failure. What's wrong with that? Why do I have to have the UA/OS force upon me a font I don't want displayed?

Why do you want to force upon the visitor a blank page?  What's
important to you is not the same as what's important to the viewer.
The viewer may appreciate your attention to detail and fine aesthetic
judgement in selecting a font that complements your overall design.
However, that is not why they visited your site.  Unless your site is
an art gallery showcasing fonts, the visitor is there to read some
content you have put there.  Good fonts may make this experience more
pleasant, but fallback fonts won't do anything worse than make it
somewhat ugly.  They can still get what they came for, and that's
what's important to them.

Look at it from this perspective: I could take your argument nearly
word-for-word and use it to justify the 1990s practice of serving up a
website to one browser, and just showing a "Please use XXX" message to
everyone else.  Every justification you have so far given applies
equally to that abhorrent practice, except that the arguments would
have been even *stronger* back then, as they were about much more than
a simple font.  Unless you have something that clearly distinguishes
your desire to show a specific font from those early web designer's
desire to show a specific design, your wish is equally deserving of

> You might consider the following as edge cases but they're still food for thought:
> How about pages where examining the webfont is the whole point, like the in-browser specimen pages on a site like Font Spring?

Those are best done as images, though supplementing the image with a
live browser-generated specimen is also cool.

> How about pages that are re-creations of old books and documents - along with re-creations of the original fonts?

The font, while interesting to view as it provides a sense of history,
is in no way a necessary part of the document.  A fallback font would
be perfectly serviceable, and often more readable than those early

> And when an image doesn't load, which might very well be a background text-as-image, what does the UA fall back to then? Nothing and nobody seems to be losing sleep over it.

Generally, text-as-image in a CSS background is a bad idea.  I
banished that technique from my repertoire when I realized that it was
so much easier to just put an actual <img> in the document with @alt
text.  All the benefits of pretty text, with much easier accessibility
(no more hiding visible text with a negative text-indent).  This does
have the slight downside of me providing "style" through HTML in me
replacing perfectly serviceable text with a prettier <img>, but that's
minor.  In the future, this can be accomplished purely through
stylesheets in an accessible manner with the content property.  Put
text in your HTML, substitute an image with the content property, and
not only do you maintain perfect accessibility, but it automatically
degrades to something usable if a sighted user is having network

> What specifically is your fear about what would happen if, within @font-face, fallback could be disabled?

I fear precisely that - that fallback would be disabled.

Received on Saturday, 20 March 2010 18:09:44 UTC

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