All posts tagged ‘WOFF’

File Under: Events, Fonts, Web Standards

Web Heavies Send a Love Letter to Open Web Fonts

The nascent Web Open Font Format (WOFF) is getting a boost this week thanks to some new initiatives being kicked off by the W3C, the web’s governing body.

The W3C recently created a working group to build a WOFF into a web standard, and that group will be holding its first face-to-face meeting at the TypeCon 2010 conference taking place this week in Los Angeles.

Representatives from the major browser vendors, several font foundries and web services providers will be in attendance. Also, a dozen or so select individuals will be participating in a series of presentations and panel discussions about WOFF throughout the conference. All the design industry folks in attendance will get a peek at the future of high-quality typography on the web. There are scores of topics on the program, but this year, WOFF is getting top billing.

Things are looking up for web fonts in general. Monday, Typekit announced a partnership with Adobe to include the company’s fonts as part of its licensing service. Last month, Google launched a new tool (tied to its Font API) that makes it dead easy to include any of its open source fonts in website designs.

The Web Fonts working group was formed earlier this year at the W3C, and the group has already released the first working draft of the specification that will eventually lead to WOFF becoming a recommended web standard.

WOFF works just like OpenType and TrueType — you use the @font-face CSS property to drop the fonts in — but the font data is compressed, so the files download faster, and you can include more fonts in your designs without worrying as much about payload bloat.

The W3C adds this bit: “The WOFF format is not expected to replace other formats such as TrueType/OpenType/Open Font Format or SVG fonts, but provides an alternative solution for use cases where these formats may be less performant, or where licensing considerations make their use less acceptable.”

Support for WOFF is already strong — Google, Mozilla, Apple, Opera and Microsoft browsers either ship with or are building support, and the fast-moving foundries are releasing WOFF fonts — so why is the W3C’s involvement a big deal when the open source format is enjoying such success?

Standardization by the W3C is the best path to true interoperability. It will keep all the parties on the same page when it comes to things like accessibility, cross-browser compatibility, internationalization and search engine indexing. How much metadata to include and how it is handled are also big issues. Plus, fonts have taken an astonishingly long time to arrive on the web because of red tape around licensing, and a collaborative process for developing licensing infrastructures will go a long way toward convincing some of the more conservative type designers to make web-friendly versions of their creations.

The standard will take years to complete (the process is very slow — we’re guessing 2012 or so), and until then, we’ll see designers, developers and innovative service providers like Typekit and Google continue to feed the interest in fancy web fonts. Those not on the bleeding edge may be stuck in the boring world of “web safe” fonts for a while, but at least the future is bright.

TypeCon 2010 runs from August 17 through 20.

Photo by Leo Reynolds/Flickr/CC

See Also:

File Under: Browsers, Fonts, Web Standards

Mozilla Throws Its Weight Behind Improving Web Type, Adopts WOFF for Firefox

Firefox users will soon gain the ability to see an even greater diversity of fonts on web pages.

Mozilla announced Tuesday that version 3.6 of Firefox, due by the end of the year, will support the new Web Open Font Format, or WOFF. Web authors will be able to include WOFF fonts in their page designs by linking to the font files in their code the same way they link to images and other downloadable files.

WOFF becomes the third downloadable font format supported by Firefox — version 3.5 included support for TrueType and OpenType font downloads.

But WOFF has two key advantages over TrueType and OpenType: WOFF fonts are compressed, so they download faster, and they include support for tags and other unencrypted metadata.

This is a significant step forward not only for the emerging open format, but also for type on the web in general, which is still stuck in a state of mild turmoil.

For years, designers have been limited to using only a set of five or six common fonts on the web. But thanks to new font rendering tools within the emerging HTML5 and CSS3 standards, web designers now have the ability to use newer, more visually interesting typefaces — and make that type appear more consistently across browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.

Even with these new abilities, intervening forces like DRM, licensing restrictions and varying levels of support from the browser makers have stalled progress, forcing the modern designer to resort to a variety of workarounds and hacks if they want to use these new fonts. Some possible solutions have shown up, including the OpenType standard and a “middleman” licensing model proposed by the startup Typekit, but haven’t yet gained traction. Earlier this month, popular website Boing Boing launched a redesign using CSS3′s @font-face rule, but ran into problems when things didn’t render correctly on older machines.

WOFF doesn’t promise to totally solve the problem of browser compatibility — it still uses the same paradigm within CSS3′s @font-face rule where users are served a preferred font choice first, but are then offered backup choices if their browser doesn’t support the first one. And there are still special considerations for IE 8 users, as Microsoft’s browser supports @font-face, but only if you use the .eot font format.

What it does do is improve workflows for those using downloadable fonts in their designs.

Mozilla contributor John Dagget outlines the compression and tagging advantages on the Mozilla Hacks blog:

First, compression is part of the WOFF format so web authors can optimize the size of fonts used on their pages. The compression format is lossless, the uncompressed font data will match that of the original OpenType or TrueType font, so the way the font renders will be the same as the original. Similar compression can be achieved using general HTTP compression but because compression is part of the WOFF format, it’s simpler for authors to use, especially in situations where access to server configuration is not possible.

Second, the format includes optional metadata so that a font vendor can tag their fonts with information related to font usage. This metadata doesn’t affect how fonts are loaded but tools can use this information to identify the source of a given font, so that those interested in the design of a given page can track down the fonts used on that page.

Dagget also notes that WOFF fonts aren’t “secure,” so the format shouldn’t be used by foundries wanting to regulate the use of their work. However, over 30 major type foundries — including House Industries, Hoefler & Frere-Jones and ITC — are already endorsing the format, and Mozilla’s support should help foster its popularity.

You can read more about how WOFF is used, plus see examples on the Mozilla Hacks blog. You can also check out WOFF support yourself by downloading the latest nightly builds of Firefox and giving it a whirl.

See Also: