While we all love the fonts Times New Roman and Arial, after 20 years, it’s time to expand the number of fonts available to Web developers and designers. That’s the goal of the Web Open Font Format, and now, even Microsoft has decided it’s a good idea.
Yesterday, the World Wide Web Consortium accepted the W.O.F.F. File Format 1.0 specification for discussion.
Ars Technica’s Peter Bright said it best, “Font distribution is a hairy issue.”
Indeed, there are a myriad of problems associated with adding new fonts to the Web experience. The main sticking point is licensing. Most fonts are expensive to license and do not allow for mass distribution of the font to millions of Web users.
“However, many fonts allow some kind of embedding to be performed,” Bright said. “This is commonly used with PDFs and similar document formats; generally, a cut-down version of the font is generated (so that it contains only the characters required for a given document), and this cut-down font is embedded into the document. The combination of trimming down the font (so that it doesn’t contain the full range of characters) and embedding it (so it can’t easily be extracted) is generally sufficient protection.”
That’s basically what the Web Open Font Format is trying to do.
And now that Microsoft is, at least initially, on-board, it may actually have a chance to succeed where previous attempts to solve this problem have failed.
“Microsoft’s support is particularly important,” Bright said. “Internet Explorer still commands a substantial market share, so Microsoft support is essential if the feature is to be widely supported.”
But as Bright pointed out, there’s no word on whether Microsoft’s IE9 will support W.O.F.F.