Web designers have generally relied on a small number of typefaces, such as Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman, when creating text on a Web page. These fonts are open for anyone's use, can be rendered by various browsers and therefore considered "Web-Safe." However, a large number of other typefaces available with desktop applications (for example, Calibri) are not available for the Web because we lacked an interoperable format supported by different browsers as well as practical Webfont licensing options.
Who is using it? Over the last nine months, there has been substantial developer interest in WOFF and, as a result, browsers have been adding and refining support for the technology since October 2009. Apple, Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera, and the font editor Fontforge, have added, or are currently testing, WOFF, which gives developers the freedom to select from a vast library of typefaces. WOFF typefaces are already available from some commercial foundries.
W3C Opens Typography on the Web
When W3C attended TypeCon 2010 to discuss the new open format for enabling high-quality typography for the Web the entire indutry got excited. The Web Open File Format (WOFF 1.0) expands the typographic palette available to Web designers, improving readability, accessibility, internationalization, branding, and search optimization. Though still in the early phases of standardization, WOFF represents a pivotal agreement among browser vendors, foundries and font service providers who have convened at W3C to address the long-standing goal of advancing Web typography.
Roger Black (the End User Perspective), Bryan Mason (Font Metrics), Raph Levien (Google Developments), and the members of the Web Fonts Working Group, participated in a panel at TypeCon 2010 on Friday, 20 August. W3C encouraged conference attendees to join the discussion about the advantages and practicalities of adopting this open standard for Web typography, and to provide feedback on this rapidly maturing technology directly to the Working Group.
Limitless Typeface Choice
Web designers have generally relied on a small number of pre-installed typefaces -- such as Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman -- considered to be "Web-Safe" and thus dependably rendered by various browsers. The large number of other typefaces used in print media have remained out of reach, due to lack of an interoperable format supported by different browsers and the lack of practical Webfont licensing options. WOFF reflects industry support for changing all that. Vladimir Levantovsky, W3C WebFonts Working Group chair and senior technology strategist at Monotype Imaging, Inc. said
As a key Web font standard developed by W3C, WOFF 1.0 represents a universal solution for enabling advanced typography on the Web ... With the backing of browser companies and font vendors, who are making their fonts available for licensing in WOFF, this new W3C Recommendation-track document will bring rich typographic choice for content creators, Web authors and brand managers. The need for this specification helped to drive the rapid progress we've made within the Web Fonts Working Group, which was established only about four months ago.
Benefits Beyond Beauty
Rich typographic choice, in addition to the ability to preserve brand identity online and improve readability of Web content, stand out as the most visible benefits of improved Web typography. However, styling real text instead of using images of text provides many other benefits. Text may be rendered as speech, which improves accessibility for people who are blind or with low vision. Real text is discoverable through search engines. There are also many written languages for which there have not been widely available typefaces; WOFF will thus make it possible to create content for the Web in more of the world's languages.
Jonathan Kew of Mozilla, co-editor of the WOFF specification said
It's been exciting to see font designers and vendors come together with browser developers and other industry experts to create a standard that will open up new typographic possibilities for web authors ... I anticipate that in the coming few years, the Web will be greatly enriched by the availability of a wide range of high-quality typefaces for many languages and all kinds of design needs.
Industry Already Implementing
Over the last nine months, there has been substantial developer interest in WOFF and, as a result, browsers have been adding and refining support for the technology since October 2009. Apple, Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera, and the font editor fontforge, have added, or are currently testing, the technology, which gives developers the freedom to select from a vast library of typefaces. WOFF typefaces are already available from some commercial foundries.
The standardization of WOFF reflects cross-industry collaborative effort to make a single, interoperable format for WebFonts.
Web Fonts Working Group Participants include representatives from browser vendors, font foundries and typeface designers: Adobe, Apple, Bitstream, Google, LettError, Microsoft, Monotype Imaging, Mozilla, Open Font Library, Opera, Tiro Typeworks, and Type Supply. Chris Lilley is W3C staff contact for the group.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 350 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan, and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/